When the hubby and I got the keys to our new home twelve years ago, we already had some ideas on how we want our home to look like. After more than a month of renovation, we are finally ready to move in.
However, when it came to our kitchen, we have the basic equipment like the fridge, the gas stove, the built-in oven and the microwave and nothing else. Not even a spoon. So we have to shop for our crocks and stuff and have no idea after forks, spoons and plates. The following are guidelines for newly weds on what to buy if you are just starting out on your own or for those who are moving to a new home and living alone for the first time.
In truth, there are only a few essential items needed for cooking, and I am assuming you are going to cook simple dishes. But for folks who are more ambitious, you will need more than just these few basics. However, these basic tools are good to begin with.
A word of advice, buy something that you truly need, like and of good quality because it may last you a lifetime.
I have several small bowls, slightly bigger than size of my palm and they are stainless steel and it’s also good to have a very large bowl which is deep and wide enough that I can place both my palms into where I use to mix or whisk ingredients in large quantity.
There are many types of boards available. The surface on which you cut and chop your food should feel solid yet softer than your knife’s blade, so no glass or granite surface for a chopping board please.
Ideally your chopping board should be of really hard wood, thick enough to withstand the hacking or blows you apply to it and also wide enough for you to be able to dissect a large chicken.
If you are into baking, you may want to get a separate board for cutting chocolates or other baking ingredients. Normally I used a high density polyethelene board for cutting fish or meat.
But whatever type of board you used, remember to scrub thoroughly after use.
Choose a pan that is not too heavy for you to lift with one hand and make sure the handle is sturdy and slightly long so that there’s distance between your hand and hot oil or water.
You don’t need a lid with a frying pan but if it comes with it, the better.
It’s important you get a non-stick frying pan so that whatever you are cooking you can easily transfer it out of the pan to the plate. If you get a non-stick pan, it’s likely teflon coated so be careful when you wash it with soap and water. Do not use a wire scourer to clean any teflon coated surface. If the teflon has started to peel off the pan, it’s time to get a new pan.
A pan about 24 – 28 centimeters in diameter is sufficient. I don’t recommend any bigger because I will be using a wok if I need to use a bigger pan.
I think knives is one of the most important considerations in the kitchen. You must be wondering how could you go wrong with knives. Well, I have a several knives, I swear I have never used or never needed to. We have well meaning friends who bought us a set of knives that we don’t use. Knives with serrated blades of all sizes.
Unless you are a professional chef, you’ll only ever need a kitchen knife, a paring knife, a bread knife and a honing steel. Or maybe a cleaver if you are an Asian.
A kitchen knife or a chef’s knife is what I often used. It is worthwhile to invest in a good kitchen knife. It should be comfortable to handle, not too heavy and you should have a good grip. Get a stainless steel blade.
You will also need a paring knife or a peeling knife for those little jobs like peeling onions or garlic. Go for the same quality as your kitchen knife.
I suggested a bread knife because I often bake my own breads so I need a bread knife to slice baguettes or a loaf of bread I have just baked.
I used a cleaver to cut a whole chicken into desired pieces but you can get the butcher to do that nowadays so it’s optional.
The proper maintenance of your knives is important. By keeping it sharp, you saved time and energy by cutting and slicing your ingredients effortlessly instead of hacking down your vegetables or meat. So get a honing steel and sharpen your knives regularly.
Pestle and Mortar
The pestle and mortar is a must-have in a Malay kitchen. A favorite use is to make sambal belachan (a raw spicy dish) by pounding fresh chillies, toasted shrimp paste and adding a dash of lime juice. We used to make it fresh everyday for my dad because it’s a must-have side dish for him. I recalled trying to make the sambal belachan using the blender instead and tried to hide that fact but he can always tell the moment he tasted the sambal belachan.
The pestle and mortar can be made of many different materials but you want to get one made of stone, hard, wide and deep. It will last for a very long time, and may still be around way after you are gone.
We normally crush peppercorns, garlic or ginger or pound onions into paste. There are many other uses for it, I find it’s irreplaceable. To clean it, a quick wipe or a rinse of hot water is all that’s needed.
Usually, I use the heavy bottom steel pan when I make stews with mutton or beef that takes a long time to get tender. Otherwise, I will be using the non-stick saucepan for quick stews or instant noodles 😛
Just remember not to get one that is too heavy to lift and make sure the handle is sturdy and slightly long so that there’s a distance between your hand and hot oil or water. Sauce pans usually comes with a lid and it’s best to have one.
Broad, long, short, slotted, metal, plastic or wooden spoons are your friends in the kitchen. It’s okay to have an assortment. I have many but I often use my wooden spoons. Spoons are used in all sorts of manner, scraping, smoothing and scooping in cooking, just to name a few.
You don’t have to get the biggest wok. A 35-40 centimeters in diameter is sufficient. Just be sure that it’s not too heavy for you to carry. Just remember a wok can only really work well with a gas stove.
The colander is one example, to wash and drain the vegetables in or drain the water from your cooked pasta. A grater to grate your block of cheese or nutmeg or lemon for lemon zest.
There’s a plethora of appliances like sieves, steamers, strainers and spatulas you might want to have.
What would I do without the blender? It is a life-saving machine for me. I recalled having to mill the chillies into a paste when I was younger using the millstone. In most Asian recipes especially Malay, the chilli paste is a must-have so back then, it was almost a weekly routine for me to use the millstone and how I dreaded it. I felt so blessed when my mum got our first blender, it’s like heaven-sent, He must have heard my prayers.
The rice-cooker is a must-have in an Asian kitchen as rice is our staple food. However, you can also use a deep pan to cook your rice but you have to keep an eye on it unless you don’t mind burnt rice.
There are many others like the deep fryer, the air fryer or bread maker but in my opinion, are not necessities.