The Thai kitchen takes a special approach to tools and utensils. Thai food really can be made at home, especially if you have such tools as a wok, a rice cooker, a mortar and pestle. Like most Asian cuisines, the wok is central to Thai cooking. Woks are used for everything from stir-fries to curries, and even noodle dishes; they are also used for deep-frying and steaming. This Asian frying pan has steep sides and either a rounded or flat bottom.
Woks with rounded bottoms are best for gas stoves, allowing the flames to reach the sides and distribute the heat evenly. They are ideal for stir-frying, deep-frying or steaming. When using a wok, it is essential to have on hand several utensils for stirring ingredients. Wooden spoons with long handles are excellent for this, as well as bamboo shovels are.
They allow the cook not only to stir but also to lift ingredients. These tools are very useful for stirring or frying noodles as regular stirring with a spoon can break noodles into small pieces (especially fragile rice noodles). Bamboo shovels can be purchased at most Asian stores or markets. Note that if your wok or frying pan has a non-stick coating, it is preferable to use a rubber-tipped spatula for stir-frying to avoid scraping off the surface.
Rice is such an important part of Thai eating culture; it is, after all, the main player in a typical family-meal ensemble. And it’s safe to say that it’s used in every household, food cart, eatery, and restaurant. A rice cooker is a practical, efficient and reliable method of cooking rice. One of the advantages of a rice cooker is that the rice stays warm and fresh for many hours after it has been cooked (excellent for busy families who don’t always have time to eat together).
Also, unlike cooking rice in a pot, it is virtually impossible to burn, undercook, or overcook rice made in a cooker. All you have to do is adding water to the rice and turn on the switch and the rice cooker will do the rest for you—some models even keep the cooked rice warm for hours.
Herbs and spices are integral to getting the right flavors for your Thai food. A handy thing to have in the kitchen is a pestle and mortar. It allows you to grind herbs down and make curry pastes out of them. Pesto gained its name from its ingredients being ground using a pestle. A good pestle and mortar set should be very hard wearing so that it crushes the ingredients without leaving any of itself behind. The most commonly used types of mortar in Thailand are granite and clay.
A granite mortar is commonly used for heavy-duty tasks such as grinding curry paste, which usually involves tough, fibrous herbs like galangal or lemongrass. A stone pestle and mortar easily grind spices, nuts, fresh herbs, and other ingredients. A clay mortar is typically used for light bruising or grinding a small amount of aromatic paste. It is nice to have both types, and most serious Thai cooks do have both, you can find traditional pestle and mortars in good kitchenware stores or at Asian markets.