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Quirky kitchen gadgets from around the world that you might not find in the U.S.

One of the best parts about traveling is learning about new foods and how they’re prepared. On a visit to Istanbul, I drank cup after cup of tea poured from samovars, the device used to boil water and brew the beverage. It’s not something you’ll find in many homes in the U.S., and the same can be said for many other kitchen gadgets from around the world. Next time you’re planning a trip, make sure you leave some room in your suitcase for a culinary souvenir.

Thermomix – Europe, U.K., and Australia ($2,089)


We’ve written about the Thermomix, and the devotion it inspires, before. In Australia, it sells, solely through a Thermomix Consultant, for $2,089 Australian (about $1,600 U.S.). The company claims it replaces 12 other appliances, because it steams, chops, whips, mixes, emulsifies, blends, kneads, cooks, stirs, weighs, and heats. It makes soup, sauces, baby food, frozen cocktails, and a host of other recipes that also require popping the food into your oven. Read more here.


Raclette grill, Switzerland ($140)


Mmm, cheese. The French word racler means “to scrape”, and raclette is a cheese that’s used to make a Swiss, fondue-like dish using an electric tabletop grill. Trays along the sides of the grill can heat up individual portions of cheese, while the main surface can cook meats, fish, and veggies.


Cezve, Turkey ($14)


There’s a coffee shop in Istanbul whose name roughly translates to “so thick even the water buffalo won’t sink.” The strong, dense coffee is made from super-fine grounds, water, and, often, sugar. The small pot used to make Turkish coffee, either called a cezve or ibrik, is often made of copper or brass, with a long handle. It’s heated over low heat, and the resulting brew is served in small cups. You can order a $14 cezve from Amazon; just don’t swallow the grounds if you make it at home.

Molinillo, Mexico ($14)


If you’ve ever had Mexican hot chocolate, you’ll understand why there’s a special whisk just for the spicy drink. Carved from wood, the molinillo turns hot chocolate into a foamy concoction, with an almost cappuccino-like consistency. To use it, you hold the molinillo between your palms, insert the end into the cup of chocolate, and rub it vigorously until the liquid starts to froth. It’s $14 on Amazon, but way more authentic than using an immersion blender.

Tamale steamer, Mexico ($30)


Hats off to anyone who tackles homemade tamales; it requires both time and effort. But a tamale steamer can make things a little easier. It looks much like any large stainless steel or aluminum pot with a lid but it has something extra inside: a removable rack or basket with holes that holds the tamales a few inches above the hot water. Without the basket, you can use the steamer as a traditional stockpot as well.

Tagine, North Africa ($32)


Get ready to drool. Found in countries such as Morocco and Tunisia, clay tagines are conical pots that are perfect for making stews (known as tagines) and couscous. While it cooks slowly over low heat, the dome-shaped top helps funnel steam back to the dish, meaning less water is required for cooking. Lamb, chicken, and fish tagines are full of spices and veggies. Excited to try some recipes?

Jaffle Iron, South Africa and Australia ($18)


Modern jaffle irons are basically sandwich toasters, but originally they were hinged plates, either round or square, joined to a long stick. The idea was that you stick bread and fixings inside, clamp it up, then grill yourself a sandwich over a fire. It was an Australian, John O’Brien, who — inspired by jaffle irons — imported sandwich toasters from Belgium in the 1970s and sold them through his company, Breville. Of course, these versions aren’t conducive to camping trips, but you can snag an old-school version for $18 on Amazon.

Splayd, Australia ($45)


If the spork has one drawback, it’s that it can’t be used as a knife. The Splayd, a spoon, fork, and knife, is the creation of Australian William McArthur. In the 1940s, he came up with the idea after he saw ladies struggling to hold their cocktails and eat with cutlery at a party. While food writer Kate McGhie says you couldn’t go to a housewarming party without tripping over boxes of Splayds in the 1970s, they’ve since lost popularity… possibly because it’s hard to cut your beef with a Splayd if you don’t have a second utensil to hold the food in place. Still, if you have limited drawer space, you can pick up a set of six on Amazon for $45.

Chinois, France ($29)


French food is heavy on the sauces, and the chinois makes straining them a snap. Its conical shape and fine mesh make it perfect to strain stocks, sauces, soups, and purées. It’s held up with legs, so it’s hands free, unlike a lot of strainers. A wooden pestle often accompanies them, so you can get more liquid out of the sauce. Sick of the strain?

Mezzaluna, Italy ($17)


The mezzaluna is appropriately named, as it means “half moon” in Italian. The curved double- or single-bladed knife is used to chop vegetables and herbs. Because it has two handles and is used by rocking the blades over the herbs, fingers stay well out of the way of anything sharp. Feeling clumsy?

Barbecue grill plate, Korea ($62)


Restaurants that serve Korean barbecue often have grills built into the table, and diners do the cooking themselves. Instead of the built-in approach, grill plates are portable pans with ridges that let fat drain into a second pan underneath. This ridged grill pan slopes downwards so the fat rendered from cooking meat can drain into a second pan that fits underneath and surrounds it. It can be used on a stovetop or portable burner. It’s ideal for making pork belly, and you can order one on Amazon for $62.

Kimchi refrigerator, Korea ($900)


If you’ve lamented not having a good way to store kimchi, prepare to be jealous. Also known as kimchi naengjanggo, kimchi fridges are specifically designed for the food. The fridge directly cools the compartment and provides a more consistent temperature; some also have ways of reducing odors. Considering what the fermentation can do to dairy products, it’s no wonder it’s such a coveted appliance in Korea. Without factoring in shipping, the cheapest model from Dimchae is $900.

Wet grinder, India ($330)


Dosas are delicious, but trying to make the batter without using a traditional wet grinder can be a bit of a challenge. The machine has conical stones and a stainless steel drum for grinding grains with water for up to 20 minutes, resulting in a batter that’s ideal for the South Indian dish. At $330 from Amazon, it’s probably only worth it if need to feed your daily dosa habit.

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