1) Rice Cooker/Instant Pot
How do you get perfect rice? If you’re not familiar with the tradition of using your knuckle to measure the right amount of water (a hack passed down through many generations in Chinese families), a rice cooker may be the tool for you! Rice cookers typically include an instruction guide outlining ratios of rice to water depending on rice variety, and the inner pot has lines marked for water levels to eliminate any guesswork. It’s also a convenient appliance if you need to complete other food prep or even jump in the shower while the rice is cooking, since rice cookers automatically flip over to a ‘Keep Warm’ setting once the delightful fluffy grain has finished cooking.
For those looking to level-up their culinary game, an Instant Pot can be a steadfast sidekick for your Asian food aspirations. Gaining popularity in the last few years, these multi-functional pressure cookers come in a variety of sizes ranging from 3 to 8 quarts and depending on the model, can be utilized as a rice cooker, steamer, pressure cooker, and more! Their versatility is an advantage in smaller condo-sized kitchens that lack storage space.
Thin tapered tools of ease or frustration, depending on your skill level! Chopsticks can be used during cooking similar to a pair of tongs, and of course help you chow down on chow mein as well. It’s important to recognize some etiquette regarding their use. Avoid these faux-pas:
a. poking food
b. digging into the shared dish for that coveted piece of roast duck
c. crossing the chop sticks — which, in Chinese culture, symbolically means you are ‘denying’ your fellow lunch companions
For beginners, you’re actually better off with the paper-wrapped wooden chopsticks from the bottom of the bag in your delivery order. Don’t toss them! In the privacy of your own home, with no giggling onlookers, is the best time to practice. The wooden ones have more grip than sleek metal or plastic versions.
3) Bamboo Basket
The quintessential food carrier, typically towering several stories high on a wheeling cart that encircle round tables covered in white plastic tops during a weekend dim sum ritual. Bamboo baskets are unique, so it makes it challenging to replicate their function and charm with any other kitchen tool. The wood structure and interior facilitates an even amount of steam while protecting the delights within. What better way to steam Hong Shing’s handmade siu mai & har gow steamed dumplings that you grabbed to enjoy whenever the craving strikes!?
4) Soy Sauce
The prime ingredient in so many mouth-watering sauces, dressings and marinades! If you’re looking to add a rich, salty depth of flavour to your dish, this has to be a staple in your fridge (side note- soy sauce can be kept at room temperature, but refrigeration extends its shelf life). If avoiding gluten, tamari is a safe bet and now easily found right beside the soy sauce in your local grocery store. For a detailed breakdown on the complexities of soy sauce, you can check out our post here.
The most common pan found in Asian kitchens, wok uses vary from stir-frying, steaming, deep-frying and even indoor smoking. To save you from decision woes as there are countless varieties of woks on the market, your best bet is a carbon steel, 14 gauge wok with a 4-5 inch flat area at the bottom — like this one from Amazon. It heats up quickly and will stand the test of time if you care for it properly, which involves minimal scrubbing and ‘seasoning’ (an easy process involving heat and lubricating the surface with oil to prevent rusting and ensure food doesn’t stick while cooking)..
All these items (minus the soy sauce) can be found just up the street from Hong Shing, at Tap Phong Trading in Toronto. An institution in Chinatown, Tap Phong is the acclaimed spot for all restaurant owners in Toronto looking for unbeatable prices on equipment and serving ware. But lucky for you, it’s open to the general public and you can stroll the aisles to admire their wares, feeling like the blossoming foodie that you are! If you need assistance, Lili Tran, the owner’s daughter, is wealth of knowledge and super helpful, and is usually at the front of the store, cashier on the right.
And most of all, stay safe!