The bright, brash flavors of Southeast Asian cuisines hold powerful sway over Andy Ricker, whose growing fleet of Pok Pok restaurants draws boldly from the Thai palette. But when it comes to kitchen gadgets, Ricker leaves flash behind, favoring pragmatic tools that simplify his cooking. Here are four of his must-haves.
Kitchen spider | Ricker keeps several of these mesh, spoon-style strainers in his kitchen, using smaller ones (3-inch) to fry shallots and garlic and to lower eggs into boiling water, and larger ones (10-inch) for lifting fried foods from hot oil. You’ll find steel and brass varieties, but brass is most versatile (it won’t rust). “It’s a tool that I’ve come to rely on even when I’m cooking Western food.”
Kiwi Pro Slicer | Made in Thailand, these Y-style peelers have a zigzag blade that quickly reduces firm produce to fine shreds. Though traditionally used to make papaya salad, they are great for carrots, cucumber and squash.
Stone mortar and pestle | “It’s amazing to me how few people actually have those, but how amazingly useful they are. You can use it for the obvious stuff, like pounding spices and making curry, but you also can use it to make aioli, to pulverize garlic, to bruise ginger before throwing it into a stock.” He suggests getting one with at least a 6-inch bowl; anything else is too small to be useful.
Digital kitchen scale | “For people trying to cook a recipe, they get way better results if they use a scale. Instead of a ‘knob of ginger,’ which could weigh anywhere from ¼ ounce to ½ ounce, it just gives you a way more accurate way of doing a recipe.” Look for a scale that shows both imperial and metric weights, and includes a tare function, allowing you to zero out the weight of a bowl and previously added ingredients.