Agent 007’s quartermaster could make a far larger killing these days, if he went into kitchen appliance design. No longer is it enough for a kitchen tool to be merely functional, however finely-honed it may be for its purpose. Much like the celebrity chefs who front their own bespoke cookware, kitchen tools now need to possess glamorous good looks, as well as design-led thinking and user-friendliness polished to a sheen.
Today’s plethora of food-related television programmes also allows information about professional equipment to trickle down into consumer awareness in the blink of a channel hop. Keeping up with the Joneses may now involve sous-vide machines and smoke-dispensing guns.
This all means that gadget enthusiasts have never had it so good, especially in cosmopolitan cities where kitchen and dining emporia boast high-tech brands alongside tried-and-trusted traditional utensils. Don’t discount classic devices: a tool which has evolved over generations is often one of the best investments you can make.
1. QUENCH BAR10DER
For those who live for Cocktail Hour, here is your answer to the question: “What one item would you bring along to a deserted island?” From the depths of this Swiss Army knife of bartending tools unfold not just a corkscrew and bottle opener, but also a citrus reamer, muddler, stirrer, jigger, strainer, zester, knife and channel knife. Now, all you need is a collapsible bar stool to unfold by the campfire. Available at Tott and at Quench Products.
2. PIZZA PERFECTOR PIZZA BAKER
Want to wow your dinner guests with piping hot, charfreckled flatbread? This device needs no preheating, fits on a dining table or kitchen counter, has separate upper and lower heating elements to properly gild both crust and toppings, and gets fiendishly hot enough to bake a pizza in under 10 minutes. (Proper thincrust Italian pizzas, that is, not heretically puffy fast-food behemoths.) It also makes quesadillas, cookies and crackers. Available at Tott.
3. PORCELAIN SOYA SAUCE SPRAY BOTTLES
Stirring wasabi and soya sauce to a greenish sludge horrifies sushi chefs, who rightly decree how much (if any) sauce each hand-shaped piece needs. Emulate their precision with elegant porcelain spray bottles that dispense a fine mist of soya sauce over your sushi or sashimi – but why stop there? Use them to mist desserts, canapes or cocktails with floral waters or bespoke infusions, too. Available at Tokyu Hands and at Amazon.
(Related: If kaiseki befuddles you, our Peak Expert is there to sort you out.)
4. JANGNEUS DISHCLOTHS
Washing up needn’t be a dreary chore, with these brightly patterned Swedish dishcloths: Let the cheerful colours and stylised graphics lead you into fruitful ruminations on nature, berry-picking, coffee breaks, ABBA and other favourite Swedish things. Made from fully biodegradable cotton and cellulose, they are also eco-friendly. Available at Tott and at Jangneus.
5. TALA MOROCCAN MEASURE
For when you’ve had enough of neo- Scandi minimalism and stainless steel surfaces. Harking back to traditional Moroccan recipes that call for a glass of this and a ladle of that, this charming, colourful tile-patterned vessel is marked inside with measurements for classic Moroccan dishes such as lamb tagine and carrot salad, and comes with a recipe booklet. Available at Gim Hin Lee and at Lakeland.
6. LACOR SPATULA THERMOMETER
Some recipes require precise temperature control, a couple of degrees making all the difference between resounding success and abject snafu. This snazzy Spanish digital probe thermometer slides into a detachable silicone spatula sleeve with a window, so you can both stir and monitor the temperature of tempered chocolate, sauces, custards and such. Available at Tott and Amazon.
Four Good Measure, Four More
1. BRASS PANS
Shiny, smart brass cookware has long been loved for its extremely even heat conduction. Thai chefs still insist on brass woks for simmering confections, and nothing performs as well as brass when you’re after perfect Peranakan kuehkueh. Artisan-made quality brass pans are becoming ever rarer, so snap them up if you find them. If well looked after, they’ll last you a lifetime. Available at kitchenware and bakeware shops. Try Gim Hin Lee, Sun Lik Trading and Bangkok markets.
2. GRANITE WARE
These polished stone vessels tolerate very high heat, soaking it up and tenaciously retaining it to keep contents warm for ages. Long favoured in South Korea, they yield lovely crisp crusts on rice dishes like bibimbap, and hold simmering stews and soups you can bring from stove to table. Added modern frills include handles and even inductionfriendly metal bases. Follow seasoning instructions carefully. Available at Tott and Korean supermarts.
3. JEAN DAUDIGNAC CUILLERES PLUMES
Those splodgy swooshes of puree seen at hipster bodegas are so five minutes ago. Load up the tapered bowls of these spoon-fountain pen hybrids with that sauce you’ve just spent hours slaving over, and dot, dash, drizzle, stipple, speckle and streak it with the utmost finesse and elan. Especially useful for applying coulis and glazes to desserts and pastries. Available at Tott and at Amazon France.
4. MARBLE CHAPATI BOARD
Easier to maintain than wood and more ecologically friendly than plastic, the cool, reassuring solidity of marble makes it the foundation of choice for chefs manipulating dough, fondant or chocolate. Short legs raise this chapati board off the countertop to make fiddly work easier, and also render it useful as an attractive pedestal or dining-table centrepiece when not in use in the kitchen. Available at Mustafa Centre and Indian kitchenware stores.