Ten things I cannot do without in the kitchen (part 2 of 2)


Aaand part 2 of my 10 kitchen essentials (part 1 is here).

6. Wok: my multi-purpose frying pan. Woks, strictly speaking, don’t really work well on an electric stove–which means I didn’t bother to buy a carbon steel or aluminium or fancy one. Basically, I have a wok-shaped frying pan, which may not exude the breath of the wok but is darn handy for approximate sautéed noodles and various other preparations. The one accessory I did buy was a multi-format lid like this one , which basically fits all our sizes of frying pans. It’s handy for a number of uses, not the least of which is steaming food within the pan.

7. Rice cooker: not worth introducing this one anymore. We bought a really fancy one, but in the end what we mainly use is the rice cooker function, and the steaming basket (very handy for dim sum and bánh bao, which have a tendency to stick like limpets to a metal steamer. Though a trick I saw last Saturday at the Chinese restaurant was putting your dim sum on top of a large carrot slice, which served the double purpose of looking pretty and preventing stickiness).

8. Lemon reamer: I got my wooden lemon reamer from Habitat at clearance prices (my sis will, I’m sure, remember the time when I crossed Madrid on a metro just to buy it 🙂 ). We have (or used to have) a juicer, but it doesn’t work very well on limes or lemons because they’re broadly longer than larger, and the juicer broadly made for oranges which tend to be as long as they are large. I ream a lot of limes because they’re a basic ingredient of the ubiquitous nước mắm dipping sauce; but never really more than a few at a time (otherwise I’d invest in a squeezer or something more appropriate), and it’s nice to have something which helps you get juice out of a lime in one minute flat. My reamer looks a bit like this.

9. Maryse: a maryse is a very particular kind of spatula; I’ve looked around a bit but haven’t found an English equivalent (if any reader of this blog knows, please speak up!) It’s a (flexible) rectangle which enables you to scrape from a pan or salad bowl. It looks a bit like this (the left-hand one; the right-hand one is what we’d call a “demi-maryse”). It’s invaluable for any kind of pastry, as it enables you to get almost all your dough from the bowl where you mixed it (or all your chocolate from the saucepan in which you melted it, etc.), but I’ve also found it handy for cleaning out pans with mashed potatoes or any kind of semi-tough preparation that doesn’t have the good grace to come flowing out of the pan. One of those tools that my husband doesn’t see the use of (he goes for a spoon or a normal spatula), but that I use all the time.

10. Pastry brush: very very handy for making xá xíu pork or for bánh mì chiên tôm (shrimp toast). I got a silicone one because there was no way I was hunting down for bristles in my barbecued pork. It’s one of those things that I don’t use often but that’s really handy to have in the kitchen when I do. Mine is a bit like this, but with a metal handle instead of a wooden one, which means I can chuck it in the dishwasher directly.

And that’s the end of my list. What about you? Other things I’ve missed that you feel should be on this list?


  1. For your maryse I use a selection of silicone spatulas of varying stiffnesses and width. One of my essentials is one of these that slightly dished so it’s almost a spoon as well, which is fabulous for fluffing rice, spooning up pasta to see if it’s really done yet, etc.

    Like the one on the left here:

    I use to it move around everything hot, and it doesn’t scrape and it doesn’t melt.

  2. He. I use a very similar wooden one for cooking.
    The maryse I really only ever use for scraping dough from a bowl (cakes or sauces…)

  3. I love the rice cooker! My folks upgraded to a Tiger brand one, but after a while we went back to the trusty Tatung cooker we’d been using for at least twenty or so years, since the former would cook rice unevenly. Aside from rice, my mom’s used it for making chicken soup or steaming sweet potatoes–I’ve used it to steam stuffed grape leaves, and it works incredibly well.

    I have a silicone pastry brush that’s easy to wash, too. I use it for pastries most of the time, though. The baking items I love so far are the madeleine molds and the tart pan I bought. The tart pan has really come in handy!

  4. I have two rice cookers of different sizes. The 3 c (750ml) is Zojirushi — it gets used as much for making steel cut oatmeal as it does for rice. Also a large cheap Sunbeam one (I’m in Canada) for when I need more rice or want to steam something. I had a National that was 33 years old that I passed along to my son when he moved out; it had been a wedding present that I kept in the divorce. Never was any good at making rice without one.

    The silicone spatulas are my go-to for breaking up cooking ground meat, mixing sauces, everything. But clear handles tend to melt at higher heat, the wood or solid plastic ones don’t.

    The Ikea pastry brushes that are a flat silicone paddle with holes in it are terrific for picking up basting fat and basting a chicken, etc. The holes fill with the liquid from surface tension and holds it, unlike silicone brush bristles.

    (Yes, I may have too many kitchen tools.)

  5. @Isana: ours is a Phillips, because the H wanted a newfangled fuzzy logic one; I have to say we don’t really use a lot of functions beyond rice, rice porridge and steaming stuff…
    I have never tried making madeleines, but I definitely want to at some point!
    @Caryn: we only have room for one rice cooker, sadly 🙂 I can make rice without one, but it requires more attention from me…
    My go-to spatulas are actually wooden and bought in an Asian market (I think they’re meant to be used to flip things over in a wok, but I use them for everything). I don’t really use silicone much–as you point out, it melts very easily…

    >(Yes, I may have too many kitchen tools.)
    Don’t we all? 🙂

  6. It’s only the clear handles that can soften and bend a bit — the silicone spatula part is safe in hot oil up to 500F, so I can use it on the cast iron pans or the steel and not worry. I like that unlike wood I can throw it in the dishwasher and it’s good. I’m lazy.

  7. Oooh, madeleines are fairly easy, I think. There’s just a lot of steps to follow, but they’re straightforward and worth it. I like making mine with some citrus peel and light lemony glaze; even my sugar-shy Asian parents love them!

  8. @Caryn: he, nice! Our silicone died after being plunged in hot oil, so I suspect they weren’t the same quality…
    @Isana: I haven’t managed to find a quantity of sugar I’m happy with, I’m afraid (everything always tastes too sweet to me…) But I’ll try the madeleines sometime (or watch the H try them 🙂 )

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