My New Kitchen Toys

One of the greatest joys of traveling is bringing home loot, whether for yourself or for friends and family. Some travelers purchase objets d’art, others, clothes and accessories. Me? I almost always go for food and kitchen knick knacks.

I just spent three weeks in Singapore (for a friend’s wedding) and Viet Nam (for a two-week R&R with my hubby). And I have plenty to show for it!

I scored most of my finds in the lovely town of Hoi An on the Central Viet Nam coast. My husband and our friends attended a market tour and cooking class organized by the Morning Glory Cooking School and we were introduced to all manner of local fruit and vegetables, as well as kitchen gadgets.

A girl can’t have too many peelers, no? This Y-peeler, etc., is excellent for skinning cucumbers and shredding green papaya (I saw many street vendors wielding this same tool) but the main reason I bought it was because it can transform a lowly carrot into beautiful rosettes!

This multipurpose tool peels, shreds and makes gorgeous carrot rosettes

Here we have an unusual instrument that transforms morning glory–a.k.a. kangkung, a.k.a. water spinach–stems into sprightly blossoms. It works with spring onions too.

spring onion flower
The label on this nifty tool reads” Instrument to split convol(v)ulus vegetable made of inox metal.” I used it to split a green onion instead.

This instrument makes easy work of splicing the stems, a job I saw many street vendors tediously doing by hand with small, sharp knives. The stems are then soaked in cold water to allow them to “bloom” and curl before being scattered over soups or tossed into salads and rolls. (See this Wandering Chopsticks’ blogpostfor more photos.)

Green onion “blossoms” and cilantro sprigs are scattered over a bowl of pho.

And my final toy is a peeler/slicer/knife, a gift from the cooking school! We used it to shred mango for our salad. I saw women using this versatile knife to shred lemongrass, banana blossoms (see below) as well as using it like a regular knife.

A vendor at the market deftly shaves a banana blossom into thin slices
A vendor at the market in Hoi An deftly shaves a banana blossom into thin slices with this unique peeler/knife

A quick search on the internet reveals this is a traditional Vietnamese knife called a cai bao (this link has a video that demonstrates its use but the selling price seems a little exorbitant to me) or dao bao, depending on where you look.

During the cooking class, we were taught to make vertical cuts into the mango flesh from the seed’s tip to its bottom using the knife’s edge. Then, I used the center blade (which kinda acts like a peeler) to scrape off the flesh which came away as shreds.

Strips of semi-ripe mango are tossed into a tasty salad. My husband made this plate all by himself during our cooking class!

I’m thrilled to add these kitchen gadgets to my collection and can’t wait to use them. I didn’t see any of them at my nearest Asian market (which is 99Ranch) but I’ll try the Vietnamese markets next time.

Have you spied any of these tools at your local Asian Market? And have you brought home a unique kitchen gadget from a trip abroad? Do share!