Cooking where no one cooks – Part 2

In part 1, I talked about why everyone in Chiang Mai should cook, even though eating out may be cheap, convenient and delicious.

Now let’s get down to the practical stuff.

This post is specifically directed toward people living in Chiang Mai, but many of these tips may be useful for others.


You can make a kitchen anywhere

I worked for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, in Tucson, for several years, two of which involved regular cooking demonstrations. My job often required basically carting around an entire kitchen. This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. I had a variety of supplies available to me, but most of the time, my mobile kitchen consisted of an electric frying pan (with extension cord) and a large plastic tub filled with various other kitchen essentials (knife, cutting board, spatula, large spoon, bowls, etc.). And depending on what I was making, I sometimes had a wheeled cooler as well. I became adept at setting this up quickly just about anywhere, including on a folding table at a farmers’ market. And if I didn’t have electricity available, a propane camping stove worked great outdoors.

What I’m trying to say is that if your place doesn’t have a kitchen, it’s very easy and pretty inexpensive to set one up. Hopefully your apartment has at least a kitchen sink, small counter space, and a refrigerator. If not, I know this can all be done on a table. (If you don’t believe me, see the previous paragraph.) And if you don’t have a refrigerator, stock up on the things that don’t require refrigeration, and then just buy what you need for the day.


Our setup

IMG_0103Here is what we started out with when we moved into our apartment:


  • small countertop
  • kitchen sink
  • decent sized refrigerator
  • electric kettle
  • 2 glasses
  • 1 spoon
  • 1 cabinet above the sink/counter





IMG_0349We immediately bought:

  • electric wok (came with a lid)
  • rice cooker (cheapest, smallest one we could find–only has an on/off switch–we can make about 4 servings of rice at a time)
  • surge protector/extension cord (our kitchen area has no convenient plugs)
  • 1 small sharp knife
  • 1 wooden spoontula (thanks, Brian, for the name)
  • 1 small cutting board
  • 2 glass bowls (deep and large enough to double as plates)
  • 1 spoon (because we already had 1)
  • 2 forks
  • 3-pack storage containers (which can also double as bowls for cold food and for serving fruit)
  • 1 sponge
  • 1 small bottle of dish soap

All of this came out to about 1500 baht (about $45 USD). We bought all of this at Central Department Store inside Central Kad Suan Kaew Mall. If you shop around, I’m sure it’s possible to find these things for less at local markets or smaller stores, but we were on foot that day and enjoyed the convenience of this option. Ours are also pretty decent quality and have held up well so far over a month of continuous use.


We later bought:

  • 2 mugs (for hot beverages for ladling soup)
  • 1 larger knife (not completely necessary but nice for mincing garlic, cutting carrots, etc.)

We purchased these items for approximately 100 baht total at Tops.



Kitchen staples:

  • brown rice
  • dry noodles
  • lentils
  • textured vegetable protein
  • dried mushrooms
  • quick cooking oats
  • muesli
  • onions
  • garlic
  • spices (coriander, cumin, black pepper, salt)
  • soy sauce
  • cooking oil (we use soybean)
  • sesame oil
  • mushroom sauce

(if you’re not a vegetarian, fish sauce and oyster sauce are often used locally instead of soy sauce and mushroom sauce)



Other foods we like to keep around:

  • all sorts of fruits, whatever looks good and is a good price
  • variety of vegetables for cooking and for salads (again whatever looks good and is a good price)
  • bird’s eye chilies (if you like spicy food)
  • limes
  • green onions (aka: scallions or spring onions)
  • cilantro (or other herbs that look good)
  • yogurt
  • eggs
  • bread
  • peanut butter (no oil added)
  • jam (only fruit, sugar, and pectin if possible)

To give you an idea, we spend about 500 baht ($15 USD) every 2-3 days and get about 6 meals (between the 2 of us) and several snacks from that. Those trips are mostly for fruits and vegetables and sometimes the occasional staple that ran out. We’ve made a huge effort not to let anything spoil, so we buy only what we think we can use within a couple of days, and it’s really paid off. We find throwing food away quite painful, especially since it’s not really practical for us to compost at the moment. There are some chickens nearby that we’ve considered throwing scraps to, but we’re not sure how their owners would feel about it.

In the next post, I’ll give you some more practical tips for cooking with electric appliances, as well as some of my go to recipes.

One Response

  1. […] is that getting used to cooking in a tiny space will make anything back home seem luxurious. In Part 2, we’ll get down to the practical […]