India: Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is a staple in Indian kitchens for the speedy cooking of lentils and other legumes, according to Amy Yee, a journalist in New Delhi. “Dal is a staple here and a pressure cooker cooks them much faster than just boiling,” explains Yee. “India is quite conscious about fuel, whether gas for cooking or wood fires.”
Italy: Pasta Pot
A pasta pot with a built-in strainer and an extra-large straining spoon “to collect things like ravioli from hot water” are the must-haves for Rome-based Charity Curley Mathews, who writes the blog Foodlets.com. A stovetop espresso maker, such as the kind manufactured by Bialetti, also received a number of shout-outs from friends in Italy.
Japan: Rice-Bread Maker
The Gopan bread maker transforms whole uncooked rice grains (plus water and other ingredients) into loaves of bread. It sounds like magic, and it has produced magical sales for its maker, Sanyo Electric, too: The company introduced the machine in November 2010 and had to suspend orders for it less than a month later to allow production to catch up with demand, The Wall Street Journal reported. Our source, an American who has lived in Japan for 19 years, says that one of the selling points of the Gopan machine is that the bread it turns out is fluffy yet chewy. “Japanese are reluctant to sacrifice taste for energy efficiency or convenience, so new products have to make things taste good,” she adds. “That’s probably why it took so long to create the Gopan machine.”
Kenya: Wooden Spoon
“In any rural African kitchen, the must-have item is a wooden spoon,” says Kenyan William Carr-Hartley of Safariland, Inc.. “It is used to make almost every dish—cornmeal, stews, soups, bean pastes, and more—and when you break it or lose it, you just go into the forest and carve a new one!”
Korea: Kimchi Refrigerator
We heard about plenty of necessities for the Korean kitchen, including a hot-and-cold- water dispenser, rice cooker, kitchen shears (often used in place of a knife), and dolsots (black stoneware pots used for stews, soups, and bibimbap). But the latest hot—or cool—thing is the kimchi refrigerator. This specialty appliance—which supplements a regular fridge—has separate climate-controlled sections designed for optimal fermentation and storage of the country’s signature pickled vegetables. Marketers also promote the device for keeping kimchi’s powerful aroma separate from other foods. The refrigerators are meant to mimic the time-honored method of burying a kimchi-filled crock in the ground and leaving it to ferment, according to an article in The Korea Times, which reported that more than 14 million of these high-tech kimchi keepers were sold in 2010.
Malaysia: Mortar And Pestle
A mortar and pestle for making curry pastes, salads, and much more topped the list for Malaysia-based food and travel writer Robyn Eckhardt. “I live in Penang, a former spice route trading port that’s home to centuries of kitchen traditions,” says Eckhardt, who writes the blog EatingAsia. “Home cooks here may have modern, state-of-the-art kitchens, but every single one still uses a traditional kitchen essential: the batu lesung, or granite mortar and pestle. It’s for pounding the rempah [spice pastes] that are so integral to the local cuisines. I have a food processor and a high-powered blender, but I use my batu lesung all the time—yes, to pound curry pastes and som tam [green papaya salad], but also to pound chiles and tomatoes for salsa, crack Sarawak peppercorns to coat a steak, and smash open cardamom pods so I can pull out the seeds and add them to my drip coffee.”
This time-honored porridge-maker’s stick is “excellent for stirring oatmeal, soups, or coffee in a French press, and for bringing dough together, among other things,” according to a friend in Scotland. There’s even an annual event named for this tool: the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, held every fall in the Scottish Highlands.