Technique, Tools

In Praise of the Wok (again)

The wok is a perfect cooking tool to combine heat and motion. 1.5 billion Chinese eat from it most every day.

This a new wok. My old one from Hong Kong, where I purchased it for $13, was left for the new owners at the old house, as it had a proper round bottom designed for gas and the apartment has electric (groan). This one has a small flat bottom and is hand-made of black carbon steel from Smithey. I like it, save for the price. It is well balanced in the hand, artful and reeks of quality.

I stir fry with the wok about twice a week, with mixed veggies from the freezer and thin strips of lean pork or chicken seasoned or marinaded. I do not always go Asian, often just salt and pepper.

Here is my operational sequence for wok stir frying:

1) Preheat the wok dry to very hot.

2) Add some oil (never butter) and swirl it up the sides (carefully). I use EVOO exclusively but vegetable or peanut oil work great too).

3) Add the veggies. Season with salt, pepper, your favorite veggie spice medley, or a splash of soy sauce. Stir fry till barely tender, pushing them up and down the sides with a wooden broad spoon. The sides of a hot wok are semi-dry, very hot and promote crisping.

4) Scoop out the veggies to a warm plate or bowl and set aside.

5) Add a little more oil, add the meat and toss and stir fry it until done. If the meat is cut thinly, cooking time is measured in seconds here.

6) Transfer the meat to the heated veggie plate.

7) (Optional–but good cooking practice), drizzle in some broth, up the heat, deglaze the wok with the wooden broad spoon and pour the results into a tiny side dish or directly over the meat.

8) Serve immediately.

(The apartment kitchen does not have an exterior vent, so no more high heat cooking lest the smoke alarm goes off and the security guys show up again. To compensate, I have a new Dyson Air Purifier nearby. More about that in the next pos.)

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