A number of people have asked about the equipment we can use for preparing Japanese food. The list of special Japanese kitchen products that you might find in any European-style or American-style kitchen is not that long, but there are some items that it’s found are well worth having. Keep in mind that all this information is written from the perspective of someone who doesn’t live in Japan. If you lived in Japan chances are you’d have a lot more Japanese cooking-only items, such as a square pan for making atsuyaki tamago (the thick, square slightly sweet omelette often served in sushi restaurants).
List of Must Have Japanese Kitchen Products
A Good Rice Cooker
26 Picture Gallery: The Essentials Japanese Kitchen Products
A Good Rice Cooker – If you make rice, any kind of rice, more than once a week, you will never regret getting a rice cooker.
A Wooden Rice container (Hangiri) – It’s tempting to use the “keep warm” feature of your rice cooker, but if you want the best tasting rice don’t. Once rice is cooked, you need to fluff it up with a rice paddle, and then ideally transfer it to a container that breathes – like a wooden hangiri or ohitsu. If you are making sushi rice you must take the rice out and put it in a hangiri. For mixing and scooping rice, you’ll need a good rice paddle. Chances are you will get a free one with your rice cooker; otherwise a slightly curved one is handy.
A Carbon Steel Wok
A Carbon-Steel Wok – This wok is Chinese in origin, but every Japanese household uses a wok extensively – for stir-frying tasks and for deep-frying too. There are oil-draining racks designed to fit around the perimeter of a wok. If you have an electric or induction range, you must get a wok with a heavy, flat bottom – that stays flat.
Several Flat Bamboo or Water-resistant Wicker Baskets/Sieves (Zaru) – You can often find them at Asian gift and food stores, and even in some department stores. Woven bamboo ones are the best since they are water-resistant and clean easily. These are used for serving things like cold noodles (soba, or buckwheat, cold udon, thin so-men, and so on). There are also some small ones which you can use sometimes to make round-shaped tofu. There is a big difference between serving noodles in a plain old colander vs. on a nice bamboo zaru.
A Bamboo Sushi Rolling Mat – If you make sushi rolls this is an essential tool. You can also use it for making other rolls (like flavored spinach wrapped in nori).
Saibashi – long, uncoated wooden chopsticks, connected together with a piece of string. You should have several pairs of these which are essential for picking things up and turning them, stirring things around, and so on, if you’re not used to handling chopsticks you may find a pair of tongs to be easier to manipulate.
Japanese Kitchen Sets
If you’re starting out on this road you can get a lot of Japanese kitchen products from eBay these days. If you want to present a minimalist kind of plating though, just serve your Japanese food on plain white plates, and use plain white bowls for rice and soup. Don’t forget to use chopsticks though.
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