Asian restaurants have been a staple of American foodservice for many years, but as of late, have started to move beyond many of the original templates that had been forged. There are a tremendous variety of different Asian cultures that offer their own unique cuisine and cooking techniques that require specific pieces of equipment. Things like ovens, ranges, standard smallwares, and worktables will be as necessary as they are in every foodservice operation, however there are some additional pieces that don’t necessarily appear in every kitchen. Here is a sampling of some of the equipment and smallwares that may be necessary in some (not all) Asian eateries.
Back-Of-The-House: Each foodservice operation is different, and a wealth of cooking methods are used in the kitchens of Asian restaurants. Here are some of the “most common” of the uncommon items found in a variety of Asian kitchens.
- Woks & WokRanges – Standard in Chinese kitchens, and an essential component of Cantonese cooking, the wok is one of the best ways to stir-fry meats and vegetables. The wok, however, is a uniquely shaped piece of cookware, and a specialty burner is needed to heat them. Businesses that intend on cooking with a wok can purchase standalone wok ranges, standard ranges with wok burners, or with a relatively new advent: a countertop wok induction range.
- Dough Sheeters – Noodles play an incredibly important in role in many different variations of Asian Cuisine. Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese (among others) incorporate a variety of different noodles into their cuisine, and most all are made from scratch. Dough sheeters provide businesses with an easy and efficient way to take dough balls and make any number of noodle varieties.
- Soup Kettles, SteamKettles & StockPotRanges– Broths, soups, and stews have their place in on the menus of all varieties of Asian eateries. To produce large batches of things like soup or stew, a steam kettle or stock pot range will be necessary for cooking. This kettle or stock pot range will also likely be the most convenient way to cook noodles as well, and can even remove the need for a pasta cooker (unless both need to be running constantly, like at a ramen shop). A soup kettle, food warmer, or possibly even a rethermalizer will be necessary to keep these liquids hot, or to bring refrigerated soups back up to proper serving temperature.
- Steamers – Steam cooking is a large part of Asian cuisine, and though the traditional way to steam is with a bamboo steamer, this may not be the most efficient way for restaurants to operate. Countertop flash steamers are great for cooking small items to order; however a larger steamer (such as a convection or pressure steamer) should be purchased for large volumes of steamed foods, especially for things that will end up on a buffet line.
- Specialty Cutlery – Various tasks in Asian cuisine have specific pieces of cutlery forged specifically for them. For instance, there are varieties of Japanese knives designed to cut specific kinds of fish or noodles, and Chinese mincing knives designed for chopping specific herbs. Make a point to examine your menu and note any specific pieces of cutlery that will be needed.
- Rice Cooker – Many Asian restaurants serve intensely high volumes of rice, and commercial rice cookers are the best way to take the guesswork out of making perfect rice. These machines make cooking a batch of perfect rice as easy as pushing a button.
- Teppanyaki Grill – Many Japanese steakhouses have chefs cook at the table so patrons can watch their food being cooked. These restaurants have a Teppanyaki grill placed in each seating area, with table settings around their edge. These Teppanyaki grills can cook at incredibly high temperatures, and allow cooks to speed up the dining process. It should be noted, however, that these restaurants should have several Teppanyaki grills set up, as well as custom dining tables built around them, and be able to staff them. Fortunately, since most of the cooking in these steakhouses is done in the front-of-the-house, there are usually fewer pieces of BOH equipment that are needed.
- Mongolian Grill – Mongolian grills are similar to Teppanyaki grills, but they tend to be used in the BOH. Used often in Taiwanese cuisine, these grills are round in shape and are used to cook combinations of meats, vegetables and noodles to order. They are often found in buffet style restaurants, and patrons are encouraged to mix and match the displayed vegetables with meats and sauces of their choice.
- Specialty Tools – Asian restaurants often have menu items that utilize a number of ingredients that necessitate a variety of specialty kitchen tools. Items like scissors for sea urchin, bamboo rolls for rolling sushi and wonton presses for making potstickers are only a few examples of specialty utensils needed, so it is best to examine your menu when shopping for smallwares and kitchen tools.
Front-Of-The-House: The FOH of an Asian eatery will require standard equipment like furniture and glassware, but depending on the variety or restaurant, there will be some other necessities.
- Sushi Case – Sushi restaurants tend to prepare many of their rolls and dishes in front of customers, and store them in (usually) refrigerated cases on a bar. These cases display the craftsmanship that goes into perfecting each roll as a way of enticing customers, while simultaneously keeping the fish properly housed. These cases are, more often than not, the centerpiece of the FOH, and come in standard and custom lengths and builds.
- Buffet Equipment – Chinese and other Asian buffet restaurants should examine a number of factors when setting up their FOH. For more information on putting together a buffet style restaurant, check out our Buyer’s Guide: All You Can Eat Advice
- Tableware – Asian restaurants often require many pieces of specialty tableware to accommodate the varying sized portions they serve. Things like sake cups and carafes, bowls for ramen, or even Bento boxes are a few of the specialty pieces of tableware that may be needed for items on your menu.