The set of kitchen tools you would find in an Asian restaurant or Asian home is quite different from the set you would find in an American or European kitchen. Many Asian kitchen utensils are designed to go with Asian cookware and equipment, like a wok or a dim sum cart. Here is a guide to different types of Asian utensils and how they are used in the kitchen.
The wok is the most important piece of cookware for producing Asian cuisine. It is most commonly used for stir frying, but it can also be used to steam, braise, fry, simmer and smoke food. Most woks are made of cast iron or carbon steel.
The wok has a round bottom that receives a higher concentration of heat than the sides, allowing the cook to toss the hot food from the middle into the cooler sides of the pan, which is the ideal cooking method for stir fries. A flat-bottom wok, which is designed to fit on a flat electric stove, does not have a prominent hot spot and therefore is not as effective for making stir fry.
» Tips for Cooking with a Wok
A wok spatula is designed with a curved blade so that it can reach food in the rounded bottom and sides of the wok. It is the ideal utensil for stir frying. It has a long handle so that the chef will not burn his or her hands while cooking with the pan.
Much like the wok spatula, the curved bottom of a wok ladle has the perfect shape to reach into the rounded bottom of a wok. Solid ladles are used to stir–fry and serve soups, broths or sauce-rich foods out of the wok. Perforated ladles, on the other hand, can be used for collecting vegetables, meats and noodles that have been cooking in broth or sauce in the pan.
Because foods are likely to become encrusted or stick to the hot spot in a wok, a special cleaning tool is needed to clean the inside surface. A wok brush is a wooden brush with stiff, thick “bristles” that can be used to scrape and clean the inside of a wok. The brush is made with long bristles so that it is flexible enough to clean the rounded surface.
Dim Sum Steamer
For Chinese dim sum such as dumplings and pork biscuits, use a dim sum steamer. The small steamer holds just a few pieces of dim sum and is used for both steaming and service. Both traditional bamboo and contemporary steel dim sum steamers are available.
For cooking and serving food at the tabletop, a Chinese hot pot is used. It has a narrow bottom and a wide top rim. Usually, the pot is filled with broth, coconut milk or another liquid. Ingredients are then placed in the pot and are cooked at the table. Hot pots without a space for fuel and a flame are also available for cooking on a stovetop or in an oven.
Hand Roll Rack
A hand roll rack is a stand designed to hold hand roll sushi. Hand roll sushi is rolled from nori – dried seaweed – and shaped into a cone. Since the ingredients at the top of the cone are loose and the bottom of the cone is sealed with the nori, the cones can be placed vertically in the holes of the hand roll rack so the ingredients do not fall out.
A ginger grater is a must-have item for many Asian chefs. Grating ginger before it is added to stir fries, soups and other dishes will help to release the flavors and juices of the ginger so they can permeate the food. The ginger grater is designed to grate the good parts of the ginger and leave behind the chewy fibrous parts of the root.
A number of specialty Asian skimmers have been developed for Asian cuisine. A shabu shabu skimmer, for example, is used to capture thin slices of meat or vegetables in a Japanese broth known as dashi. The pieces of meat or vegetables are swished around in the pot during cooking. This is where shabu shabu gets its name from: it literally means “swish swish” in Japanese.
A bird’s nest skimmer, on the other hand, is used to make the famous “bird’s nest soup” – a soup whose main ingredient is the saliva of the cave swift bird species. A long skimmer is made to be used with a hot pot for Chinese fondue. There is also a wok skimmer specifically designed for wok frying – this skimmer is constructed of flat mesh with a long handle that is ideal for moving dumplings, meats and vegetables in a wok full of oil. A shark’s fin skimmer is used to strain ingredients for shark’s fin soup.
Asian knives are designed for a variety of specialized tasks, from cutting off the heads of fish to cutting vegetables. Some are used most commonly in home settings, while others are designed for professional chefs. The most popular Asian knife is the santoku knife, which is used for a wide variety of tasks. »Asian Cutlery Guide
Specialty strainers are designed for several Asian cooking tasks. A Cantonese strainer has a deep bowl with coarse mesh. It is used for blanching and deep frying Asian foods, and works nicely with a wok. A Mandarin strainer, on the other hand, is made of solid perforated metal that is strong enough to remove heavy pieces of food, like a whole duck, from a liquid.
A rice paddle, called “shamoji” in Japanese, is used to stir rice and serve it in large scoops out of a rice cooker or a rice serving bowl. The shamoji is also commonly used to mix vinegar into rice to create sushi rice.
Most often constructed of bamboo, a sushi mat is the authentic sushi-making tool. It is used to roll sushi into the round sushi rolls – called “makizushi” – that are the most common form of sushi in the United States and other Western countries.
Mongolian BBQ Sword
Sushi Press & Mold
Some sushi molds are used to mold rice into a certain shape for triangular sushi or other unusual shapes of sushi. A traditional sushi press, also known as a sushi maker, usually comes in the form of a wooden box. It is used to press rice and sushi fillings into a long box shape for rolling tight, rectangular sushi without the need of a sushi mat.
This specialty grater, known as a “samegawa oroshi” in Japanese, is used to grate horseradish or wasabi root to create the wasabi condiment. It is called a “sharkskin grater” because traditionally, the grating surface is made of real shark’s skin.
Rice napkins provide chefs with the ability to transfer rice from a cooker into an Asian serving bowl without having to scoop out the rice or break it apart. This allows the rice to keep its texture. The napkin is placed in the rice cooker before it is filled with rice. When the rice is through cooking, the chef uses the edges of the napkin to lift the rice out of the cooker and into the serving dish.