I’ve been having so much fun with my Travel Series this month sharing recipes and travel tips from places I love, so I thought I’d share a bit more about Thai cooking with you today.
Today’s post is about the 10 Kitchen Items I consider to be essential for Thai cooking at home.
Let me preface this by saying that many a good cook will say the only real essentials are a good pan and a good knife. In many ways, I agree with this statement. In others, not so much. In the real world, many of us work full time and/or are chasing kids around the house while simultaneously trying to make dinner.
True, it may not be necessary to own a citrus press when you could squeeze limes by hand, but I hate getting lime juice all over myself and I don’t like dealing with lemon seeds either.
You could also mince up ingredients by hand rather than using a mini-food processor, but it’s a heck of a lot easier and about six thousand times faster to use that handy little miracle.
I’m sharing 10 kitchen items with you today, and every single one of them is something I use on a weekly basis. Many of these items are used in my kitchen for multiple different recipes and cuisines – as I list them out, I’ll also give you examples of recipes in which you’ll use them!
Ready to go?
10 Kitchen Essentials for Thai Home Cooking
1. MORTAR & PESTLE
When the Husband and I were in Bangkok, we spent a day walking through China town (weird, right?) and I bought a beautiful cork mortar and pestle. I still have it sitting up on my shelf because I think it’s pretty and it reminds me of our trip, but it’s rather impractical for actually grinding something up.
In my experience, marble is the material of choice for a mortar and pestle as wood is just too soft and porous. I love this dark grey marble set! I use my mortar and pestle for grinding up peppercorns, making garlic paste, and bruising lemongrass.
2. SKIMMER STRAINER
This is such a handy little tool! My super amazing friend, Michele, was looking for one of these around Christmas time and I happened to see one in the Asian supermarket near my house. I bought one for myself and I absolutely love it.
It’s perfect for skimming cashews and dried peppers out of a pan of hot oil when making Thai Chicken with Cashews, as well as for any other job which needs just a little straining (think: discarding mint leaves from homemade tea or removing vanilla beans from simmering cream). I also use this to remove chunks of galangal root and lemongrass stalks from Tom Yum soup before serving. Here’s a link to the skimmer strainer I use.
3. FISH TURNER
If you watch a lot of Hell’s Kitchen, this handy tool will look pretty familiar. Fish turners are designed for turning and flipping delicate foods, like fish and crab cakes. You know I cook a lot of Tilapia, and I’ll admit that before I owned this handy tool I had a little trouble getting a *whole* fish fillet out of a pan. You’ll definitely want one of these to up your game when making Crispy Tilapia in Curry Sauce. I like this one by OXO – the Husband put it in my Christmas stocking last year!
There are many different opinions out there on picking out a wok – I’d say just as many as picking out any other type of cookware. Do you go with stainless, aluminum, carbon steel, cast-iron, or non-stick? What about electric vs. conventional?
I’m not here to write a book about picking out cookware, but I can tell you that I use a non-stick, conventional wok
(meaning, you use it on the stove rather than plugging it in and using it as a separate appliance). I like using nonstick cookware because it helps me limit the amount of oil in my diet. If you’re absolutely against purchasing non-stick, I’d go with my other favorite option which is cast iron.
Woks are useful in Thai cooking because the extra heated surface area is ideal for making stir-fries. You’ll want to get it screamin’ hot, add oil, then practically sear your stir-fry ingredients. I use my wok when making curries, too, because I love the angled sides which give me plenty of room for saucy goodness. Check out my recipes for Thai Green Curry with Eggplant and Peanut Panang Beef Curry for some delicious inspiration.
5. CITRUS PRESS
Like I mentioned, I hate getting lemon and lime juice all over my hands. Maybe I don’t take care of my nails as well as I could, but I seem to always have a hangnail or two and I just loathe getting citrus juice inside one of those suckers.
With Thai cooking, it is common for a recipe to call for the juice of half a lime at the very end of the recipe. Nothing is more convenient than using one of these handy citrus presses to squeeze in the juice!
Here’s another tip for you – when squeezing lime halves, put them into the press upside down, so the flat cut half is facing the juice wholes. Since limes are usually smaller than lemons, this method helps you get all the juice out without giving you tendinitis or a hand cramp.
6. SANTOKU KNIFE
Thai cooking involves a LOT of sliced and diced meats and vegetables. A good knife will go a long way in helping with preparation! I love using my Wusthof Hollow Edge Santoku Knife because the extra hollowed out space on the blade of the knife keep the knife from sticking to the food I’m cutting up.
If you don’t have a Santoku Knife, you can usually get by with a nice, sharp Chef’s knife. Again, I highly recommend saving up for a Wusthof set – you can buy one piece at a time, and they’ll last you a lifetime.
7. MINI FOOD PROCESSOR
Why a mini food processor? Because cabinet and counter space is precious, and most of us aren’t cooking for a family of 8. I use my mini food processor for making homemade curry pastes, pulverizing lemongrass for marinades, and mincing up garlic and ginger.
I own one of these adorable little Cuisinart mini food processors, which come in just about every color you could imagine. I totally abuse mine and it has held up incredibly well!
I love to freeze my ginger and galangal root then use my microplane zester to grate it directly into a dish. It is SO much easier than peeling and mincing by hand! Of course, it’s also handy for hard cheeses and citrus zest.
Okay, these are just necessary for cooking absolutely everything. I love to use these for tossing together Peanut Curry Noodles or whipping up a savory stir-fry. It’s so nice to not have to worry about scratching up my cookware with a metal set! I bought these blue silicone tongs and I love them – dishwasher safe, to boot!
10. MANGO SPLITTER
What was I doing with my life before I bought this thing!? I absolutely love mangoes, which is awesome because they go really well with Thai cuisine. Mango Lover’s Delight is a favorite of mine (that reminds me, I really need to put up my recipe for that one!), and you can’t beat traditional Thai Mangoes with Sticky Rice for dessert.
This tool neatly splits the mango meat away from the awkward shaped pit giving you to perfect halves of mango. Just score the flesh with a knife, turn the peel inside out, and scoop out the mango chunks. So easy!
Well, that about wraps up my list of essential kitchen tools for Thai cooking at home. I hope this advice helps you in your international cuisine exploits! Feel free to leave me a comment with any questions you may have, or more suggestions for handy tools that help you in the kitchen!