We sought out kitchen design hacks to elevate our instant noodles to dishes that would make our grandmothers proud.
Asian food is a communal affair, which doesn’t always translate well to our current lifestyles and smaller homes.
We scour the internet and our childhood memories for tips to adapt our modern kitchens to traditional cooking needs.
1. Kitchen cabinets
Our open cooking styles were designed for outdoor or ‘wet kitchens’, and a large amount of heat and moisture produced can cause your furniture and walls to warp, peel, crack, or chip.
Talk to your contractor or interior designer about using a material that can withstand these high pressures such as laminates, melamine, or Thermofoil. You can also opt for rustic wooden accents so that any potential defects can be hidden in plain sight.
Read more: 7 kitchen cabinet materials to choose from
Alternatively, a combination of kitchen hood and dehumidifier can do the trick.
When choosing colours and designs, keep in mind the possibility of discolouration and cleaning time. This means that you might wanna buy tools and opt for walls with earthier or darker tones as opposed to pristine whites.
Additionally, avoid excessive grooves and woodwork where oil and grime can get trapped.
2. Dry food storage
Rice is a staple in most Asian households – whether it’s fried, served with basil chicken, or whipped into a delicious biryani. Unfortunately, these grains are susceptible to air, moisture, and heat. This is especially true for brown rice, which contains fatty acids that can go rancid when they oxidise.
Store your rice in airtight containers in a larder (pictured below) or larder cupboard, both of which are making a comeback. These have cool marble or granite shelves as well as mesh doors for circulation which bring the temperature down by about 5 degrees.
They’re also great for storing noodles, cereals, sauces, and food items that should be kept in a dry and cool area.
If you’re DIY-ing your larder cupboard, position it away from direct sunlight. Remove any wood or heat-retaining carpeting – bare stone or brick walls work best.
Asian cooking involves a fair bit of stir-frying, which also means a fair bit of oil splatters. Minimise the damage with non-stick splatter screens or shields which keep oil away from your walls, ceilings, and floors.
You should also invest in a good quality range hood that will absorb unfortunate by-products such as grease, excess moisture, and odours. Depending on your home design, it can come with an external vent or replaceable carbon filters that recirculate the air. Your hood should be installed 20 – 35 inches above your stove.
You can also leave out odour absorbers such as charcoal, screwpine leaves, baking soda, tea, coffee grounds, vinegar, and oats in addition to room fresheners.
4. Pest control
All that amazing food is a magnet for lizards, cockroaches, rats, ants, and other unwanted house guests. In addition to keeping your space clean and not leaving your food out in the open, regularly check and repair cracked tiles, torn window screens, dripping taps, and leaking pipes. Keep your kitchen cool and dry, as lizards, in particular, enjoy the warmth.
Move furniture at least 6 inches away from the wall and avoid hanging pictures and boards which see pests nesting behind. You can also get an electric repellent (or a cat) to ward them away.
Asian cooking is naturally smoky, so position your smoke detector and alarm near the hallway to ensure it only goes off in real smoke and fire situations. You can also opt for photoelectric smoke alarms which detect even smouldering fires, ones that burn slowly and without flame.
You should also keep a fire extinguisher nearby at all times, along with the number of your local fire department.
6. Food disposal
In Industrialised Asia, an average person generates about 80kg of food waste – mostly vegetable and grain – annually. The biggest wasters are typically young adults aged 18 – 24, high-income earners, and families with small children. Food rot produces methane, which contributes to global warming.
Do your part for the environment by composting! Collect your vegetable, grain, and coffee scraps in a well-lined compost bin. Every couple of days, empty your bin into a large bin of ‘brown materials’ such as dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Your brown material should make up more than two-thirds of your compost heap.
Research well before embarking on your environmental adventure as poor composting habits can lead to foul smells and pests.
This article was originally published as The Malaysian home cook’s guide to the perfect kitchen by atap.co and is written by Stephanie Francesca Pereira.