Paul has been passionate about preparing, cooking, and eating Asian food for over 30 years, especially Chinese, Indian, and Thai dishes.
I've been enjoying cooking and eating Chinese cuisine for over 30 years. During this time, I've come to appreciate the importance of having the best utensils, tools, and equipment for the tasks involved. They can really make the difference between success and failure, no matter how experienced you are as a cook.
This article lists Chinese cooking tools that I've come to see as invaluable. Where I have a preferred product, I name my choice and give my reasons for the recommendation.
Must-Have Chinese Cooking Utensils and Tools
Below are the tools that I believe are essentially for anyone who enjoys Chinese cookery. The list is not exhaustive, and different recipes often require different tools and equipment, but here are what I believe to be the essentials.
- Wok brush
- Cutting board
- Spider skimmer/strainer
- Clay pot
- Bamboo basket steamer
- Rice cooker
I explain the reasons and experiences that are behind my suggestions below.
The wok is used to make a vast variety of Asian cuisine, it's a tremendously versatile piece of kitchen hardware. This practical cooking pan can be used for stir-frying, steaming, deep-frying, poaching, boiling, braising, searing, stewing, and smoking food.
Woks come in different types and sizes. For example, some woks have round bottoms and some have flat, essentially because they are designed for use with different heat sources. The handle types can also vary. Some pans come with stainless coatings to make them easier to clean.
If you want to read more, or are considering buying a wok, I have an entire article dedicated to my recommendations for the three best carbon-steel woks.
2. Wok Brush
Cleaning a wok after use is essential if you want to maintain it. Wok brushes are a traditional tool designed specifically for this purpose, enabling you to clean the hot surfaces of the wok without burning your fingers or hands.
Constructed from strips of bamboo bundled together, these brushes are bigger and more sturdy than a regular plastic dish brush, making it much easier to remove stubborn baked on foods such as egg, cheese, and sticky sauces.
3. Cutting Board
You will require a good cutting board for the food prep. It should be solid enough to withstand the chopping of meat and vegetables, but maneuverable enough for you to lift it and push the food into the wok or other pan, or cooking receptacle. Chinese cutting boards are generally wooden, bamboo, and acrylic. I prefer wooden.
4. Spider Skimmer/Strainer
Made with a round head of wire (giving the spider name, because of the web-shaped pattern), and a long bamboo or metal handle, this tool is used for straining, skimming, and deep-frying. This style of skimmer/strainer is perfect for lifting a piece of meat, fish, or spring rolls from hot oil, or for removing dumplings, wontons, and noodles from boiling water.
5. Clay Pot
Clay pots create the distinctive flavor associated with Chinese cuisine. They are easy to use and are employed for making stews, casseroles, congee, and rice dishes.
6. Bamboo Basket Steamer
Bamboo baskets are essential for many Chinese recipes, as they are used to steam foods, such as rice cakes, buns, and soup dumplings. Bamboo steamers are usually very affordable and a very efficient and low-cost way to cook.
They can be stacked up when you are either making large meals. or when steaming a variety of different food types. The basket sits upon a steamer rack which has been placed in a pot or wok of boiling water.
Used for serving runny dishes such as stew or soup from a pot or wok to a bowl, a ladle is another essential Asian cooking tool. Ladles are made from a variety of materials, including stainless steel, plastic, aluminum, wood, silver, and bamboo.
Whether constructed from metal or wood, spatulas are an excellent tool for scraping food from a wok. In one swift movement, they can deal with relatively large amounts of sticky food, such as fried rice, or glutinous rice cakes.
If you are seeking a suggestion, I would recommend purchasing the FJNATINH spatula and ladle set. I love these wok tools. Built from wood and stainless steel, they are sturdy, durable, and reasonably priced, plus they look and feel great. I use the 15-inch version, which is ideal for my needs, but other sizes are available.
While a full set of knives is often needed for Western-style cookery, it is common for a single cleaver is used for a wide variety of tasks in Chinese cookery. A cleaver can be used to chop, scrape, scoop, slice, and dice. The dull side and the flat side of the blade can be used to tenderize meat to crush garlic and garlic.
If you are seeking recommendations, I myself am a huge fan of the TUO cleaver. I've tried a number of alternatives over the three decades that I've been preparing Asian food, but this cutter is my favorite. It has some weight and is awesome for slicing and dicing meat and vegetables. I also find it great for non-Asian cookery needs such as cutting pizza.
10. Rice Cooker
While you can make your rice in a pan on the stove, rice cookers offer a number of advantages. Firstly, they give you more consistent results. Secondly, you don't have to constantly watch over the rice to make sure that it doesn't go dry, or over-cook. Thirdly, most rice cookers have a function that enables the rice to be kept warm once cooked.
Most rice cookers can also be used for other cooking tasks, such as making oatmeal, quinoa, pasta, soups, stews, sushi, and even steamed vegetables.
If you want to learn more about rice cookers and see my recommendations, I've written an entire article dedicated to this topic: 3 Best Electric Rice Cookers.
© 2020 Paul Goodman