Ever since I’ve had my own kitchen (one that I don’t have to battle with my father to cook in), the allure of gadgets and gizmos has time and time again pulled me in. I can’t resist purchasing something like a vegetable spiralizer for that one time I made spaghetti squash (it’s been 1.5 years since I last used it…)
However gullible I am for these As Seen On TV products, the gadgets that I stand by are all my Japanese kitchen items. Do I use them frequently? No. But their usefulness is not just in making cute rice pandas, it’s in the feeling that I am preserving my culture. I also enjoy bonding with my grandparents and parents over how I prepare and make these foods we all love so much.
I'm a 30-something without children, so you may be asking “Why do you need to have bear shaped rice?” It makes me happy! There’s something about creating an aesthetic bento (whether that aesthetic is cute or not is up to you!) that makes me want to eat my lunch more and makes me proud to eat what I’ve created. I like to use cute rice molds, and I also think this is great preparation for any future children that I or my friends or family have. There are simple round or triangle shaped molds, too.
The Japanese kachikan, or value of chanto (to do things the right way - with diligence, concentration, and carefulness) is something that my parents instilled in me since I was young. Finally in my 30's, I am starting to understand its importance in my life. Taking time to make my meals and enjoy them brings me a little peace every day. I’ll buy a million rice molds if I can hold onto that peace forever!
Boiled Egg Molds
Okay, this one is more of a splurge item, but you can definitely purchase it for cheap! In the same vein of making my rice aesthetic, who knew that boiled eggs looking like Doraemon would bring me +100 more joy?
My parents had one of these growing up! Although I don’t have one (yet), almost every day I feel the need for this pan. Unlike regular pans, this one is rectangular in shape. To make tamagoyaki, or even for smaller frying items, this is a great size and shape. This pan isn’t just for families or folks looking to make bentos or tamagoyaki, this is great for folks living alone or for small apartments. The size is perfect for a lot of items, not just eggs.
This item is a must-have, especially for the cold season. You can use this to grate ginger or daikon. It’s the perfect tool for hot pot, making ginger teas, or the shredded daikon for udon or soba. No other mandolin or grater gives you the perfect size for these traditional Japanese dishes. I also prefer this type of grated ginger in my teas rather than sliced ginger. It allows the taste and smell to be dispersed throughout the broth or tea, rather than a whole bunch of sharp ginger at once.
My grandma used to make miso soup from scratch all the time, and every time I took it for granted! Although I am not the hugest fan of miso soup (come at me, bro), I occasionally enjoy it, and enjoy making it. However, it's difficult to get my miso chunks to dissolve easily in the soup broth. This nifty tool is amazing for this purpose. The best part? You can use it to dissolve other sauces and bases in soups, too!
Rice Ball Wrap
Okay, so this one might not be essential, but it’s pretty genius. If you’ve ever bought a rice ball from a Japanese market, you know they usually come wrapped in a triangle cellophane contraption. It may seem like a difficult puzzle, but it’s a wonderful way of keeping your nori (or seaweed) nice and crisp. You can purchase these to keep your rice balls nice and fresh! Perfect for a picnic.
Tempura Frying Paper or Tempura Net
I love tempura. It’s a great way to utilize all left over veggies in a delicious way. Before the tempura net or paper, I would use a paper towel (a habit I picked up from my grandma), but these are way better, as they keep the tempura crispy. You can also use the tempura paper for other fried goodies (chicken, deep fried Oreos, etc.) and the netting as a cookie cooler.
Shaved Ice Maker
Essential for summer! If you don’t have air conditioning, I feel like shaved ice is the instant cool down method. This one is a no brainer, great activity for kids, and for staying in shape (grinding that ice down is no joke). Also, is it shave ice or shaved ice?
Looks like an iron, but creates a masterpiece. Because we stay at home now, I’ve been taking more time and care to make my meals more presentable. Because I am not eating at restaurants, I just feel like this adds a little extra something. If you love omurice (omelet on top of rice), this is a must-have. It will make your presentation perfect! You can also use this to mold other food items...like cake?
My father used to do this thing where he’d boil a chicken for hours to make chicken broth. He’d always use a skimmer to take the fatty scum off the surface. I thought it was a terrible waste of time, but after making chicken broth, I understand the importance of making a nice, clean soup. Also, if you like satisfying things (YouTube videos on cleaning and detailing cars anyone?) this is the right tool for you. It is very satisfying to scoop up the scum and make my broth crystal clear.
Bamboo Chopsticks (the tall kind)
Frying, cooking, flipping, thinking of any cooking move there is. Bamboo chopsticks (the long kind) will do it for you. The length is great for frying so you don’t get oil splatter all over you, and it gives you great precision in cooking.