Step away from the Pizza Pocket. Put down the strawberry slicer. Actually, go ahead and throw away the strawberry slicer. And avoid the late-night shopping channels while you’re at it. Being a master chef isn’t a matter of owning the latest gastronomic gadgets, but rather being able to identify quality products and use them well. To chop an onion like a pro, you need to own a knife that the pros use (and be able to properly chop an onion in the first place, but let’s assume you already know how to do that). Here are five multi-purpose kitchen tools to set you on course for home chef superstardom, and where to find them in Bangkok.
The Japanese Blade
Thailand doesn’t necessarily have the source materials to ever make high-end cutlery. And Western products are often mass-produced, absent the quintessential human touch that distinguishes great knives from average ones. Japan, on the other hand, has a long tradition of skilled blacksmiths and cutlers who handcraft some of the finest blades in the world.
Founded by a former chef, Cutboy sells Japanese mac knives (i.e. high-carbon knives set at a 15 degree angle, with flatter edges than European blades and superior sharpness, too) in solo pieces and starter sets. Restaurant pros tend to pick these up—customers include “Master Chef” brethren Arnold and Reynold Poernomo—but that doesn’t mean the dedicated home chef can’t get one, either. E-mail [email protected] to inquire about making a purchase.
The Digital Scale
There was a time when pinches and dashes were all that mattered. Those days are over. Metric measurements offer a degree of precision in cooking that cups and tablespoons could never achieve. A digital scale also means you won’t have to, say, hunt for a dozen measuring cups to bake cupcakes. Spoon the flour into a bowl and set the scale back to zero before you add the next ingredient. The same goes for savoury foods. Polenta, rice, and shredded cheese can be measured with accuracy. Verasu offers a range of scales. Generally speaking, the most basic will perform its primary function. Check them out at the brick-and-mortar store on Wireless Road, or visit verasu.com.
The Blow Torch
Caramelize meringue, sear meat, achieve deeper flavours and textures—with the aid of a blow torch, the culinary possibilities are endless. Traditionally a tool found in the garage, the blow torch has entered kitchens—and even barrooms—with culinary flare. Most often associated with crème brûlée, the blow torch also adds golden colour and toasted notes to marshmallows or graham crackers, browns cheese for French onion soup, and sears chocolate for a final addition to a whisky-based cocktail. Go to Pantry Magic at Eight Thong Lo or the Emporium Department Store to pick up a blow torch, as well as other handy kitchen tools.
The Sous-Vide Machine
Speaking of Sous Vide Thailand, for true gastro geeks, the sous-vide machine is like the Warhol on the wall, the trophy on the mantel, the jewel in the kitchen crown. The sous-vide more or less takes the place of the crockpot. Put some beef cheek in a bag and vacuum-seal it, take that package and drop it in a temperature-controlled water bath, forget about it for about a day, and voila.
Since the cooking temperature is so low—certain products can be cooked for up to 96 hours—meat and vegetables are cooked evenly and retain their moisture. No longer reserved for the Ferran Adrià’s and Joël Robuchon’s of the world, sous-vide machines are now fixtures on countertops of a more humble nature. And even mixologists are in on the trend, with luminaries like Joseph Boroski using sous-vide to prepare herb-infused liqueurs and bitters. Pick one up at sousvidethailand.com, where they start at around B9000 for a basic machine.
The Hand Mixer
Also known as stick or immersion blenders, hand mixers are best known for their capacity to easily blend chunky ingredients into silky smooth soups. But they can also chop meat, whip eggs and oil into mayonnaise, blend fruit smoothies, and work the lumps right out of gravy. Sous Vide Thailand sells a good hand mixer set (with six changeable blades, a mixing cup, and more) for B4400 on its website, sousvidethailand.com.