This post was inspired by my friend Chris. He just moved to Singapore and need to build his kitchen from scratch. It reminds me the good old days in Japan, when I moved into this cozy little studio and gradually build it into a sweet home in the coming months.
I still remember the first few things I bought the first day I arrived – salt, a dozen of eggs, some bread, vegetable oil and a non-sticky skillet. I was very proud of myself that only the second day in Japan, I already could enjoy some real breakfast with toasted bread and a nice sunny side up fried egg at home! Yes, I was picky at breakfast, and I still am. But admit it, a good breakfast with nice cup of coffee will make the rest of day better, isn’t it?
Those memories just flew by and I could feel the urge to write those down. So I thought a good idea. I decided to summarize those most important and basic cookwares in an Asian kitchen, so that if you will move to an Asian country one day, the list could help you to build a minimum shopping list to get you through the beginning days, or even months. Believe me, you can cook so many nice and healthy dishes with those basic cookware, even you never learned to cook Asian food before.
The other reason I want to write this post is, Asian kitchen is usually very small, even tiny, comparing to those ones in the US. So the first thing you need to consider is, do not stock too many stuff you rarely use and learn to use space in a smart way. I found the best way to achieve this is, get all the basic things at first, like those I listed here, then buy a few things at a time, to avoid over purchase.
The 3rd reason I made this list is because, I want to show you that you can use those very basic cookwares to make delicious Asian food. We all love prime rib and very cheesy pizza, but the things is, most of Asian kitchen doesn’t have an oven, and buying cheese and a nice cut of meat could be expensive. On the other hand, there’s hundreds of new and very delicious food wait you to discover. If you could learn to cook a few Asian dishes, it will make your grocery shopping much easier and cheaper.
You could look at the photo above. It’s my kitchen after I arrived in Japan for 2 weeks. Back then, I barely know how to cook at all, but those minimum equipments and ingredients got me through the first 4 months in Japan.
Now, let get back to the topic and have a look at the list below:
10 Cookwares You Need to Build a Kitchen in Asia
(1) Wok / Non-sticky skillet
I consider this THE MOST IMPORTANT cookware no matter where I live. This one is mainly for cooking stir-fried food. Stir-fried dishes, no mater it’s meat, poultry, rice or noodles, are the most fast and convenient things to cook on a daily basis. I put “or” here, because you could just choose one if you have limited space. A wok is versatile, that you could use it for stir-fry, deep fry and braise. However, it’ll be a bit of learning curve if you never cooked with a wok before. There’s some tips for using wok in this post. Although some stir-fried dishes require a wok for the best result, a good quality non-sticky skillet could do a good job in most of cases. It’s much easier to control, requires less oil and very easy to learn, like this cauliflower dish.
This one goes with the wok / non-sticky skillet of course. But I do forgot to buy it when I just arrived in Japan… I used chopsticks to flip the fried egg for my first breakfast… If you use wok, you should by a spatula made from metal, which is easy for flipping and scoop ingredients from the round bottom of wok. If you use a non-sticky skillet, use a wooden, plastic or silicon spatula instead, since metal one will ruin the the surface of the skillet.
(3) Medium Size Soup Pot
The pot is for blanch vegetables, boil dumplings, soup or noodles. One of my favorite lazy way to cook a quick dinner is, boil frozen wonton from supermarket with several types of fresh vegetables, and using chicken broth with spicy oil for soup base. It’s soothing, delicious, healthy and filling for a quick dinner. You’ll find so many brands and flavors of frozen dumplings and wontons in an Asian supermarket and lots of them taste better than those sold in non-Asian market. I highly recommend you to save a few bags in the freezer in case you want a quick and delicious dinner for week days.
(4) Soup Ladle
If you forgot this one, you’ll have some major troubles when you boil a big pot of noodle soup.
(5) Sharp Knife
A sharp medium size knife could help with chop, peel and cut. You don’t even need a scissor. If you decided to cook more often, I recommend you to invest in a high quality knife. Because an Asian kitchen requires more chop, slice and mince, for smaller ingredients like ginger and garlic. Also, vegetables and meat need to be cut into smaller and even size for a good stir-fry. A sharp knife will save a lot of your time and energy in the kitchen.
(6) Cutting board
I always prefer a wooden or bamboo cutting board over a plastic one, especially when it comes to cut bigger chunk of meat.
This is very useful in Asian kitchen, since you can easily get green vegetables in the market and they’ll need some careful washing before use. It’s also a must have for drain noodles, pasta, or boiled dumplings.
(8) Rice cooker
Every Asian kitchen should have one. Because you could throw in rice and water and leave it there for cooking steam rice, then go prepare other dishes at the same time. Steam rice is healthy, filling and goes well with stir fried or braised dishes. Rice is a great replacement for bread in Asia, because it’s cheaper and easier to get. Moreover, you could use the leftover rice for fried rice, pack it for lunch box, breakfast or make congee. You can also use rice cooker to make single dish meal with vegetables and meat. Some people even use it to make sponge cake.
(9) Coffee maker / tea kettle
In my world, there’re only 2 types of people, coffee person or tea person. For me, a coffee maker turns my everyday life into a better one from the beginning. I’m not a morning person, but I grind coffee beans to make fresh cup of coffee every day. But if you’re a tea person, get the kettle instead, and I won’t judge you.
(10) Oven toaster / Microwave
Again, if you can choose one in order to save space, you might need to choose from those 2. Personally, I will choose oven toaster over microwave. Because you can heat anything on stove, with skillet or pot, even it’s a bit slower than heat up in microwave. However, I do need nicely baked pizza, roast beef, or any dish with cheese on top once in a while. Also, it might be expensive or difficult to get nice western food, depends on where you live. Therefore, an oven toaster is a good choice, if you have some urges for home food. If you live in Japan, you might found most of gas stoves comes with a tiny grilling space in the middle, like a small drawer. It’s so convenient to grill fresh fish or half pizza. A great substitute for oven toaster.
Above are the most important and basic 10 cookwares you need to build a kitchen in Asia. If you also want to look at the basic ingredients for cooking Asian food, you could check my pantry section.
What do you think about this list? Leave a comment to let me know if this list is helpful or there’s something missing.
In the end, hope all of you who are living in Asia could have wonderful experience and enjoy a lot of amazing local food!