I'm in Beijing, and due to the coronavirus, most restaurants are closed, and most of those that are open are take-away only. It's generally best not to go out. I'd like to cook but I'm limited to what I have available:

  1. a flat-bottom kettle (i.e., no coil),
  2. a teaspoon,
  3. a bowl,
  4. a pair of scissors, and
  5. a old pasta sauce glass jar that fits in the kettle. [Update: The links in the answers suggest this might be useful---I was about to throw it away.]

I also have access to: (a) a nearby shop which sells fruit and vegetables, and (b) an Wumei supermarket about 1.5kms away. I'd prefer not to buy kitchenware because my room is tiny so I'd have trouble storing it, and I'd probably have to throw anything I buy away in two months or so when I move.

I have no stove, tabletop burner nor anything like that (unless I go out and buy one, and I don't intend to)---just a kettle.

Recently, I've been feeling unwell partly due to eating only kettle-cooked pasta, instant noodles, and some kind of imported muesli. I really want to have more variety and nutrition, and I'd strongly prefer something vegetarian.

Question: How can I cook a nutritious vegetarian meal using only a kettle, a teaspoon, a bowl, and a pair of scissors?

  • Do you have a stove, some kind of tabletop burner or access to either?
    – Neph
    Feb 24, 2020 at 14:54
  • Is the kettle the type with a visible heating coil through the water (hard to clean) or is it more like pot + stove in one (i.e. easier to clean)? Feb 24, 2020 at 15:23
  • 1
    – cja
    Feb 24, 2020 at 15:34
  • 1
    To prepare vegetables and fruits you will likely find it worthwhile to add a small kitchen knife to your supplies. It doesn't take up much space, cost is low and is often safer to use when cutting vegetables than attempting to cut them with scissors. You can probably get a small basic kitchen knife at the grocery store although not every one carries it.
    – Meg
    Feb 24, 2020 at 16:34

4 Answers 4


You can make a more nutritious soup by heating the broth (from a can or a cube/powder) to a strong boil in your kettle and pouring it over thinly sliced vegetables, plus some noodles and egg if you wish.

You can hard boil or soft boil eggs in the shell using a kettle without much mess. You may be able to poach as well (using the freezer bag method as described in Elmy's comment to make cleanup easier). Eggs are a good protein source to help you recover from not feeling well after long periods of eating only noodles.

Also consider eating fruits and nuts that don't require cooking to help you stay healthy and avoid sickness.

  • While I disagree with putting any broth-making materials into the kettle, thinly slicing vegetables will greatly reduce cooking time and is a great "life hack" for this sort of thing.
    – goodguy5
    Feb 26, 2020 at 1:08

There are many "food hacks" or "bachelor recipes" that use only a kettle to prepare a meal. Some of them include:

  • First put some water into the kettle (at least enough to completely cover the heating coils). Put foods into a freezer bag, then hang the bag into the kettle. It must not touch the heating coils. It's best to pull then opening over the rim of the kettle and secure the bag in place by shutting the kettle's lid. Please make sure the bags you use are food safe and don't melt at boiling temperatures.
  • You can cook rice and pasta directly in a kettle, but cleanup will be hard or impossible. Make sure to pull the power plug befor putting your spoon into the kettle to get the rice / pasta out!
  • You could cook ingredients that need a longer boiling time (like lentils, chickpeas, rice and harder vegetables) in a thermos flask. The flask keeps the water at boiling temperature just long enough to cook those ingredients. Maybe you could replace a thermos flask with any tight sealing container that gets tightly packed into thick blankets as soon as the boiling water was added. It won't be as well-cooked as traditional pot-on-stove cooking, but it may be a welcome change.
  • Eat things that don't need long boiling, like couscous, rice noodles or oat meal. Put it with any seasoning you like into a bowl, pour boiling water on top and cover it with a lid to keep the heat inside.
  • Use nutritious ingredients that don't need much boiling, like nuts, peanuts, seeds (like sesame), tofu, fruits and vegetables that can be blanched.
  • Use spices and herbs to make bland meals more appetizing.

There are websites dedicated to cooking only with a kettle, like this one and this one. Be aware though, if you put ingredients directly into the kettle (without a freezer bag), it'll probably be impossible to get it clean again.

Some websites propose to put a small, unopened can of food directly into the kettle. I advice against this, because the heated can is under preassure and the contents could squirt in your direction when you try to open it.

  • 2
    About the leaching of chemicals: Commercial canning happens at temperatures significantly over boiling water. Any can, including inner lining if present, must be found safe for those temperatures and the storage time that may be multiple years. I don’t think heating in hot water will be a problem.
    – Stephie
    Feb 24, 2020 at 14:55

You can blanche many kinds of vegetables using boiling water from the kettle. I don't know how long you have to do this for most vegetables, but my does it to celery using just 1 kettle's worth of boiling water (without a stove or reheating). Presumably you could reboil the water and repeat the process if necessary.


The other answers give you some very interesting solutions. I will not dig into them any more.

I just want to tell you that I was able to handle situations with a lot less tools than you.

  1. I only had a knife. I created fresh salads (I was able to buy a variety of vegetables and fruits).
  2. I did not have even a knife. I ate the fruits / vegetables as if they were apples. Removing the inedible peel - the mighty teeth. Of course, I stood away from potatoes, hard shelled stuff (nuts)... I have to admit that this was an exceptional case.

Imagination is the limit. And the will to survive :)

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