The Five Kitchen Essentials Hong Kong Chefs Swear By
From rice cookers to Japanese knives, Hong Kong chefs reveal their must-have kit for a tiny kitchen
In a world divided, there’s at least one thing we can all agree on: kitchen space is sacred. In crowded Hong Kong, with our notoriously small flats (and non-existent storage), it’s easily the most valuable commodity. One must be ruthless in determining what is worthy of a coveted place on the counter. It’s not enough to simply spark joy or be beautiful. No, each must earn its place by being both versatile and irreplaceable. Forget about fussy thermometers, overly-niche equipment (looking at you, avocado slicer) and cluttered cabinets – because an expert’s kitchen is carefully stocked with
just a few essentials.
To find out what every kitchen truly needs, we turned to five of Hong Kong’s top chefs. Read on to find out which five items they can’t live without, you might be surprised by how simple they are.
“Obviously, a rice cooker makes rice perfectly, but essentially it’s just a pressure cooker – so you can use it to make all sorts of things. At Belon we braise pine nuts for our risotto, but at home I’ll use it to cook beans and lentils. I became a convert when I was living in New York, that’s probably when I started eating a lot of Asian food. Then, when I was living in Paris and my apartment was a shoebox I had to choose between a microwave or a rice cooker—I picked the latter. It’s always one of my first purchases when I move to a new city, mine is from Muji.” – Daniel Calvert, Belon
Similar rice cookers can be found here.
A Perfect Knife
“I cannot live without my Glestain knife. The most significant features are the dimples on the blade’s surface, which prevent ingredients from sticking. It makes cutting faster, easier and more efficient. It's super versatile, and I can use the same one for chopping vegetables, meat and fish. I’ve had my knife since I was 15. I bought it for myself as a gift, as I already knew I wanted to be a chef. A lot of my knives carry sentimental value, one of them was given to me by the owner of Tours, Loire Valley, where I did my apprenticeship. My knives are unique to me. Everyone handles, cuts and sharpens their knife in their own way, so after a time it fits your hand perfectly, like a glove. I carry them from country to country, and they make new discoveries with me as we journey through different phases of my life. I take care of my knife really well. After I wash it, I wipe it with a cotton towel and then coat it with oil, so it has no chance of getting rusty.” – Guillaume Galliot, Caprice at The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
Similar Glestain knives can be found here.
A Simple Spatula
“You can cook and mix most things with a plastic spatula: casseroles, stews, doughs, sauces. It’s easy to clean and manoeuvre. I’ve had my spatula since I lived in Paris, so about four years now. Mine is slimmer than the normal spatula handle and fits perfectly in my hand. It feels like a natural extension. With essential equipment, you want something that feels like you, because at the end of the day, cooking is personal. You want it to feel natural so you can present the purest form of yourself expressed in the food. It’s easy to clean and dry, and then I store it vertically in a metal cylinder, so it saves on space.” – Stephanie Wong, Roots
Similar spatulas can be found here.
An Immersion Blender
“At home, I keep my cooking quite simple, so I’d choose a home-use immersion blender. It’s small and handy, and there are multiple attachments, like a small blending cup. The immersion blender itself can directly blend in pots of stock, or you can use the blending cup to work small amounts of vegetables, herbs and aromatics. You can also use it with a whisk attachment to make cake better. It doesn’t take up too much space, but it really ups your game in making emulsions and looking like a pro. I make salsas, ceviche marinade, ginger scallion sauce, pesto, soup purées, minced garlic and mayonnaise with mine. I’ve been using an immersion blender since my first kitchen job. We even have them at the restaurants because it’s so much easier to try out new sauces without making a huge portion. The great thing about them is they’re simple, and you don’t have to overthink anything. It’s easy to store and easy to use – but never overheat it!” – May Chow, Little Bao Diner
Similar immersion blenders can be found here.
A Thin Metal Skewer
““I use thin metal skewers. It’s probably not everyone’s first ‘go to’ kitchen appliance, however it’s very important to make sure food is cooked properly. Whether cooking with meat or fish, I want to understand what’s happening inside the ingredients. Inserting the skewer allows me to check the cooking temperature. The metal will get hot or cold based on the internal temperature of the produce, so I know instantly if it’s done. A small, but very efficient, element to my home cooking experience. I use it for pretty much any and every meal—just a quick prod and I know if my food is ready to come out of the oven. It’s not an aesthetically pleasing utensil, and certainly not a show-off item to be displayed, but it’s incredibly practical. There is beauty in its simplicity. Go to your local supermarket and track down your skewer, it should be an essential in every home.” – Shane Osborn, Arcane