Over the years we have experienced living minimally, like out of four suitcases for too many months. However, regardless of where we were, we made efforts to control our diet with home-cooked meals. It was an uphill challenge because when you are new in town, you want to experience the taste of local flavors. Eating out is too often tempting or convenient. But the guilt of not knowing exactly what goes into our bodies kept us thinking about simple, balanced meals we can create in whichever tiny place we lived in. As long as the kitchen is adequately equipped.
Which brings us to this question: what do we need to get the kitchen started? Assuming there is a stove already in-built, which basic items would one need in order to cook a proper meal, instead of microwaving leftover pizzas from the night before?
Boom! Done in half the duration. That's how tiny the current kitchen is! The prepping tools were in a drawer, the cooking tools were all in the blue metal pot you see on my blog header. Looking at the ten items, I can only conclude that these will be all I need to get started in any kitchen from now on. I had not put on record such an inventory before but this is great for future reference.
You may wish to consider buying some new stuff for your own kitchen. You know, so you can cook at home more often next year. Splurge some if it inspires you like how a new pair of Louboutin's would make a girl step outside even when the city is freezing cold.
Of all the knives I have, this is my favorite but it is just a personal preference. You may be happier using an eight-inch chef's knife, it is all up to you. When deciding on the type of knife to get for yourself, it is good to consider the size and strength of your dominant hand, the ingredients you use, and the cuts you make. Never, ever buy a knife without knowing how it feels like in your hand, the grip, the weight, the height of the handle as you hold it up on the cutting board.
Y- or U-shape peeler
I have been using this particular one for years and it is still sharp as ever. When it comes to tools with blades, I always wipe them dry immediately after washing. Thanks to the way it is designed, the U-shape peeler also allows you to work faster. Just saying.
I use these for trimming meats and spatchcocking chickens, a few times snipping some fresh herbs right above the pot. They are also very useful when I want to quickly cut up a whole roasted chicken into parts. The house always wins.
Apart from zesting citrus fruits and grating hard cheeses, I use this to finely mince garlic. My absolute favorite, however, is to grate flakes of dark chocolate over tiramisu just before digging in. Compared to box graters, this is definitely easier to clean and way sharper too.
I rely on the mandoline when uniform cuts are required, such as the potato gratin, or julienned zucchini for yet... another gratin. The Benriner differs from most mandolines in that one can adjust to the exact thickness desired. I've accidentally shaved a tiny piece of my skin using this and I almost blacked out. So you've been warned.
I paid 5 MYR for this (Daiso, Kuala Lumpur) and it came with a pair of long wooden chopsticks. If you think about its cost per use, it is laughable. This can do no harm to enameled or nonstick cookware. Look for one that is curved yet has enough of a straight edge to cut (separating minced meat) or scrape (when deglazing).
Again, silicone to protect the precious cookwares. My first pair were plain stainless steel ones and I nearly cried discovering some marks on a near-retirement nonstick saucepan. It happens when you're careless or worse, fire-fighting at the stove, so choose the silicone version to avoid scratching the pots.
At some point in the kitchen you will need this for some form of soup, stock, stew or porridge. Pouring straight from the pot can get messy at times. One of the chef-instructors in school would say "dumping food from the pot to the plate is good when you're feeding animals". Get a standard four-ounce ladle for easy portioning.
This is for fishing dumplings and blanched items straight out of the pot. Sometimes you want to keep the blanching water, or the water you cooked pasta in for subsequent use. My strainer has a wide, shallow built compared to the usual upright, deeper ones. Choose something like this if your cooking vessels are of smaller capacity (ie. two to four quarts). You will have more choices in an Asian homeware store than Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma combined. Oops.
I need this for making roux and sauces. One often relates whisks to baking. But how about a quick whip of cream, mayonnaise or vinaigrette? Over the years I have collected whisks of different shapes and sizes. The tiniest is used for powdered drinks (matcha, cocoa) but that's more fun than necessity. Makes me happy, though.
If you would like to "streamline" the kitchen, how about playing the game too -- identify your ten most frequently used tools within sixty seconds, and keep them close to your work area for greater efficiency.