Here at Asian Dieting, we try our best to provide some helpful tips to get your health journey kickstarted. We do get a lot of emails asking us interesting questions, such as, “what type of pot do I need to cook [X food]?” or “what type of kitchen tools do you actually use at home?” This gave us a great idea to write an all-encompassing article that covers some of the basic necessities and must own items for our Asian Dieting kitchens. Let’s get started!
Once we started to get a few questions from our readers, we began to realize that providing tips to cook certain unfamiliar spices or ingredients can be a bit overwhelming for those that never really graduated from their microwave ovens. We all need help in getting starting somewhere, which is why this article will be the perfect place to get your dieting off on the right foot.
10 Must Own Kitchen Tools for Asian Dieting
Just as a small disclaimer, some of these items might not be large complex appliances per se (a lot are just simple tools), but nonetheless they’re much needed items for healthy Asian cooking. Without further ado, here are our top 10 must own (and secret–since these are some of our personal favorite) kitchen tools for Asian dieting.
1. Cuckoo Rice Cooker
I know most of you can probably hop over to Walmart or Target and pick up the cheapest $12 rice cooker you can get your hands on. But just like the saying goes, you get what you pay for and this most certainly rings true with rice cookers. There are some pretty drastic differences between each of these devices–anywhere from size, cook speeds, automation, to even pressurized cooking methods. The list goes on and on.
The issue here with rice cookers is that if you buy one that’s too cheap, then chances are you’re going to be left with unevenly cooked and, more often than not, burnt rice. On the flip side, going for a full on luxurious rice cooker with all the bells and whistles (some of the expensive ones literally do have musical bells and whistles) can be a little over the top. The key is to find the right balance between features, user friendliness, and price.
If you’re looking for a cooker that actually does its job and lasts for years, then look no further than the Cuckoo brand. All of my Korean friends and family completely SWEAR by this brand and I must say I have to agree wholeheartedly. Cooking (and any residual cleanup) with these suckers are an absolute breeze and they can whip up any type of rice imaginable with the perfect pressurized steam session. There’s definitely no need to go for the $600 Cuckoo’s, but I’d go with the model that my mom actually uses at home, which is the Cuckoo CR-0631F. This cooker makes delicious brown rice, quinoa, or even simple Korean rice in roughly half an hour. My mom is pretty convinced she makes the best steamed rice on the block because of this machine.
2. Fancy Chinese Cooking Wok
This one is just a no brainer. Cooking with a wok is just synonymous with Asian style cooking and rightfully so. The ability to take on such high heat with a large surface area allows a wok to cook all sorts of vegetables and meats in a flash. This is absolutely on point for those that like whipping up quick and hassle free stir fry dinners. Here are some of my favorite can’t miss chicken stir fry recipes to test out.
3. French Press for Cold Brew Tea
Whenever the weather’s hot and I need my coffee fix for work, I almost 100% of the time turn to cold brew coffee. This stuff rocked my world the first time I tried it and I haven’t turned back ever since. The ability to extract the pure, sweet, and bright flavors of coffee just by steeping it overnight with the grounds is just a work of art. These days though, I’m actively trying to cut down on my coffee obsession and shifting some of my focus towards tea (mainly due to the health benefits). You can purchase many types of loose leaf teas to just steep overnight in any sort of airtight bottle. Check out this article by Serious Eats to get your introduction on cold brewing tea.
After reading the article, I was inspired to test out my first batch of cold brew tea. It was, of course, a complete disaster. I first started out trying to brew in airtight glass tupperware containers, but straining out the tea leaves and pouring out the tea with my shaky hands just led to some messy cleanups. This is when it hit me that I could just use a simple french press machine! Putting any loose leaf tea (I recommend organic tea leaves) into the press, then immersing it in purified water for about 12-24 hours allowed me to achieve that sweet and non-bitter tea taste. The best part? I could simply press the french press machine and easily separate out the leaves from the water for pain free clean up.
If you don’t have a french press available, I highly recommend hopping over to Amazon and getting one of these french presses from Culinary Prestige. Super easy to use and the most important part is that it’s super sturdy!
4. Badass Chinese Cleavers
A word of caution. Just like any sharp knife, these badboys need to be handled with utter care. Outside of that, Chinese cleavers are one of the BEST things to buy for your kitchen! This one is a personal favorite of mine. I’m addicted to how many different ways I can use these knives. For instance, they can be used to quickly dice up your food, smash garlic/ginger, tenderize meats, or help transfer a ton of food from the cutting board to the pan. Not to mention, they make you feel like a badass!
I’m sure if you ventured out to your local Chinatown, you could get a pair of these knives for real cheap, but I’d almost rather just order them online from the comfort of my home. If you’re looking for a decent brand, Winco is a pretty down to Earth brand that makes good cleavers with sturdy wooden handles. Pricing isn’t too bad and gets you a pretty fast introduction into the world of Chinese cooking knives. I think after working with my first set of cleavers, my willingness to cook at home absolutely skyrocketed. This helped me save money and did wonders for my diet. Highly recommend!
5. Old School Mortar & Pestle
This one is another one of undercover favorites: the mortar and pestle combo. I remember being a kid and my grandmother would spend all day boiling soy beans and asking me to hand mash them with her old school metal mortar and pestle. She ultimately wanted to make jars of Korean soybean paste (called doenjang) to ferment over the winter so that we could use it as a base for a variety of Korean stews/soups.
Now, as an adult, I realize how much of an inspiration this process actually gave me in the kitchen. There’s just something so rustic and soulful about putting together your own homemade sauces, pastes, or spice blends. Picking up a cheap mortar and pestle, like the one that’s recommended by Jamie Oliver, allowed me to experiment with some cool Asian sauces at home. This can also be used for non-Asian cooking as well, such as making guacamole, homemade salsa, or even crushing nuts. Give it a try!
6. Dummy Proof Fermentation Lids
This one is not for everybody, but something that I started experimenting with roughly last year. Since I’m Korean American, I kind of have a tendency to only wanting to eat Korean food if it’s accompanied by a nice stinky side of Kimchi, which is one of my all-time favorite foods (we previously covered the extensive health benefits of eating Kimchi). But, as anyone with a right mind would know, making Kimchi isn’t as easy as opening a jar of pickles. It takes special skill, ingredients, measurements, and, most importantly, time. The last of which I barely have anymore or don’t want to sacrifice towards starting a Kimchi operation in my tiny studio apartment.
I already know what most of you are asking, which is why I’m not just buying Kimchi at the grocery store. I guess I could do that, but sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to see which brand I really like and Kimchi can be pretty overpriced here in Seoul. This is why I came across fermentation lids to make an assortment of pickled items at home, including my beloved Kimchi. You can check out these 3-pack easy to use fermentation lids I snagged off Amazon for pretty cheap. I’ve tested out making different spinoffs of the classic napa cabbage Kimchi, such as a vinegar brine Kimchi, but it’s still a work in progress. You can also try this at home with these lids or just simply learn how to pickle any of your favorite vegetables. Be sure to also read up on the amazing health impacts of pickling your food.
7. Electric Hot Pot Machine
This is a super Asian thing, but having an electric hot pot machine is a crucial element to hosting great and healthy Asian dinner parties. For those that are unfamiliar with hot pot, you can create your own broth as the centerpiece and slowly cook whatever vegetables, meats, and seafood that you want in the broth. At the end, the leftover soup just soaks up ridiculous amounts of flavor, which makes it prime for cooking incredible noodles or even rice porridge.
I usually just use a portable gas grill (which I will talk more about in the next section) and a large pot, but you can also purchase an acrtual hot pot machine. Some of these even come with a divider to let you create two different types of broths (spicy and non-spicy). If I had to choose, I’d probably go with this Sonya Hot Pot maker, which comes attached to an electric cooker and has a divider. Having a hot pot dinner party will definitely be a huge hit with your friends/family and everyone can go home having an incredibly healthy dinner!
8. Portable Gas Cooktop
I can’t even mention the number of times my family and I used these portable gas cooktops growing up. I can say with confidence that the vast majority of all Korean American households have AT LEAST one of these in their homes. They can be used to cook Korean BBQ, familystyle stews/soups, or even hot pot as I described above. Also, these gas grills can be used outdoors or at a time of need, such as during blackouts caused by snowstorms. Well, at least that’s what my family used it for…
If you do pick one of these up, definitely go with a trusted brand. Coleman is a company that specializes in outdoor camping gear and their Coleman camping gas cooktops are pretty cheap too. Just be sure to pick up extra cans of butane that you can purchase at a large grocery store or at Walmart. Also, reading up on the safety and precautionary measures with using these grills indoors and outdoors will be super helpful.
9. Bamboo Steamer
Getting any sort of steamer is a must have in my opinion. Steamers are so versatile since they gently cook anything from vegetables, meats, to even dumplings while preserving much of the vitamins that usually get cooked out (i.e. boiling, frying, baking, etc.). I personally like to use bamboo steamers because they impart a pretty unique woody fragrance and taste to my food. Also, they look pretty awesome!
I already have a set of bamboo steamers that I bought in Beijing, but if I could go back in time, I’d LOVE to get my hands on one of these. These bamboo steamers from VonShef comes with chopsticks and wax lining paper to make sure no gunk gets stunk in the bamboo itself. This would be a great “set it and forget it” type of steamer or a great gift idea.
P.S. – check out this video channel! I’m obsessed with this Korean lady named Maangchi (stands for hammer in Korean). She’s super cute and offers up some amazing Korean recipes. Here’s one of her best how-to videos for making homemade dumplings that you can follow you if buy a set of bamboo steamers. You can thank me later!
10. Salad Spinner
This last item isn’t an exact must have item, but it’s damn useful. Sometimes when I try to detox my body and eat more lean diets, one of the best ways to do so is to wrap meats or seafood in vegetable wraps (i.e. kale, beet greens, butter lettuce, steamed cabbage, perilla leaves, etc. just to name a few). The worst part is washing these leaves and also drying them properly so that you can eat them without water dripping everywhere.
One of my old coworkers, who’s an avid salad eater, told me about a great trick to quick drying all of your vegetables in bulk: buying a salad spinner! I know it sounds pretty ridiculous, but once you try it, I will GUARANTEE you will continue to use it. You simply place your vegetables or washed salad items in the bowl and quick dry it for on-the-go vegetables. Cleanup is also a breeze.
Check out this OXO salad spinner, which has a 4.5 star rating from over 3,500 reviews on Amazon. The initial price is a little steep, but think of it as a long term investment and motivation to eating more vegetables. Definitely recommend!
And there you have it folks! These were our team’s top 10 favorite or must own kitchen items that we love dearly. Be sure to spread the wealth and share the article with your friends and family. Until next time, Asian Dieters!