Pictured below are the tools and utensils which
have been used in Thai kitchens for years. These items were originally
brought by Thai ancestors who migrated from China to the northern
part of Thailand. If you walked into a traditional Thai kitchen,
here are some of the common cooking tools you would find:
This is handy for straining liquids and grease from many
Coconut Grater: Since coconut is used so extensively in Thai cooking, this
utensil is almost a necessity and used by every housewife.
Wooden block for cutting meats and fish
This large knife is used to chop, slice and dice the meats
and the vast array of vegetables and herbs in Thai cooking.
Glutinous Rice Basket: This tightly woven basket keeps sticky rice warm and moist,
preserving it for a surprisingly long time without refrigeration
Mortar and Pestle: the mortar is made of crude earthenware, stone
or hardwood, and is deep with a weighted base. The pestle
is chunky. They are especially designed to cope with the
moist curry pastes and for bruising lemon grass, citrus
rind, garlic and coriander roots.
Stove: This is the
crude charcoal stoves, built of clay. The insert holds a
wok or pot. In small villages charcoal stoves are the main
source of cooking heat. The hole at the bottom allows air
to flow in Bamboo Rice Steamer
Skewer: Usually made
of bamboo. One end of the skewer is sharp and pointed, and
meat and vegetables can be speared on it and cooked in shish-kebob
Wok: This is easier to clean and distributes
heat more evenly than a conventional frying pan. It is also
less likely to be damaged. Used for conventional frying,
stir-frying and deep-fat frying
Spatula: Made of wood, or metal with a wooden
handle, used for stir-frying in the wok.
Coconut Shell Spoon:
A simple spoon with a wooden handle, which comes in many
sizes. There are also similar utensils made with halves
of coconut shells, used as ladles.
Curry Pot: This clay pot has large handles on
the sides that curve up above the level of the lid, which
makes it easy to carry. As the name implies, it is used
for the large variety of curries which the Thai people enjoy.
Steamer: This is made of clay or aluminum, and fits atop the mouth
of the charcoal burner.
Since the Thai eat rice with every meal, a steamer is no
luxury, but a part of every kitchen. (In fact, in Thai,
the verb “to eat” is “gkin kao” which
literally means “to eat rice”)
The kitchen in Thailand is a very simple
affair, which is generally built away from the main house. It
is a plain room, with a cement or dirt floor, with unglazed
windows which might boast the luxury of screens to keep out
the mosquitoes, although many do not even have a door, let alone
window screens. In the central region, Thai homes are elevated
on teak poles due to annual flooding during the late rainy season
from September till end October
The central feature of the kitchen is the stove, which is generally
built-in, and constructed of cement or brick. It has a large
aperture below to insert and remove the charcoal pot, a funnel
shaped vessel of
kiln-baked earthenware or a cement-lined metal pail that holds
the burning charcoal. When the charcoal pot is in place, it
fits directly below a circular opening in the top of the stove.
This hole has flanges which hold a ‘wok’ (the traditional
round-bottomed Asian frying pan) firmly in place above the charcoal
fire. Extra charcoal is kept in a box or a sack beside the stove.
In poorer households, they will simply use the charcoal pot,
made with flanges on the top, as the stove.
Because there are no oven arrangements, there is no baking in
the home, and in the entire range of Thai cuisine there are
almost no baked dishes to be found.
The next most important thing in the kitchen
will be a freestanding storage cupboard resembling an old-fashioned
Western meat safe, made from either wood or aluminum. The back,
sides and doors are all covered with wire-mesh screens to keep
the flies out and allow air circulation. The legs stand in saucers
of water to discourage ants and other insects. This cupboard
usually houses nothing more
than some stored garlic bulbs, the ubiquitously fish sauce (nam
pla), some dried fish, dried chilies and perhaps some precooked
Due to the hot climate and the fact that a Thai kitchen in the
countryside seldom has a refrigerator, shopping is done daily
at the local market, and leftovers are uncommon.
If the kitchen is blessed with running water, there will be
a sink. In any case, there will be large, clay water-storage
jars nearby which are filled with city or well water, and in
which rain water is collected.
There will be a few wooden shelves on the wall for extra storage,
and nails in the wall on which to hang various cooking utensils
and implements. With the availability of electricity spreading
through even small countryside villages, the first status symbol
to arrive in the kitchens has been the electric rice-cooker.
This relieves the housewife of the daily chore of preparing
the rice – no small thing in a country where each person
approximately one pound of rice per day.