If you’re looking to cook some delicious Asian dishes, and wondering what are the best tools, I got you here! Here are some of my favorite Asian cooking tools including woks, bamboo steamers, rice cookers, sushi rolling mats, and more!
A wok is a deep round-bottomed cooking pot that originated from China. The word ‘Wok’ is actually a Cantonese word for pot, and the Mandarin word for it is ‘Guo’.
Now though traditional the bottom is round – you can also purchase flat bottomed woks these days, those specifically were designed as a result of electric stoves – so that more areas of the wok can be in contact with the heat.
Woks were traditionally made of cast iron, but these days there’s many common materials – you can get carbon steel, cast iron, aluminum, non stick, etc.
There are so many things you can do with a wok! Here are some things we use it for:
- Stir Frying – this is the most common method of cooking with a wok, basically frying food quickly in a small amount of oil while stirring continuously. By the way, if you’d like to learn how – check out my How to Stir Fry article!
- Boiling – since woks are deep, you can boil water for soups, dumplings, wontons, etc.
- Braising – again, since woks are deep, it leaves a lot of space for braised dishes. Usually we brown the food, and then add liquids, and braise – simmer at low heat and you can reduce the sauce.
- Pan Frying – similar to stir fry, this is where you fry food in a small amount of oil, however, there’s no stirring occasionally.
- Steaming – with steaming baskets on top of the wok, you can steam food including buns, dumplings, breads, vegetables, rice, proteins, and more.
Going with your wok – I’d like to mention spatula and ladle.
Spatulas are pretty common in cooking various cuisines, and really all of them will work as long as you don’t use metal ones on non stick or something similar to that.
There are specific spatulas though for cooking woks. Wok spatulas are traditionally made with metal so they will scratch up your non stick, but you can use with other material type woks.
They do sell various material spatulas now so if you do have one you can’t do metal on, you can check out silicone non stick ones.
They are great for fried rice, friend noodles, and some stir fries in the wok.
A wok ladle is also known as Hoak. Similar to the spatula – you can find ladles made with different materials – and you don’t want to damage your nonstick woks.
Asian cuisine often entails soup that goes with every meal, or congee, or porridge, so ladles are very often used.
If you’re looking for a set of wok spatula and ladle, you can probably find them in your local Asian supermarkets for pretty cheap – and there’s also some you can get on Amazon such as this 14″ L. X 4″ Home Use Stainless Hand-tooled Chuan & Hoak (Spatula & Ladle) Set.
Often times in Asian cooking, you will need to cover the food your cooking in your wok, or skillet, or cooking pan. For reasons such as bringing to a boil, or adding water and steaming things, or covering when things are splattering.
The Skimmer (often times Bamboo Skimmer) is an cooking tool used for blanching, deep frying, and skimming foods. The small, wire mesh on the head acts like a colander and lets liquids drain from the cooked food. Highly recommend if you are deep frying things.
They’re useful, but if you can’t find any or don’t want to use one for any reason (like me – I’m just lazy sometimes and don’t want to wash it LOL) you can use cooking chopsticks or tongs to take things out without the liquid.
Here is one if you are looking for it on Amazon!
A rice cooker is an electric appliance that automatically cooks rice. Similar to slow cookers and instant pots, they have a cooking pot and they heat up!
Rice cookers is the ultimate Asian cooking tool! They are basically found in every Asian household as rice is a staple in Asian cooking. While you can cook rice on a stove, rice cookers makes it so much easier by doing it automatically to perfection without much if any attention paid to it.
You can also use rice cookers to cook other things – for example it is easy to steam foods in the rice cooker, so we often times use it for things like buns, or bao, or dishes like Steamed Pork Ribs with Black Beans.
The main thing the rice paddle does is scoop up the rice and put it in a bowl. However, one tip/trick that is done is that when you are done cooking the rice, you can use the rice paddle to fluff the rice. This helps the rice not all stick together.
They sell these in different materials such as wooden rice paddles, plastic rice paddles, etc.
Here’s one if you’re looking – Inomata 1150 Rice Paddle, White
Bamboo steamers, aka steamer basket, zhenglong 蒸籠 is a tool that can be used to steam food. If you’ve ever been to dim sum, you will have seen small ones as this is how they steam the many delicious dim sum dishes.
Each bamboo steamer can be stacked on top of each so that you can steam many dishes at the same time.
Some things you can make in steamer basket include dumplings, vegetables, seafood, poultry, bread, sticky rice, and more!
To steam using a bamboo steamer, you will want to place the food in the bamboo basket, and cover.
The add about two inches of water to the wok. Heat water until simmering, place the steamer basket over the pot. If there are multiple layers of bamboo steamers, you can steam other things at the same time! For example this Chinese Steamed Spare Ribs (with Black Beans).
You might think this is the obvious one for eating, but technically we use it so much in cooking too, so I felt the need to include it in the list.
In fact, it’s so great as an Asian cooking tool, there are specific cooking or serving chopsticks made in Japan known as ryoribashi or saibashi that are longer than regular chopsticks. They are longer which helps you cook the food in a wok or deep frying pan and keeping your hands a safe distance away.
I use it to stir fry everything – meat, veggies, seafood, etc.
Another use for it is if you are supposed to cover something just a little and not the whole thing, you can place a chopstick on opposite sides vertically, and place the lid on top, leaving just a chopstick width amount of space to release heat.
I say Cleavers, but or something called Chinese Chef’s Knife is what we usually use. They both have a long rectangle blade, and can be used to cut through bones, mince, chop, slice, and pound!
I use it very often for smashing my garlic, chopping green onions, for example! To me, they are the best knife in Asian cooking and are also very high up on the list of best Asian cooking tools.
If you’re looking for one – here’s one from Amazon as an example – Cleaver Knife – imarku 7 Inch Meat Cleaver – SUS440A Japan High Carbon Stainless Steel Butcher Knife with Ergonomic Handle for Home Kitchen and Restaurant, Ultra Sharp
Sushi Rolling Mat
Sushi rolling mat aka makisu (巻き簾), is a small mat made from bamboo and held together by cotton strings that is used for rolling Japanese sushi or Korean Kimbap. They can also be used also to shape other foods such as omelets.
This is a must have if you would like to make sushi at home (I recommend it because it’s also fun!) and if you’re curious about it – check out my post on How to make sushi!
You can purchase them at your local Asian supermarket or on Amazon even!
Portable Cooking Stove
You might be confused why I would have a portable cooking stove as part of the Asian cooking tools- do Asians cook on the spot whenever they are out? Not really – the reason for this is because of a very popular dish called Hot Pot!
The most common way to eat Hot Pot at home is to have a portable butane burner. They’re super easy to operate. You load it up and put it on the dining table to hold and cook the hot pot thru out the meal.
These portable butane stoves use small butane ‘fuel’ – they usually sell them in 4 packs. Very easy to use:
With a portable butane burner, you can use any kind of pot to hold the hot pot. I recommend metal kinds, because glass ones takes longer to cook. Also, if you want to have two different types of broths going at the same time, you can invest in a dual sided pot, aka yuan yang pot. This is what we usually use:
If you’ve ever been to Korean BBQ you will have seen how awesome using kitchen shears or scissors is in cooking. It’s not only in Korean cooking that kitchen shears are used so often – they truly are super useful.
Other than the obvious – opening up packages, you can also use kitchen shears to cut herbs, green onions, meat such as chicken, beef, pork, we use it for all of the above!
Korean BBQ Grill Pan
Speaking of Korean BBQ using kitchen shears, Korean BBQ also has a special Korean BBQ grill pan! You have a couple of options for how to use it.
Using charcoal as the heating source is best… but it can only done outdoors, and difficulty is a little bit harder.
You could also use an induction stove but it doesn’t work as well because it doesn’t get as hot.
The best option in my opinion is a portable butane burner (the one I mentioned when I was talking about hot pot earlier) – as it’s easy and heats up pretty well with actual flames!
Here’s one on Amazon if you’re looking – Iwatani CB-P-Y3 BBQ Plate (Large) | Stovetop Korean BBQ Non-Stick Round Barbecue Grill Pan | Free 304 Stainless Steel Barbecue Tongs (Japan Import)
Now you enjoy Korean BBQ at home!
Mortar and Pestle
Mortar and Pestle is a set of two tools. The mortar is a bowl shape usually made of something hard like hard wood, metal, ceramic, granite, etc. The pestle is a blunt fat stick like object that is also hard usually made of the same material as the bowl.
To use it – you place ingredients in the mortar, and use the pestle to pound and press the ingredients until it’s smashed in to the texture you need.
Mortar and pestle is used in many Asian countries including Japan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and more to grind spices, meat, condiments, sauces, nuts, and more!
Here’s one on Amazon if you’re looking for one – Heavy Duty Natural Granite Mortar and Pestle Set, Hand Carved, Make Fresh Guacamole, Salsa, Pesto, Stone Grinder Bowl, Herb Crusher, Spice Grinder, 5.5 Inch Size, Black