This is called 石板 (“stone slab”), made by the Nu people in Yunnan.
The materials for making this frying pan come from a type of shale rock collected locally.
This flat frying pan is used to make rice cake, made from buckwheat flour.
“Stone slab rice cake” is often eaten with honey.
Modern stoneware continues to be used in Yunnan.
In parts of Henan, caterers hired to prepare a wedding banquet sometimes have to construct a special cooking stove on the spot.
This is called 七孔穿山灶 (“seven-burner stove”). This wood-burning stove can be used to cook seven dishes simultaneously.
The first two burners have large licking flames and are used to make steamed dishes.
扣碗条子肉 steamed pork belly
糯米饭 steamed glutinous rice
The third burner has the strongest flames.
小酥肉 steamed crispy pork
The other burners have weaker flames, and are used for simmering, stewing, and for making soup.
Seven hot dishes, together with three cold dishes, form the “Ten-dish banquet”.
Steamers made from bamboo strips are another common Chinese cooking utensil. Other than the famous soup buns, they can be used to make so much more.
粉蒸排骨 steamed pork ribs with rice powder
蒸龙眼 steamed glutinous rice with dried longan
蒸烧白 steamed pork belly
In Zhangqiu, Shandong, very few ironsmiths still keep to the tradition of making an iron wok by hand, which requires twelve steps.
煎转黄花鱼 Pan-fried yellow croaker
The dish is famous partially for its taste, partially for the way it’s cooked. The chef has to flip the fish inside the iron wok, without spilling either the fish or the ingredients. If you can do it well, it looks like this:
If not, it looks like this:
Another famous Shandong dish is also made using the iron wok.
九转大肠 braised pig’s intestine
A good wok would be useless if you don’t have the ingredients ready.
To prepare ingredients, you’d need a good cutting board.
银杏砧板 cutting board made using wood from the gingko tree (a bit extravagant, I think. Gingko is called the living fossil because it dates back 270 million years. Imagine, after the chefs who use the gingko cutting board have passed away, the gingko board still stands).
And of course you’d need a good knife.
Master level of knife skill can produce this:
扬州瓜雕 Yangzhou carved watermelon
翠珠鱼花 fish “flower”
In Shaanxi, this simple-looking dish:
金边白菜 “golden-rimmed cabbage”
was rumoured to be a favourite of Empress Dowager Cixi.
Its claim to fame comes from the way the chef turns the iron wok in the fire so that it looks as if the entire wok is engulfed in flames.
(Do NOT try this at home! Or if you really want to, have a fire extinguisher on standby, or put the local fire department on speed dial.)
Inside these big ceramic vats are Sichuan pickles.
An ideal vat has to be big and round in the middle and narrow on top. An airtight environment is achieved by placing a giant bowl upside down over its opening, and by adding water around the rim.
You can put almost anything into these vats: ginger, cowpeas, garlic shoots, pepper, carrots . . .
烧椒凉粉 cold bean jelly with pickled pepper sauce
老坛泡菜鱼 braised fish with pickled vegetables
Besides cooking utensils, there’s also a whole range of eating utensils.
For example, supposedly, placing braised pork, which is dark in colour and rich in juice, inside this ceramic bowl, would enhance its taste.
To us common folks, selecting different dishes for different types of food might be too much hassle. But not to Emperor Tongzhi.
This set of wedding china was made over 150 years ago, for the tenth emperor of the Qing Dynasty. The entire set consists of ten thousand and seventy two pieces. About two thousand pieces are on display at the Palace Museum in Beijing.
To me, what matters more is the food, and who you are sharing it with, rather than the utensils.
Sitting across from my boss, I barely registered the taste of the hundred-dollar prime ribeye steak.
But give me a plate of homemade fried rice with eggs, throw in a bottle of Laoganma chilli sauce, and I’d be happy as a clam.