In China we have one gadget: a rice cooker which is used every day without fail. We have a wok, a big pot and a small pot. In our kitchen, like most Chinese kitchens, we have the following tools: one chopping board, a cleaver and a few spoons. The cleaver chops, peels, crushes, minces and adds ingredients to the pot. The spoons stir the food in the wok and ladle it into a bowl when it’s ready. On my first trip to the supermarket when we first arrived I did buy 2 smaller knives and a peeler. I hadn’t yet discovered the joy of the cleaver, now these are barely used. I didn’t imagine how multi-purpose a big scary looking cleaver could be, but really, it can do everything a small knife can do and more: it’s really all we need.
Attempting to cook Western food in China is hard work. On previous trips to China we’ve made an effort to cook homely meals, seeking out imported ingredients, but this time it just seems easier not to. Where we live, on the outskirts of a small provincial city, this would be especially difficult. Last time we lived in China we were in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province which has a sizeable expat population, so imported foods weren't difficult to find. Here, it’s a 2 hour train trip for butter or cheese so it’s just not worth it. I’ve written before about our experiences of Chinese breakfast but Chinese food also dominates the rest of our week. I like the ease of it: vegetables, egg or tofu, rice or noodles. It’s simple and predictable and requires no fancy equipment. With the local ingredients it’s not samey either, a few ingredients can be used in a lot of different ways. I do also cook Indian food, the raw ingredients are similar and I brought some spices with me, so that breaks up the routine a little.
On a recent trip to a friend’s house I did swoon a little over her oven and homemade biscuits, it made me really miss baking with F. Still, we do manage to cook together, F likes to chop vegetables, stir porridge and help choose what to cook. As he matures, we’ll do even more together so I don’t think he’s missing out. At the moment I’m very satisfied with what we have. Come winter my inner highland housewife will kick in, and I might want a blender for soup, but at the moment, in our kitchen, less is more.
Are you a gadget fiend in your kitchen, or are there some that never get used? Could you manage without them?