Some great kitchen gear

Posted on February 7, 2010 by Aun

Like a lot of guys, I’m really into gadgets and gear. And much to my darling wife’s chagrin, because I have (in her opinion) way too many interests, this means I’m constantly oohing and aahing over all kinds of new toys, from the latest smartphone to a custom-made bicycle part to, of course, all kinds of awesome equipment with which to fill our kitchen. Fortunately, this last category is one in which S also shares a passion and hence allows me to indulge my urges to buy shiny new things.

Over the last half year, we’ve picked up a number of nifty items, some of which I like so much that I feel compelled to write about them. Some are simple everyday tools; others are more specialized. All are pretty darned cool and stuff I am sure you will also love.

Lacor Home Vacuum Packing Machine

S and I spotted this small and portable vacuum packer on an early morning trip to Sia Huat, Singapore’s best industrial kitchen supply store. We were surprised by how affordable the unit was. After the ubiquitous Sia Huat discount, given, from what I can tell, to everyone who walks in the store, the vacuum packer was just a little more that SGD$70. With a price like that, we couldn’t help but pick it up, with several packets of Lacor vacuum packing bags. As soon as we got home, S went on a packing spree, vacuum packing nuts and chocolates and a dozen other edible and perishable items that we had lying around our walk-in chiller. The machine has two settings. You can “vacuum & seal” or just “seal”. The latter we have found handy for sealing sauces and cooked foods, which we can then toss into the freezer for later use.

Most recently, I’ve been experimenting with trying to cook some items sous-vide. With careful timing (and a bit of practice), I’ve been able to vacuum pack raw food items with a bit of liquid (like olive oil for example). Because this is a domestic vacuum packer and not a commerical “chamber” vacuum packer (which seals wet foods and liquids with no fuss), this can be a bit tricky. Time things wrong and liquid can shoot out of the mouth of the bag and into the machine, which is a quick way to ruin it. But get the timing right and you can seal foods in a bag with a well-flavoured marinade. Just this past weekend, I cooked some salmon sous-vide, trapping the slices in a bag with some grapeseed oil, salt, pepper and orange rind. I let the salmon marinade for half a day and then the bag was submerged in 45 degree Celsius water and cooked for 20 minutes. It came out beautifullly soft, tender and full of flavour. (Fortunately, my Miele induction hobs allow me to maintain some pretty even cooking temperatures.) I’ve also made some confit baby potatoes following a Thomas Keller recipe in Under Pressure that has worked very well. I’ll be trying out several more preparations over the coming months.

MAC Knives

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting the (new) Singapore distributor for MAC Knives. Of course, I’d already known of and admired this brand for quite a while. I remembered a great post that Michael from Cooking for Engineers had written way back in 2005 in which he tested several knife brands. It was an amazingly thorough series of tests that Michael put several great knife brands through. And MAC’s very gorgeous knives came out either as the first or second highest ranked knife in each test. Furthermore, Michael’s favourite knife, after all the tests were done, was the MAC MTH-80 Mighty Chef 8 inch blade with dimples.

So, of course, when I finally found out that MAC knives were available here, I quickly picked up one of the MTH-80s. I also fell in love with the BSC-85 Sushi Chef Knife; this cool looking, razor-sharp and super light knife has an 8.5 inch blade that is covered with a black nonstick coating. Both these knives are gorgeous and very functional. They are joy to hold and to work with and have fast become two of my favourite blades (for use in very different ways of course).

MAC also has a Damascus series, which I am also in lust with. I’m dying to pick up the DA-BK-240, a beautiful chef’s knife with a 9.5 inch blade made up of 64 layers of stainless steel folded over a core of “stain-resistant MAC steel”. S is equally enamored with this series but she wants the DA-JU-180, a Japanese vegetable knife with a rectangular 7 inch blade.

New West Knifeworks knives

Last year, I wrote about the beautiful 7 inch Santoku that Corey Milligan gifted me with. I was so pleased with that knife that a few months later I ordered New West’s gorgeous fusionwood 8 inch Chef’s Knife. This is a really beautiful blade, to look at, to hold, and to use. The fact that it arrived in a super-slick leather sheath was just the icing on a very sharp but tasty cake. I adore the handle on this knife. It’s a work of art, with a colourful pattern I never get tired of looking at. It’s also surprisingly comfortable — I say “surprisingly” because this knife’s handle is uncommonly long (6 inches). The blade, forged from a special high-carbon stainless Japanese steel, retains a very keen edge and is really great to work with. This is a knife that I’ll be using for a long time to come. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want another New West knife; I already have my eye on The 9, a Damascus forged welded 9 inch blade with dimples that looks dangerously sleek. And I want to order it with the bright red (“hot”) corian handle.

A New West knife that I also really want but won’t be able to afford any time soon is the Michael Radar Santoku with a Maple Burl Handle. This one of a kind custom knife is simply stunning. Take a look at it yourself. I’m sure if you’re a gearhead like me you’ll be drooling at your screen.

Philips HR1651 Mixer Grinder

This ingenious mixer and grinder, which comes with 4 different jars, was developed for the Indian market. Chefs and foodies who are familiar with Indian food might be familiar with the Sumeet Asia Kitchen Machine (which is commonly just reffered to as a “Sumeet”). It is the most commonly used grinder/mixer in India that can handle both dry and wet grinding tasks and has blades strong enough to grind even the hardest spices. I don’t think I’d be far off from claiming that almost every Indian family that takes their food seriously has a Sumeet in their kitchen. Despite its widespread use, the Sumeet is far from perfect. In fact, it is pretty imperfectly made. Ours, which we made a friend carry back for us from India (Mustafa is perpetually sold out), broke down after just a couple of years.

Well, the rather smart folks at Philips realized two things: (1) the Sumeet is a pretty amazing and unique mixer/grinder; and (2) it could be better made. So, they reverse-engineered it and came up with their own, much improved, much more powerful and simply all around more functional Mixer Grinder. Each unit comes with, as I said, 4 jars: one for wet grinding; one for chutneys; one multi-purpose jar; and a blender jar.

S and I found out about this model last year and were able to get our hands on one. So far, it’s been performing perfectly. It’s quiet, stable and easy to use and to clean. I hope that Philips realizes just how marketable this machine is and starts selling it outside of India. I’m pretty sure that it would be a hit across Southeast Asia, at the very least.

DeBuyer Piston Funnel

S has wanted a piston funnel for years. I, however, never really shared her interest in this particular kitchen tool until last year, when I watched a chef fill dozens of empty egg shells with perfectly portioned custard using one of these. After that, I was pretty much sold and on one of our many visits to Sia Huat, we picked up this very functional but still cool looking model by DeBuyer.

For those of you who don’t know what this does, a piston funnel gives you control over portioning out whatever liquid or ingredients you have filled the funnel with. Using the lever, you can open and close the funnel. It’s a great tool for filling small bowls or other containers without the danger of spillage.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Lim Je February 8, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Would you recommend your Musso ice-cream maker? Or is there another model you now covet or have upgraded?

  2. Chubby Hubby February 8, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Lim Je: Definitely! We love our Musso. But we’ve had it for years, which is why it isn’t in this list. If you are looking for a serious ice cream machine, I would recommend it.

  3. Charsiew February 8, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Was thinking of getting the Sumeet for my mom since it is supposed to be able to grind up chilli seeds. Is the Philips able to do the same? Am considering getting the Philips after you wrote about it. How do I get hold of one for my mom?

  4. JK February 8, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Can the Philips HR1651 Mixer Grinder

    grind grains to flour?

    Tks!

  5. Sihan February 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    thanks for the tip on the piston funnel. Have been on the hunt for that gadget for a pretty long time!

  6. Chubby Hubby February 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Charsiew: Yup, to coin a phrase, anything the Sumeet can do, the Philips Mixer Grinder can do (better). Try calling up the Philips office and see if you can buy one through them. Or find a supplier in India who will do international deliveries. Good luck!

    JK: Don’t know actually. Technically, should be able to. I’ve never tried that.

    Sihan: Most welcome. Happy shopping.

  7. wine of the month club February 9, 2010 at 1:29 am

    The home vacuum pack is great for storing cheese especially if you purchase larger quantities on higher end cheese that you don’t move through too quickly.

  8. Weylin February 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

    CH, you bought the Phillips grinder in India? Wld you share what the price is like? (feel free to email me privately) I’d like to get one for my mom and can get one from India if that’s where it’s sold.

  9. shirley February 9, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Last year, when I started experimenting with Nonya cooking, I had combed Little India for a Sumeet Mixer. I had even gone as far as calling Sumeet in India. Subsequently, my friend in India did some research and told me that the Sumeet brand has really suffered a reputation dent due to family/management feuds. Quality has really deteriorated. When I found a small provision shop in Little India that carries limited sets of blenders, the shop owner had recommended me to take another brand, Preethi. Now, I love my Preethi blender to death. You Philips blender looks really nice. From your account, it sounded like you did not get this in Singapore?

  10. Sarah Dobbs February 11, 2010 at 5:11 am

    I would love to get my hands on those knives! I am a newly wed and have recently learned to cook. It’s my new hobby and I just love it. So glad I found your site.

    xx

    S.S. DOBBS

  11. Paul Cypert February 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve tried and tried to figure the Sia Huat discount out. Yesterday I was there buying a digital scale for more precision when baking “stecca”. I asked one of the women what the real price would be on the one I was going to buy…. she said the sticker price. I said normally you give me a discount. She said that’s the price. Went to ring up and sure enough it was another 15 SGD off. Never can figure out what the exact amount is :D

  12. Yalin February 12, 2010 at 1:07 am

    I love kitchen gadgets too. I just got a new set of Sabatier professional range but disappointed to find they are not on your recommended list! why are those dimples for? Are they functional or just for fun?

  13. Sheryi February 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Chubby Hubby,

    Sorry to ask – but if I wanted to buy just ONE knife (general purpose Chef) which would it be? Or at least – which is the first one you would buy? :)

    And does Sia Huat entertain walk in retail customers? (their web says appointments only).

    Thanks for a great blog and have a Happy New Year! Blog on……

  14. Chubby Hubby February 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Weylin and Shirley: Hey, unfortunately, it is still not available here yet. I had a friend buy it for me in India.

    Sarah: Thanks!

    Paul: It is a bit of an odd system. All you know is that you’ll pay less than what the price tag is.

    Yalin: The dimples help keep food from clinging to the sides of the blade.

    Sheryi: The store in Chinatown entertains all customers. For that one all-purpose knife, look for a good 8 inch or 9 inch blade. Test out a few and just see which workd best for you. There are many great brands, from Kasumi to Wusthof, New West, and MAC. It really comes down to what you enjoy using.

  15. Yalin February 15, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Glad the comment works, for i had to type it several times! I created an amazing game dish yesterday: venison steak sealed in olive oil with home made wild cherry sauce with hint of ginger! It is ruby red, intense and perfect, so much so I couldn’t think of any side dish to go with. any advice?

  16. Afner February 16, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    This Blog is amazing… very neat design and pictures, plus excellent recipes with good taste and style.
    I have made my own amateur blog to show the world my passion for food, maybe you’d like to see it:

    http://cucharaoriginal.blogspot.com

    Thanks and I’ll be around often!

  17. sherri February 18, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Have you ever thought about writing a cookbook? I imagine a lot of people have already mentioned it – but you’ve definatly got the writing ability. That combined with the level of photography you display on this site and I think you could do a winner. A lot of people like food porn – great images and fun reading from someone who really has a passion for the subject. Whether they ever actually cook out of it or not is relative. With even moderatly nice recipes I think you could pull off something that would sell, let alone with good ones. The only pitfall I could perhaps see could be in accidently being too sophisticated or intimidating for your average reader (just from sheer, joyful, copious foodie knowledge.)
    Anyway, just a thought.
    (ps. you’re one of the most entertaining and interesting food writers I think I’ve ever seen.)

    I think you hold the keys for a classic in the making just through sheer passion, fun, interest and the ability to portray that in writing. If you could juggle that into just the right presentation……..

  18. Melissa February 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Hi guys! How are you? I have always wanted a Sumeet, so reading your high praise for the Philips got my gears spinning. I emailed Philips and begged them to let me know how I can buy one of these in Europe – I even offered to drive to their HQ in the Netherlands and pick it up myself! I think they found my enthusiasm amusing, but told me in no uncertain terms that it’s only available in India. Darnit… Time to find somebody going there for a visit who doesn’t mind taking an extra suitcase!

  19. S February 22, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Melissa! I suspect that an account of your efforts to acquire the elusive kitchen appliance will make for a colourful blogpost (or book chapter) one day :) If we find a way to get one sent to you, we’ll definitely let you know.

  20. www.triportreats.com February 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    I waaaaant that vacuum sealer! If only to replicate the sous-vide experience!

    I have been getting a little kitchen techie myself, since building a new kitchen for our home. I’m so excited to use the Miele oven!

    What do you suggest is a good knife set for home use? I’m a no-nonsense home cooker who doesn’t care what I use, as long as the end result tastes fine. Lol. But maybe I need some more street cred to my name

  21. Lorraine March 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Hi there, not so much of a kitchen appliance, but I am looking for a good, cool pepper grinder as a house-warming gift. Do you have any suggestions on where I can get one? Thanks!

  22. JoethekitchenContractor October 21, 2010 at 7:20 am

    if you had to choose between the Mac knives and the New West Knifeworks knives, which ones would you pick?

  23. Halimah November 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Hi, I’ve been thinking of investing in a Vitamix but since my parents are in India, I’m thinking of asking them to buy back the Philips mixer/grinder. In you opinion, are the two comparable? Does the Philips blend fruits well to make juices, grind nuts and seeds?

  24. Electra December 6, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Hi CH and S, I came close to getting the Lacor vacuum machine, but baulked at the price of the vacuum bags. Have you tried using any cheaper substitutes by any chance? Many thanks!

  25. jennifer July 27, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    hi there,i am very keen on this philip mixer and grinder…can i get this in australia? btw your info ivery very useful.I enjoyed reading your blog.cheers!
    …:D

  26. veky February 27, 2012 at 3:52 am

    The Philips HR1651 Mixer Grinder looks like ateh mixie is under some MRI scan in a local hospital.

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