A good, sharp knife, preferably butcher style if you’re comfortable handling it. Home cooks really need to understand that a dull blade is far more dangerous than a sharp one. While dull blades may not be cutting or chopping your ingredients the way they should, they are still sharp and heavy enough to cause severe wounds. Dull blades will slip easily on the ingredient that they’re supposed to be cutting or chopping, ending up cutting you instead. Conversely, a knife that is sharpened incorrectly will result in a blade that is much too sharp, also creating the potential for serious injury. A good sharp knife should easily cut through vegetables; tomatoes are a good test for this. If your knife can easily slice through a very ripe tomato without you having to push down much, then it’s perfectly sharp. A good butcher knife should be able to cut through meats without the meat shifting and giving way.
A sturdy, large wooden and plastic cutting board. Glass cutting boards are absolutely the wrong way to go. It’s dangerous trying to cut something on it and when dealing with heavy meats with bones, the glass will most likely shatter due to the weight of the knife coming down. Asian kitchens typically have both a wooden and plastic cutting board, each serving a unique purpose. Wooden cutting boards are used for vegetables, fruits and already cooked meats such as roasted pork. Plastic cutting boards are the more sanitary option to handle raw meats. Don’t mix the two to avoid cross contamination.
A medium to large sized wok. If your stove is gas, then you can use the traditional types of wok with rounded bottoms or the non-stick more modern versions. If your stove is electric, it’s best to use a non-stick wok with a flat surface. Electric stoves definitely do not allow for traditional woks so make sure you’re not purchasing a wok with a rounded bottom.
A sturdy wooden spatula with a handle that is at least 7 to 8 inches long. It’s important to use a spatula that has a good sized handle to provide more leverage when stir-frying dishes like fried rice or noodles. Longer handles also protect your skin from coming too close to the heat and any splattering.
A traditional mortar & pestle or food processor. These tools will be a huge time saver, not to mention that without one of them, you’d have a very hard time achieving the proper results both in flavor and texture.
A large colander to drain vegetables after washing. Cooking without a colander to help drain excess water results in dishes with a soupy mess.
A metal strainer to use when working with fried foods. This is an invaluable tool to drain excess oil or even to use when draining noodles out of boiling water.
A decent rice cooker. Asian food relies heavily on the inclusion of rice and having a good rice cooker will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Invest in a good one like Zojirushi (the size does not need to be too large; pick appropriately for your use) and it will last you for years rather than purchasing whichever is cheapest and it will most likely break down on you much sooner as well as produce sub-par quality rice.