Friday, June 25, 2010

World Kitchen

Anyone who knows us wouldn't be surprised if our honeymoon was planned around some sort of food or eating event. We're not talking about cheesy Oktoberfest in Munich or Spain's annual Tomatila Festival. More on the lines of the annual conch harvest on the Caribbean islands of Turks & Caicos or planning a trip to France just so we could stop by the Le Creuset factory or Istanbul so we can sit in a real Turkish coffee house and rummage through spice bins or even southern India when the famous Alphonso mangoes are at the height of their growing season.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that kitchen gadgets have replaced postcards and refrigerator magnets as our favorite souvenirs to bring back from our travels. Over the years we have collected some great kitchen gadgets from all over the world and we find ourselves using them over and over again again. Here are a few of our favorites.

Masamoto Knives

When you pick up a Masamoto knife you can immediately feel the weight, durability, comfort and ease it brings to cutting food. We purchased our dearly loved knives at the Masamoto stand in the famous Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Literally thousands of knives to choose from we decided on these steel chef and vegetable knives. Complete dreams to cut with.

Tamarind Cutting Board

We bought our 2-inch tamarind tree cutting board at the outdoor market in Hoi An, Vietnam. Somewhat light for its size, but unbelievably durable. The tamarind wood is soft and smooth, needing little oil to aid the wood from cracking. The included metal hook makes it easy to hang by the stove for quick cuts of onion or bread. We love this cutting board and wish we could have a whole workbench made of tamarind.

Metal Spoons and Bowls

These light weight metal spoons and prep bowls were an impulse buy in Little India, Penang, Malaysia. We love grocery stores in foreign countries and the ones in Little India were fantastic. We had just come from the best Indian meal of our lives, which partly consisted of being served from metal buckets and round long-handled spoons. We were drawn to the interesting shapes and sizes of the spoons and bowls, which nestle inside each other. Deciding what sizes and which shapes was the most difficult part.

Ginger Shredder

Situated right next door to our Elizabeth Andoh Japanese cooking course in Tokyo was a Japanese Dollar store. We couldn't you tell if this particular Japanese dollar store is as fabulous as the Daiso $1.50 store in Seattle or as terrific as you would imagine a Japanese dollar store would be, because we were on a mission to find a ginger shredder similar to the one we used in our cooking class just hours before. Probably the best deal/bargain gadget in our whole kitchen would be this $1 ginger grater. The lid is grooved on both sides that shred ginger like you wouldn't believe. The oval bowl has a rubber ring along the bottom so shredding hard pieces of ginger into oblivion is not a problem. Fits tightly in the palm of our hands and tap, tap, tap the ginger falls to the bottom. We love this thing.

Shichimi Togarashi Shaker

Shichimi Togarashi is a chili pepper 7-spice mixture found on kitchen tables all over Japan. Typically made with a blend of ground chili pepper, roasted orange peels, sesame seeds, nori, ginger, and hemp seeds. We use togarashi in many of our dishes, including sauces, soups and topping for raman or eggs. If a dish needs something and we can't quite figure out what we'll toss in some togarashi, the 7-spices used in typical togarashis usually contain one element the dish was missing. We found this beautifully hand carved bamboo togarashi shaker from a shop at the foot of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan. The small bamboo piece at the bottom is shaped to fit snugly in the single hole where the chunky chili spice can easily sprinkle your food. This sits right next to our salt & pepper shakers.

Garlic Shredder

Our wonderful friends went on a Mediterranean cruise and picked up this beautiful hand painted ceramic garlic shredder somewhere in Greece for us. The ceramic piece is delicate to the touch, but too beautiful to stay hidden in a cupboard, so we have it sitting out next to the stove where the cheery yellow brightens our day. Garlic is easily shredded on the ceramic teeth and we pour olive oil right into the dish to dip our bread in. For how light and delicate the dish is to the touch, it's incredibly sturdy and easy to clean.

Vegetable Spinner

This Japanese vegetable spinner is no stranger to praise. Featured in numerous gadget finds, Martha Stewart "Good Things" and cooking equipment round-ups everywhere, this vegetable spinner turns vegetables into long strands of spaghetti or uniformly thin ribbons. The shredder will forever replace dicing and julienning vegetables for stir fries or fried rice. These babies are pricey in the US so when we found this one at insanely awesome Tokyu Hands department store in Shinjuku for half the cost back home, we had to have one.

Indonesian Grinder

Can you imagine grinding coffee by hand with a pedal and mortar? Or how about making a sauce in a pedal and mortar with dry, wet and liquid ingredients? Well that's exactly what we've done with our Indonesian volcanic rock petal and mortar purchased at central market in Bali, Indonesia. Our favorite thing to make with this heavy flat petal and mortar is curry and chili pastes. We learned how to use this to make salads even. Rustic, memorable and incredibly handy, we keep our Indonesian petal and mortar up close in the cupboard for any excuse to use it.

Shark Skin Grader

This shark skin grater was so compact that we ended up bringing back several of these as gifts from Japan. Used to grade wasabi horseradish root, the smooth shark skin isn't rough as you think, but makes a quick paste of tough root herbs. These came in a wide range of sizes and we decided to get ones that fit neatly in the palm of our hands. The wide rectangular handle was easy to hold onto at the angle needed to shred, even with wet hands.

That's our list of favorite kitchen items from our travels. We are currently on the hunt for a spice cracker. It looks like a wood tube that either twists open or opens on one end where the spices are placed and "cracked" by shaking back and forth. By "cracking" the spices the oils are released and mixed with whatever else is tossed in, without having bits of the skin or seed released. We have exhausted a number of kitchen supply stores and none carry anything close. Does anyone know what this is? And where we can find one?

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