Asian food is as diverse as the cultures across the continent. Each country and its regions have its own style and method of food preparation, that have a significant impact on the type of cuisine and the flavors in each dish.
Integral to the whole food preparation process are the utensils used in preparation, which can vary as much as the regional tastes of each country. While most traditional Asian cookware have contemporary, modernized counterparts, sometimes the traditional materials add a sense of authenticity to the flavors and overall gastronomic experience.
Chopsticks are most commonly seen as eating utensils, but in most asian countries they are one of the fundamental kitchen tools, that serve multiple functions. They can act in the same capacity as tongs, whisks or beaters, and ladles. Cooking chopsticks are usually longer than the regular dining kind, and made of a durable wood such as bamboo.
Mikiya Kobayashi’s Ukihashi might be dining chopsticks, but have a slight angle at the tips so that the end that touches the food never touches the surface it rests on. This slight modification makes the traditional rests unnecessary.
While these commonly seen tools originate from China, they are used throughout Asia for steaming food. Bamboo steamers differ from modern synthetic material steamers because they absorb excess moisture and prevent condensation from touching the food – which is why dimsum dumplings look perfect every time! They were also traditionally used for space and time saving reasons – by stacking the steamers you can cook several types of food at once over the same heat source.
This take on the steamer, designed by Office for Product Design for JIA Inc, rethinks and streamlines the steamer’s stacking capabilities, combining it with stoneware components so you can cook and steam at the same time.
Clay Pots / Palayok
The Palayok is the Philippine incarnation of the clay pot. In Filipino cuisine today it is mostly used for serving traditional dishes, but it was originally used to cook food over a fire. The pots are still widely made today and are a Philippine cultural icon. The pots are used mainly to cook soups or stew-like dishes over a charcoal fire stove. They can also be used to cook rice.
Speaking of rice, rice cookers have now become a typical household appliance, but are usually associated with asian cooking since rice is the main staple in most asian countries. Rice cookers these days however have gotten more sophisticated and are almost like mini-computers.
You can program certain types with a timer to start cooking at a certain time of day, and most have functions that allow you to chose between regular rice, or rice porridge (congee). Some come with a steamer add on that converts the cooker into a steamer, and some can even make bread.
Most of these tools and appliances have made their way into the mainstream kitchen, and have proven to be useful and effective tools that transcend cultural origins. Whether you’re cooking asian food or simply adapting a method, these tools will surely enhance your kitchen experience!