FROM VIETNAMESE PHO TO JAPANESE SUSHI, dishes from the Asian continent are undeniably among the most popular foods in the Western world. Some people think of Asian food as restaurant-only fare, but the more ambitious among us know that many dishes can be recreated at home. All you need is the right appliances to help cook a few essential dishes in the expansive pantheon of Asian cuisines: rice, stir fry, and noodles.
Rice is of course the foundation of many cuisines throughout Asia, and can be paired with almost any dish. Mastering the art of perfect right is a necessary right of passage for any home cook. Noodles are essential in stews, soups, and other convenient and filling one-pot dishes -– with the added bonus that they soak up the flavors of the accompanying ingredients. Stir fries are easy to customize, and can contain any combination of vegetables and meat that you can dream up.
Grab these six essential cooking tools (and read up on a couple cooking tips from Morimoto Asia’s executive chef Yuhi Fujinaga) before the next time you head out to your closest expansive pan-Asian supermarket for Kewpie, spices, and every other ingredient you can imagine.
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Tools to make the best noodles
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Hot pot might seem like a lavish meal best enjoyed in a restaurant, but with the right tools – namely a hot pot with an S-shaped divider – it’s simple to create at home. Hot pot is the ultimate comfort food and makes for ideal dinner party fare.
Diners are presented with plates of raw ingredients – everything from slices of sweet potato and mushrooms to cubes of tofu, dumplings, thinly sliced meats, and types of noodles from vermicelli to ho fun – that are dipped and cooked in the steaming broth. Noodles should be cooked last and for just a few moments, until they become soft. The noodles soak up spicy, umami-rich broth. The divider allows you to cook two flavors and many ingredients at once (which is especially convenient if only some of your guests prefer spicy food).
Buy one: Kerykwan Divided Hot Pot Pan, $49
Photo: Tataya Kudo/Shutterstock
The Instant Pot is often praised for its ability to create one pot meals, and a Chinese clay pot serves a similar purpose. Clay pot dishes often include steamed rice cooked with Chinese sausage, pork belly, mushrooms, bok choy, or chicken. However, seafood stews are another popular dish to prepare in a clay pot. Often paired with shrimp, prawns, or pork, clay pot noodles can be topped with mushrooms, ginger, or pickled vegetables. A Japanese donabe is a similar tool, in which you can prepare udon noodles or stews with ingredients like tofu, mushrooms, and glass noodles.
Buy one: Kotobuki Donabe, $140
Tools to make the best rice
Photo: Zhitnikov Vadim/Shutterstock
Bamboo steamers are versatile appliances that can cook soup dumplings, bao buns, steam fish, all sorts of vegetables, and hard boil eggs. You can even get playful and use sake or beer to add an extra layer of flavor as you steam the food. A bamboo steamer can also cook rice. Steam for about 30 minutes to achieve perfectly fluffy rice – the perfect side dish for vegetables or fish, which, conveniently, can be cooked in the same vessel for an easy dinner clean up.
Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock
The rice cooker is the traditional choice for anyone who regularly eats steamed rice. In countries like Japan, nearly 6 million rice cookers were sold in 2020. Fast, inexpensive, and intuitive to use, rice cookers take the guesswork out of preparing rice. Simply measure out the rice, add water, and switch the device on. When the rice is done cooking, it automatically switches off the cooking process. In the interim, you can walk away and do other chores while your rice happily cooks away. Even if you only plan to make rice once a week, a rice cooker is a worthy investment. And incidentally, you can also prepare oatmeal and hard boiled eggs, among other dishes.
Tools to make the best stir fry
This deep, high-walled pan originated in China, and it’s essential for many dishes that require high heat. The pan’s steep walls trap heat, encouraging ingredients to cook faster. The high walls also allow the cook to toss food together without losing any pieces, which promotes even cooking and well-combined ingredients.
The most popular dish to cook in a wok is probably stir fry. The wok creates crisp vegetables and tender pieces of meat, and the ingredient options are endless: beef, udon noodles, green beans, bell peppers, shrimp – whatever type of stir fry you dream up, a wok can cook it up.
This handy tool, which can be made out of metal or bamboo, is a must-have wok accessory. The long handle on the skimmer is especially designed to lift stir fried vegetables from the scalding wok, but it’s particularly useful for removing ingredients from boiling liquids – when deep frying or blanching vegetables, for instance. And when made from bamboo, the elongated handle stays cool even in the hottest kitchens.