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#36 Aging Cookware

Posted March 16th, 2008 by avaliant · 7 Comments

Asians love food, and they absolutely love home-cooked food, all the better with many family and friends around the table. This means, by extension, that Asians love cooking, even if they do not partake of the activity themselves. However, one thing that Asian people absolutely do not love is cooking with modern kitchen appliances. They don’t last forever and occasionally require replacement parts from online vendors like

The true Asian chef will use only a knife and cutting board to prepare their meal. This is ironic, because of the many different types of cuisine in the world, the various Asian cuisines almost scream for the use of a food processor. Garlic must be minced into pieces as small as possible, beef sliced paper-thin, and carrots cut into thin strips; the list goes on. Name an Asian dish, and there will be at least three ways a food processor will help (Note, please do not send me recipes to try and prove this statement false. I really don’t care). This is almost invariably true because most Asian dishes require: a) minced garlic, b) chopped/minced onions/spring onions/ginger and c) some kind of slicing.

But the true Asian chef must resist any urges to go and use such a device. Rather, they practice their craft with only cutting board and knife; preferably a large Chinese style cleaver, one of those weirdly shaped Japanese knives, or a western style chef’s knife. If asians need to cut something small, they don’t get another knife; instead, they simply use the large knife, but more carefully. If the asian happens to own other knives (as parts of sets or gifts), they will remain, for the most part, untouched in their drawers, ready to be gifts for other people.

What about the rest of the kitchen? The Asian chef’s kitchen may contain an assortment of various pots and pans, purchased or received at one point. Like the knives, most of them will remain untouched for years. Because Asians absolutely loathe throwing away useful things (future post), these items will build up over the years. However, certain items will be used meal after meal: a large pot for soup/porridge, a steamer, a rice cooker (of course). But perhaps the crown jewel of the Asian kitchen is the wok. Almost everything in an Asian person’s stomach at one point was conceived in a wok.

Where does this aversion to kitchen appliances come from? Is it a matter of cultural pride? Or perhaps it is the immigrant’s desire to make at least one part of the household similar to that of his home country. Is preparing food by hand really better than using a food processor? The answer to these questions is best left to an anthropology or Asian studies major. Either way, Asian cooking proves that some of the best meals do not need fancy tools to make.

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Tags: Activities · Culture · Customs · Food & Beverage · Habits · People · Tidbits

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Justin // Mar 16, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    yummy im getting hungry… hmm, i think it’s perhaps they were used to cooking or learning how to cook back in Asia with simple appliances =) i think food tastes better w/o electric gadgets

  • 2 Grace Chu // Mar 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Well this Asian’s aversion to kitchen appliances comes from living in NYC, where there is NO SPACE to have kitchen appliances. You’re lucky if you have room for plates and cups! I make do with a Henckels Santoku knife (high end!) and a cutting board from IKEA (low end!).

  • 3 SumGai // Mar 27, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Grace Chu, there’s an IKEA in NYC?!?

    Must be in the burbs, or New Jersey. :)

  • 4 JFSebastian // Feb 4, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I am not Asian, but only use my favorite things in the kitchen. I find that my 50 year old iron frying pan has a coating tougher and slicker than teflon. I think this may be true for older woks as well.

  • 5 Angela // Feb 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I think that the older the better too. Especially for that cast iron frying pan! it never dies! The one We have in our house now have been passed down from my grandmother and now it’s mine. I love this treasure being that I love cooking.

  • 6 Peter // May 20, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Yahs for Asian cooking!

    Have you considered that the butcher’s knife is the ancestor of all other cooking knives? Example a chef’s knife is just a rounded off butcher’s knife.

    Also the wok is one of the best utensils for high heat cooking (aka stir-fry). Also the way its designed, temperature is more evenly distributed. Top sides are cooler than the bottom (still warm) to keep the food from overcooking (a problem with a flat frying pan). Also can be used for soups (boiling techniques) and you can even cook rice.

    Also any cast iron frying pan is better than Teflon (you can still buy these just a bit more expensive).

    From a cooking standpoint a wok + butcher’s knife is all you really need to cook. All the new age stuff makes things easier but my grandma still pares fruit with a cleaver.

  • 7 Cool Asian Mom // Apr 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I have a whole bunch of knives too and the only knife i use is the $5 Chinese Cleaver my mom bought for me 10 years ago. The secret to its usefulness is that after you chop your food you can scoop it all onto your knife and drop it straight into the wok; no need to pick your whole chopping board up to drop food into the wok. The fact that you don’t have to put down your Cleaver between ingredients really speeds up the cooking process. you cant do that with no Gweilo knife! If Rachel Ray used a Chinese Cleaver she’d be doing 15 minutes meals instead of 30 minute meals, hehehe

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