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Top-Must-Have-Items in My Kitchen

Join the journey of cooking, from the ancient Thai world to modern America.


Greetings! Before I launch into showing you my simple way of putting food on the table, I would like to introduce you to top must-have items in my kitchen. There are not many items that I absolutely have to have, and we will only be talking about seven tools today.

As you may have known, my up-bringing is Thai. And since I lived my first fourteen years of my life in Thailand, I've grown so familiar with a Thai way of cooking. When I became an adult and started to explore the world, I observed and learned a little bit of this and that, and have adapted what works for me into my habit. Just like most of you, if not all, there are so many kitchen tools and gadgets available, and we have made enough purchases in our time to 'deck the kitchen with tools and gadgets (falalala- lalalala) -most of which, we will never use! I will not be talking about those wonderful toys this time. Instead, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about simple tools from a simple Thai in her simple kitchen.

After you go through them, please let me know if you have any questions or anything to add and share with everyone.

Have the most wonderful Chef-Me-Not day!

Best regards,

Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit

What are the "Top-Must-Have-Items" in my humble Coffee Kitchen?

Before I even talk about my food, I have to bring you to my must-have tools and the basic stuff in my kitchen. These items are good to have, and I'm not going into a panic mode if I don't have them. But it brings a little bit of convenience when it comes to playing-with-food!

Krok, glorious krok! - my stone mortar

Stone mortars - krok
If there's anything that I'm proud of, that would be my krokhin, or stone mortar from Aangsila county - a hilly town on Thailand's eastern seaboard where high quality mortars and pestles are manufactured because of the high grade of Aangsila's stones.

Stone mortars come in different sizes from a baby size of 2-3 pounds all the way to a very large size that weighs up to 50 pounds for household use. In the old days, they could get much bigger with industrial use. Now I doubt that any food industry has somebody manually grinding or pounding any ingredients since they all have gone the hi-tech route. The big mortar that I own weighs 25 pounds. It's sturdy, very durable, and I use for various kinds of things. This is my grinder, kneader, mixer, blender, cracker, and, much more. No electricity and a great work out for my arms and shoulders! I use the stone mortar for grinding herbs and spices for curry paste. Somtum, curry fishcakes, shrimpcakes, meatballs, and dumplings - even guacamole are made with this mortar. Also, it depends on the amount of my dipping sauces, I alternate between the large and the small mortars.

The krok won't work without 'Lookkrok' or stone pestle

Pestles - lookkrok
I have with me five different sizes - three stone pestles and two wooden ones. The wooden ones are used for something that doesn't need a lot of 'pounding' such as somtum - the papaya salad and its variations of fruit and veggie salads which cannot take a lot of 'beating'. I have a wooden krok still packed in one of the boxes since we moved back to the US. It will stay there until I need to used it.

An electric rice cooker


- is not a must, but it's so convenient if you can put your hands on one.


Rice cooker
When we lived in Thailand, we had a Thai brand rice cooker 'National' and it did a wonderful job for me. But somehow I had a hard time finding a National rice cooker in NY-NJ-PA areas that is large enough to fit the size of my growing family. Because of that, I had been cooking the long grain scented Jasmine rice from Thailand right on our stovetop, and even prided myself for the expert I've become! It did take away a space on my much too small stovetop, though. (The previous owner of the house had a small family of three. And, yes, one of these days, I will build a kitchen of my dream!) Then sometime last year, my husband spotted a large enough rice cooker, although it wasn't a Thai brand, he bought it so I wouldn't have to toggle with my stove surface space. It's been cooking rice just fine, but is not capable of handling 'sticky rice'- gluten rice - which features regularly on our menu since I often make somtum - papaya salad, laab ghai - a famous North-east chicken dish, (or pork or beef - which will make it laabmoo or laabnua) nuanamtok - similar to steak salad, and, grilled chicken - ghaiyang. So I still cook my sticky rice in the microwave.

Although my core of cooking is really Thai, but I am very innovative when it comes to my food creativity.

What's you core? Which cuisine influence your dishes? Share your espertise!

A knife that fits well into my hand

I know that there's a separate knife for every different purpose. For me, I found out after several sets of good expensive knives and a lot of cheap knives that I end up using just one particular knife all the time - my all purpose knife. Now, I don't go carve a melon with that - but I cut, slice, chop, julianne and flatten all my vegetables and my meat from the same knife (yes, I wash it after every cutting job). You chop and slice your food all the time and you must understand how inconsistant in sizes your ingredients will turn out if your knife isn't right for your grip - and the inconsistancy in cutting will play a role in the outcome of your dish. The pain factor due from discomfort from wrong-fitting knife can also be quite overwhelming on a long, bad day. I don't want to make my family feel miserable because I use a knife that doesn't fit me, therefore, in choosing a knife,what is most importantis not about using the sharpest knife made of a certain material and a high price tag, but, rather, how a knife fits my grip.

Knife-cuttingboard Knife-cuttingboard


A wooden cutting board

The best cutting board comes from a full grown tamarind tree. It's strong and sturdy and works well with a cleaver. Well, I don't own one here. But since it's highly likely that I will not use a cleaver to chop any meat with bone any time soon I had settled with a regular rectangular-shaped cutting board. One thing of which you already have been aware; always make sure that all wooden equipments are clean very well after each use.

What's a stove top cooking without a large frying pan - with deep bottom- or a wok?

Cast iron wok
Although I must say that it's so difficult to find a pan that is deep enough or a wok that is large enough for my deep- frying or even making my simple yet delicious kaijiew-omelet. I use a cast iron wok and am not one hundred percent happy. The design is important since we want it to heat up evenly. This will have to be it until I find a wok of my dream.

Wooden spatulas

Spatulas
Again, it's all about how they fit my hands. I use two spatulas, almost always, to stir fry large amount of food. I like mine to be flat with only a little curve that meets at the end. As you can see, the ones I've been using are getting quite beaten. Again, I have been searching for something similar to replace them, and so far nothing has come up. I like wooden tools because the wood, unlike the harshness of the metal, feels 'soft' in my grips, yet strong enough to lift heavy food. What a great way to exercise my arms!

To recap



Although my core of cooking is really Thai, but I am very innovative when it comes to my food creativity. As I start introducing some simple dishes (Please, I am not capable of complexity in anything but stuff inside my own head!), I hope that you will come to an undestanding that you, too, will start exploring and have fun with your own creation. Lifestyle today makes us keep going non-stop and applies steady stream of stress on us already. It's up to us to reverse the process and start enjoying and appreciating. Be on the lookout for my first dish! Enjoy your creation, and, since it's your own, name it, too! Ciao!

I don't usually go out of my way to bring in ingredients, but I will see what I have in the fridge and can usually manage a decent meal out of -sometimes- a few items if they are all I have before the next food shopping trip.




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Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit - La CoffeeMelodie Suite


Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit:

A Thai soprano from head to toe with an attitude of a no-nonsense entrepreneur with innovative ideas and, sometimes, shocking approaches, who fits the phrase "been there, done that" perfectly, and is looking forward to new challenges. A leader, a teacher, a wife, a mother, and, a chef-ME-NOT. All makes a person who turns every situation into a learning experience, and, is super charged with positive energy.


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