Woke about Woks

#Asiancookingtip - To cook real Asian food, you've gotta talk the talk and you've also gotta "wok the wok"! And we know, a wok may seem daunting at first, but we can assure you, it has the potential to be ye' ol' faithful for stir-fry food.


But first things first...



WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WOK AND A FRYING PAN

Both are great for stir-fry. The authentic traditional woks are designed with a round, cone shaped base which allows heat to be concentrated at the center base, while the deep slopping walls trap heat within, therefore allowing food to cook much faster as compared to the frying pan. The frying pan, with its flat base allows for oil or any liquids to rest evenly at the base. However, one thing that the wok can do better than the frying pan is bringing 'wok hey' into your food.


'Wok hey' in English means the 'breath of the wok'. Wok what....?! There is a science behind it 😎. Oil from the wok, when tossed up, drips back down into the open flame. This causes a a flare up (or flame up) in direct contact with the ingredients. This triggers caramelization and Maillard browning. And this is what creates that beautiful aroma of food fried using a wok!




TYPES OF WOKS OUT THERE & WHAT YOU SHOULD CONSIDER

Most woks are either made up of stainless steel, carbon steel or cast iron material.



MATERIALS A WOK IS MADE FROM

Stainless steel woks are durable with a shiny, reflective mirror surface which is easy to clean. Little necessity to season the wok and is a lot less porous compared to cast iron or carbon steel.

Pros: Great for proteins

Cons: Prone to sticking


Carbon steel woks provide fast and even heating. Its a favorite amongst chefs.

Pros: Relatively lightweight, can handle super high heat, great for stir-fry vegetables.

Cons: Needs to be seasoned

(Quick tip: These woks have to be seasoned to reduce the chances of food sticking to the wok when cooking & avoid rusting as it creates a protective layer).


Cast iron woks are the most durable of the three. They help to save energy as they can retain high heat for longer periods of time. And it seasons the more you use it, making it gradually non-stick with continuous use. Traditionally most loved wok.

Pros: Handles very high heat, great for both proteins and vegetables

Cons: Prone to rusting, needs to be seasoned

(👍👍Why we love it: This wok seasons on its own with use)




TYPES OF THE WOK

There are two types of wok; the Cantonese style wok and the Mandarin wok.

You can tell them apart from the style of handle.


Cantonese woks have 2 U-shaped handles on either sides of the wok. (Tip: Great when you need to carry a wok is full of food)


Mandarin woks have only one long handle like a saucepan. (Tip: Great if you like to toss your food like the pros!👌)


(👍Tip: We like the ones in which the handles are one entire piece with the body instead of a separate piece fused together)



DEPTH OF WOK & STOVE TYPE

✔The deep the wok, the easier is will be to stir-fry ingredients such a vegetables. ✔Round based (more like conical based) woks makes food easier to toss. But you need to ensure that your gas stove is able to house the wok. (👍 that's where wok rings come in handy dandy.)




HOW TO START FRYING USING A WOK

The fundamentals of cooking with a wok are simple. Start with the aromatics, next the proteins and then vegetables (✔Great tip: For proteins and vegetables, add them in order of longest to shortest cooking times)


  1. Add oil to the wok

  2. Heat the wok until you start to smell the oil

  3. Add in your aromatics (E.g. Garlic / ginger /onions / herbs..etc that the recipe calls for)

  4. Cook aromatics until you can smell the aroma coming out and it turns lightly brown / shrinks in size (as onion do)

  5. Add in your proteins. Sear it well on one side before flipping to the other. (Tip: Cook proteins until 75% done and remove all contents from the wok to a separate plate to be added back in later instead of leaving them in the pan).

  6. Add in your vegetables. The general idea is that vegetables that are roots like potatoes and carrots take longer time to cook while leafy ones take a shorter time.





RECIPES YOU CAN MAKE WITH A WOK 🍽

Woks are essentially the best for stir-frying. But it is very versatile and can also be used to do other things such as blanch vegetables or for deep-frying.



Biang biang Szechuan Udon Stir-fry Noodles
Biang Biang Szechuan Udon Noodles

Some of the best meals to make with a wok :

You can try these simple wok recipes using any of the above Mekhala East Asian paste.




HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR WOK / HOW TO SEASON A NEW WOK BEFORE USE ?

Seasoning your wok is an important step for cast iron and carbon steel woks. If done properly and regularly, it will reduce the amount of oil, butter or fat needed when cooking.


If you are using your wok for the first time, wash thoroughly with kitchen detergent and a non-abrasive sponge. Then, use kitchen towels to dry the wok, then put the wok on the stove and heat it up. The wok will start to turn a brown color and product smoke. This is an indication that surface residual oils are beginning to burn off. As time goes on, the wok will begin to superheat and remove impurities left behind by industrial oils.


Continue to tilt the wok during this process to ensure that the wok is heated evenly for even seasoning. (Precaution: If your wok, has wooden handles, please wrap the with aluminum foil before you even start heating the wok.) The heating process is complete one you notice the wok has changed from brown to a blue tint.


Turn off the heat to the wok cool slightly before washing it again under running water with detergent. Then, replace wok back onto the stove, and gently reheat the wok to dry it thoroughly. Then, add about 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil (any that can withstand high heat) and spread it all over the surface of the wok with a spatula and wok tilting action until you obtain an even coating across the entire concave surface.


Then turn off the heat. The wok should finally look a blackish blue tint with a shiny surface. Cool the wok down and wipe off any access oils on the surface. You will notice that the heated oil forms a patina on the surface. And that layer is what protects your wok from rusting.



GENERAL CARE & WOK MAINTENANCE

Woks are usually very low maintenance. For general care, simply wash the wok with a gentle brush or a soft sponge. To remove tough residues, simply soak the wok in lukewarm water prior to washing. To maintain the wok, seasoning of woks should be done every time after you wash the wok to prevent water from getting in contact with the inner surface of the wok to avoid rusting.


🎉🎉We hope that you can now say, you are woke enough to "wok the wok" (pun intended). 😉 Give the wok a chance, and we are sure you will wok away a happy lark.


Let us know your thoughts and experiences with using a wok in the comment box below.



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