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How To
Chinese Kitchen Utensils
Chinese kitchens are quite basic by western standards, and usually only feature a single or double gas hob. Microwaves are becoming popular, but as yet do not have a large ready meal support to make them useful to foreigners. Ovens and grills are nonexistent, whilst kettles, toasters, and mini ovens can be bought in large stores.

The aims of this section are threefold:
1. To show you what is normally used in a Chinese kitchen.
2. To advise you how to adapt Chinese utensils for western cooking.
3. To explain some other weird and wonderful culinary aides.

Basic Utensils  
Wok   This is the single most important item, and is found in every Chinese kitchen. Note: it comes with a lid which is used for steaming.

Pictured also are two Chinese spatula's, of which Chinese always use the solid version. Many cooks also have especially large chop sticks for use in cooking.
Image: Chinese Wok - Click to Enlarge
Spacer   Spacers are really chrome plated wire tripods, which come in various sizes. They are used when steaming food in a wok. I also use a large one to raise the pot from the ring.

The spacer provides a cooking platform 2 or 3 inches above the base of the wok, thus allowing you to add a good quantity of water for steaming.
Image: Chinese Wok Spacer in use - Click to Enlarge
Rice Cooker   Again these are found in virtually all Chinese homes. Whilst they come in all shapes and sizes, they basically have two functions:

1. To boil rice.
2. To make rice porridge.

There is an automatic switch that changes to 'keep warm' as soon as the rice or porridge is cooked. Therefore you have no worry about the contents burning - simply set and forget.

Tip: Use a plastic colander to cook other things as well as the rice - such as fish or vegetables. Best ensure these are in a suitable dish to prevent drips falling on the rice below.
Image: Rice Cooker - Click to Enlarge

Image: Rice Cooker with colanders - Click to Enlarge
Chinese Chopper   This is an extremely useful tool, and is often the only type of knife found in a Chinese kitchen.

Pay extra for a good quality one, and heavy ones are usually much preferred. The one pictured is 7 years old and excellent. My mother in law sharpens it on a handy house brick - Here is China!
Image: Chinese Chopper - Click to Enlarge
Soup Cauldron   All Chinese homes should have at least one of these earthenware vessels, and having several different sizes is the norm. They are fine on a gas ring, but keep to a simmer for longer life.

Serve this pot to table as is when cooked. The first course from it is mainly liquid, and Chinese may set aside the larger components for separate eating
Image: Chinese earthenware soup pot - Click to Enlarge
Slow Steamer   This is a slightly complex affair consisting of two elements, but essential for cooking dishes such as Toisan Chicken or slow soup.

The first part is a large jam kettle with lid. The second is a double-lidded crock. Both are readily available at any wet market - just ensure all the lids fit properly, and the crock fits inside the kettle.

It is normal practice to place a flannel or towel in the bottom to protect the crock from direct heat. The kettle then has water added, and the soup or chicken cooks in its own sealed juices.

The rice bowl is only required for steamed Toisan chicken, and goes inside the crock ... bet that's got you thinking?
Image: Slow Steamer parts - Click to Enlarge

Image: Slow Steamer parts - Click to Enlarge

Image: Slow Steamed soup - Click to Enlarge
Medicine Crock   This small ceramic device looks a bit weird, but is most effective for making soups and medicinal brews which would normally be strained - so that you simply drink the juice.

Consider this to be a teapot with the spout turned back towards the handle. This is so you can keep an eye on ingredients when pouring. This way you can monitor is anything passes through the internal strainer, which is just like a British teapot.
Image: Chinese medicinal crock 
Hot Pot   These are normally a portable electric hot plate, but do have gas and solid fuel equivalents.

These can be useful if you want an extra cooking ring also, but most people only use them for 'Hot Pot'.

Chinese Hot Pot is a sort of cook-it-yourself thingymagig. These are great fun, especially when you have 8 or 12 mates over for an evening. Click for our guide to Hot Pot...
Image: Chinese Hot Pot - Click to Enlarge 
Western Cooking      
Cutlery, crockery and utensils

Any decent supermarket stocks a large array of Western items including all types of cutlery, dishes, plates, bowls and glasses. They also have choices of things like potatoe peelers, cheese graters, garlic crushers, and can openers. There will not be much you cannot find in a major city supermarket.

Stainless steel dishes are very useful items in Chinese cookery, and as well as being used for cooking, they can also be used for serving and eating from.

Pictured are two sitting on top of our plastic keepsafe. These come in many sizes and are a must if you live anywhere where cockroaches or similar pests are common. Even the dastardly roaches can't get into these things!
Image: Dishes on a Keepsafe - Click to Enlarge

Kettle, Toaster, Microwave.

I won't insult your intelligence by describing these. Just know there are many brands available at any specialist electrical outlet. You will also find other things like: basic food processors, electric tea or coffee machines, grinders, etc.

Perhaps it is better I explain what is not available, before continuing onto what is most useful.

China does not know that electric chip (French Fries) cookers exist. The good news is that Hong Kong does! However, ones sold in retail outlets tend to be of poor quality and design + inappropriately expensive.

However, if you take the MTR (metro) to Prince Edward and walk down nearby Shanghai Street you will shortly come to the industrial catering machinery section of the street. Of the 30 or so wholesale outlets here, all sell chip cookers, albeit of industrial standard = not pretty, but extremely efficient. The cost is around $HK 900, which is excellent value. I even found one that supplied doner kebab rotisseries!
Ovens and Grills   China does not normally do anything remotely resembling an oven. The fancy new designer kitchens you see will mostly have something that looks like an oven, but is in fact a steriliser unit. That stated, you can buy western style ovens at top-end kitchen specialists for exorbitant amounts of money, or at catering supply companies.

In the largest supermarkets you may occasionally find things like waffle makers or steak grills, but do not count on it.
Image: Small Oven and Grill - Click to Enlarge

Image: Small Oven and Grill - Click to Enlarge
Small Oven/Grill   The easy solution is to buy a small oven grill unit, which are readily available at any decent electrical retailer. They are pretty basic, but far better than nothing.

Pictured right is my Kenwood, which is now 7-years old. It is a long way from what I actually require, but it allows me to cook things like 'Cheese and onion Toasties' and reheat pizza.

I have also cooked roast potatoes using it, and roasted a small joint of pork.
BBQ's   Larger supermarkets do sell western style BBQ's, and also supply charcoal at exorbitant prices. There is nothing fancy about these devices, although the top-end may have 'air control'.

However, they are cheap at Y130 for top-end, so if you want to invite your mates and some sheila's round for a few beers and a Barbie - it's hard to beat.
Weird Cooking Contraptions
Portable Furnace   The Chinese portable furnace is fired by high density coke rounds, and is extremely efficient. It is also highly probable that no other country on earth would have bothered to invent it in the first place.

It is often deployed by street vendors as a heat source, whilst my mother in law also has one for cooking the highest grade Toisan Chicken.
Image: Portable Chinese blast furnace - Click to Enlarge
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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