A Better Bet for Mixing Miso
Adding miso to soup or broth can be tricky. It often doesn’t blend smoothly, leaving behind salty lumps of paste that didn’t dissolve. At Kitchen Provisions shop in London, we recently discovered there’s a tool that makes it easier. The Miso Muddler by Japanese cookware company Leye resembles a double-ended ball whisk. Dip one end (depending on the amount you need) into the miso, twist and out comes a perfect scoop. Now simply whisk the miso into your liquid until dissolved. No lumps. Similar tools are available on Amazon starting around $13.
Cut to the Core (the Easy Way)
Stuffed whole baby zucchini, summer squash and eggplant are a classic Middle Eastern dish, often filled with rice, ground meat and spices. We’ve seen street vendors using tiny paring knives to hollow them out, but we realized this requires careful handiwork a bit beyond our skill set. While exploring London’s Middle Eastern dining scene recently, we discovered a tool that makes this easier. Known simply as a zucchini corer, these lightweight metal wands combine a knife’s edge with a long scoop. Just press into one end of the produce, then twist. We bought our minimalist version at a market in London for about $3, but Amazon sells many varieties (often with more comfortable handles) starting around $8.
In a Pickle in Vietnam
In the markets of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, we tasted a fresh take on quick pickles. We love the bright acidity a quick pickle can add to a dish. We often toss sliced red onions in a brine of kosher salt, sugar and white vinegar, then use them on sandwiches and salads or chopped with sausages. But in Vietnam, the allium of choice for pickling is củ kiệu. These mild, scallion-like Chinese onions are trimmed but otherwise left intact, then pickled in a blend of rice vinegar, fish sauce, salt and sugar, sometimes with a chili added for heat. The result is briny, sweet and crunchy. They are perfect thinly sliced and added to sandwiches, chopped and stirred into rice, or sprinkled onto roasted meats or fish to add a bright, salty-sweet note. We created a close approximation using scallions. In a medium bowl, whisk together 11⁄2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons white sugar, 5 teaspoons fish sauce and 3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt. Add 4 bunches scallions (ends trimmed, white and light green parts cut to 4-inch lengths, dark green parts reserved for another use) and 1 serrano chili (stemmed). Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to five days.
Get a Grip on Popping a Cork
We're always happy for a little help getting a bottle of sparkling wine open. Normally, we slowly tug and twist the cork until it shoots out, sometimes draping a towel over it for more traction. But now we have an easier way. Vacu Vin’s Champagne Opener is a four-pronged cork gripper that slides around the sides of the cork, making it a simple matter to twist the bottle and pull out the cork. No struggle needed. Amazon sells it and similar models starting around $6.
Vietnam’s Original Pour-Over Coffee Maker
Coffee is serious business in Vietnam, where people have multiple ways and tools for preparing it, including cloth bags that are filled with grounds and lowered into boiling water. But our favorite is the inexpensive phin cà phê, a drip-style device that sits directly over your cup similar to popular pour-over filters. To use, set the chamber and its filter base onto the rim of a cup. Add coffee to the chamber and set the filter press over it, lightly tamping down the grounds. Then add boiling water and watch the coffee slowly drip into the cup. In Vietnam, they often add sweetened condensed milk to the cup, a signature local drink. We bought our phin cà phê at a Ho Chi Minh City market for about 50 cents; Amazon sells a variety of stainless steel models for about $10.
An Eco- Friendly Slim Sipper
As the world (finally!) turns away from plastic straws, a host of alternatives are now available, including stainless steel, glass, paper and bamboo. But recently, we found two fresh options while shopping in London’s Islington neigh- borhood. Hip’s SqueakyCleanStraw is a silicone straw that splits open lengthwise for easy cleaning. For a lower-tech option, Dutch company Zuperzozial transforms hollow stalks of wheat into classy, thin straws that are almost entirely unprocessed and quickly decompose. Hip straw sets are available for $10 at be-hip.com, and Amazon sells numerous varieties of wheat straws for around $8.
Tools for Greater Grating
At milk street, we often find ourselves finely grating fresh ginger, garlic and citrus peel. Grating reduces the potent produce to a finely shredded pulp, which helps release the most flavor while also allowing their fibrous textures to all but disappear into our cooking. Our preferred tool for this is a wand- style grater, its numerous fine edges quickly cutting through the roots. Our one complaint: All those sharp edges can be a challenge to clean, often snagging our sponges and scrubbers. One solution is the Stainless Scraper by Ikesho in Korea. It’s a brush made from numerous stainless steel threads that easily reach into the crevices of the grater with no risk of being grated. It also is great for cleaning the ridges of a suribachi mortar or the fine holes of a box grater. The brushes are available for about $20 at Qoo10.sg, but we found that soft mini wire brushes sold at the hardware store for a few dollars also worked. And for times when just a finishing flourish of grated ginger or garlic is needed, we like the grating spoons we found at Kitchen Provisions shop in London recently. The sharp ridges on the cup of the spoon make quick work of the flavorful roots and wash up with ease. Similar spoons are available on Amazon for around $7.