I’ve often thought that a good format for a TV programme would be to have celebrity chefs attempting to whip up one of their edible works of art in a holiday apartment in Asia. No extra equipment allowed, and all ingredients bought locally and within a limited budget. Let’s see how they manage without water baths and balsamic vinegar. Or even a potato masher.
For some bizarre reason the landlords of holiday lets seem to assume that you won’t really want to cook, and equip the kitchens accordingly. Er, hello!!! If I didn’t want to cook, I’d stay in a hotel and let someone else clean my bathroom! The opportunity to cook is the whole point of renting an apartment.
Thailand has been the most difficult place to find somewhere with even a rudimentary kitchen. Because eating out is so cheap in Thailand many Thais don’t bother to cook – a Thai ‘kitchen’ typically consists of a fridge and a microwave.
The simplest kitchen that we’ve encountered was in Tokyo – just a single gas ring and a microwave with a saucepan and a wok. But we were only there 2 weeks, and it was still better than a hotel room.
My minimum requirements for a stay of 3 weeks or more would be 2 rings, a microwave, and a toaster or grill. And a fridge of course. Plus:-
- lidded saucepan large enough for pasta and stews
- flat bottomed frying pan
- wok, preferably with a lid – although a large, deep frying pan could eliminate the need for a wok if it’s big enough to stir fry in
- chopping board
- least one sharp knife, medium sized for prepping veg, big enough to cut bread with if there isn’t a large knife as well
- fish slice or flat wooden spatula for lifting things out of the frying pan
- wooden spoon or spatula for stir frying
- decent sized microwavable bowl
- colander or large sieve
If we’re staying somewhere for a while we’ll actually buy these essentials if they’re missing – it’s worth it to save the frustration. In fact we now carry kitchen knife as part of our kit. The recipes on this site assume that you have the equipment listed above, but nothing else.
Since your landlord probably won’t have heard of tupperware parties (do those still exist?) you will have woefully few storage containers. Probably none. We’ve saved a few ice cream containers from previous sojourns and just pack small things in them while we travel. Save your first few yoghurt pots too; they’re useful for freezing things. And keep an eye out for free containers when buying food – during our current stay we’ve bought cheese, butter and spring rolls in good re-usable containers.
One thing we do always buy is cling film. We’ve never had any trouble finding it, but tin foil would do at a pinch (but not for the microwave, obviously). Another very useful thing is an insulated bag, or use some bubble wrap or wet newspaper. Take it to the supermarket with you – it’s amazing how quickly butter can melt and run all over the rest of your shopping!
Extras that I really appreciate and might even buy if they’re cheap:-
- potato peeler
- slotted spoon
- small sieve (for ground coffee mainly)
UPDATE Our kitchen in Bali was even simpler than the one in Tokyo – just one gas ring and an electric kettle, plus a fridge-freezer. But as the range of ingredients available was limited anyway, we ate out a lot!