What you can have for your kitchen in Vietnam

Unless you are super rich (or super lucky) then you probably be rather surprised at the lack of amenities provided in your kitchen. Kitchens in the West almost always have a full-sized inbuilt oven as part of the standard as well as an electric or gas stovetop that is connected to the mains. However, in Vietnam, this is highly unusual and typically only found in apartments that are geared specifically for ex-pats (thus charging a super high price)

Instead, you will typically find a portable stovetop with two rings which is connected to a gas bottle or if you are lucky then a top with two rings that are connected to an electric mains supply.

However, do not worry about the lack of amenities as there are a huge number of appliances available – all at reasonable prices – and soon you will be able to fill your kitchen with all that you need!

The oven is probably the biggest thing that Westerners will be missing. You will be looking for an oven that rests on your workspace area. These are available cheaply (from about 350,000 VND to about a million VND) and can be purchased online at places like Lazarda or Shoppe or in any electrical store. In Vietnam, there are often huge sales so do take the time to compare and contrast as you can get the same product in different stores for totally different prices. When looking for an oven the first thing to consider is the size. You need to work out what is the largest thing that you will be cooking in it e.g. will you be making a roast chicken and potatoes or for warming up pizza ? – make sure it is wide enough and high enough to accommodate the things that you will typically be using the oven for. Make sure that there is a baking tray provided with the oven so that you are able to use it immediately.

With an oven, it is recommended that you get one that is both an oven as well as a grill so that it has dual-use. In addition, it is suggested that the oven has an adjustable temperature gauge – the cheaper ones will just have cool, medium and high and this makes it difficult to use effectively so look for one that actually has a numbered gauge. Electrical shops typically give free delivery so do not worry about staggering home with your kitchen items!

With an oven, it is recommended that you get one that is both an oven as well as a grill so that it has dual-use. In addition, it is suggested that the oven has an adjustable temperature gauge – the cheaper ones will just have cool, medium and high and this makes it difficult to use effectively so look for one that actually has a numbered gauge. Electrical shops typically give free delivery so do not worry about staggering home with your kitchen items!

Mini ovens are usually the type of oven that you will be working with in a Vietnamese oven

Mini ovens are usually the type of oven that you will be working with in a Vietnamese oven

Although the oven is, the main item in your kitchen as you live in Vietnam you will soon find that you also need a rice cooker. In the West, this is a very unusual thing to have and in fact, you may well not even be aware that such a thing exists! There are a huge number of rice cookers to choose from and you can get them not only online and in electrical stores but also in supermarkets. The prices for these range tremendously and can be extremely fancy with timers and giant family-sized cookers etc. ranging from about 200,000 VND upwards. Take your time to have look at the range and decide how often you will be eating rice and how many in your family you will be cooking for.

For the majority of rice cookers, you also get a steamer dish – this is simply a removable plastic flat bowl with holes in which you place at the top of the rice cooker and you can then add ready-made steamed buns etc. and steam them. In addition, you will also get a free rice measurer so you can add the correct amount of rice and water as well as a rice scooper – it is important that you use the rice scooper instead of a normal metal spoon that can scratch the inside.

The rice cooker is an essential item in all kitchens in Vietnam

The rice cooker is an essential item in all kitchens in Vietnam

There are a huge number of additional cooking appliances that can be purchased easily and cheaply in Vietnam – another popular machine is a pressure cooker. There are a wide range of beans available that are cheap and nutritious from black beans and kidney beans to the super cheap soya beans. Although the pressure cooker which goes on the stovetop are available, these are more complicated to use and since you probably do not have the best stovetop then a better alternative is an electric pressure cooker. As with all of the kitchen appliances, decide how large you need it and use this as your starting point for deciding which one to have.

As a general rule, you need one which has the timer indicating the different types of products – e.g. beans, meat etc. so that you simply pop the items in and turn the dial to suit what you have popped in.

With a huge range of beans available in Vietnam, a pressure cooker is a useful product

With a huge range of beans available in Vietnam, a pressure cooker is a useful product

Air fryers are available at a cheap price in Vietnam ( with a bit of searching and sales you can get one for less than a million ) Although this is seen as more of a luxury product in the West and for the super health-conscious, it is a very affordable appliance in Vietnam. Basically, it serves as a frying pan without the oil and is very simple and easy to use. Simply pop in things that you would normally fry and add a tiny bit of oil, turn on and shake midway!

In addition, there are a lot of more speciality products – things that you may have heard about in the West but due to the high price, you have left it and not bothered. In Vietnam, all of these are incredibly affordable – so if you want to experiment with a slow cooker then it can be purchased easily – look for the size you need as you can get them from mega small to super large! One unusual item easily available online is a dehydrator – this may be something you have only heard about but with fruit and vegetables very cheap in Vietnam it is easy to get fruit, chop and throw in the dehydrator, leave on overnight and in the morning you will find you have dried fruit!

More unusual items such as air fryers and hydrators are cheap in Vietnam

More unusual items such as air fryers and hydrators are cheap in Vietnam

Most apartments or houses that are furnished will come with a basic supply of cups, plates and basic utensils. Spatulas and cooking spoons are easily available in supermarkets, however, a potato masher is difficult to find – it can be purchased online but you are never sure of the quality so that is one of the unusual things that it is recommended that you bring with you!

Plates, cups as well as glasses are easily available to buy at supermarkets and often are given away for free with products e.g. a pack of milk or a couple of packets of rice cakes. Bowls are also readily available, however; they tend to be smaller than a typical cereal bowl in the West as they are used for rice and noodles instead of the typical Western cereal etc.

Large knives are very readily available – they are remarkably cheap in Vietnam and you can purchase huge meat cleavers in the supermarket as well as a huge range of knives of all sizes and shapes. Chopsticks are available to buy everywhere however cutlery is typically expensive when compared to the West – forks and spoons are reasonable however it is difficult to find knives for dining and when you do you will be surprised at the price. As a result, it is suggested that if you can bring over some knives for dining that you can prick up cheaply from home it is a good thing to pop in your luggage.

Huge knives are very readily available in Vietnam

Huge knives are very readily available in Vietnam

Frying pans are remarkably cheap and are available in all supermarkets as well as online. They come in a huge range of sizes and qualities – it is recommended that you look for non-stick pans and when you pick them up, feel the weight – the heavier they are the stronger they will be.

On the other hand, saucepans are quite expensive. I am not sure why frying pans are cheap and cheerful but saucepans are a luxury product but they are. They are easily available however instead of being about 150, 000 VND they are around 300,000 VND. As with the frying pans, feel the weight – if they feel extremely light then there is a chance that they will soon start burning your food at the bottom and after a while will split at the sides.

Overall, take your time to build up your kitchen after you have got over the initial shock of being presented with a kitchen that appears to lack the basics. In addition to buying online or locally then you can often find products on Facebook groups from people who are leaving. Not everyone bothers to even cook as a takeaway is so readily available and reasonable however it is recommended to get in the basics so that at least you have the option – sometimes you do feel that you need a little bit of familiar home-cooked food in the midst of all the exciting exotic Vietnam cuisine.

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To have good luck is a skill Not knowing how to seize opportunities is also a form of incompetence.

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To have good luck is a skill Not knowing how to seize opportunities is also a form of incompetence.