From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Easy Wok Fun

Some of the most fun I have while cooking is in a busy kitchen at dinner time.  That pales in comparison to what I have experienced in the restaurant industry.  One of the most active professional kitchens you'll see is in a busy Chinese restaurant at lunchtime. The woks will be fired up and, even if the eatery only has few of them, the cooks will be able to whip up a large menu of offerings faster than you can say "kung pao chicken."

Wok cooking is quick cooking, and same rules apply, whether it takes place in a restaurant or in your home.

If you peek into a busy Chinese restaurant kitchen or frequent one like I do that has a window looking into the kitchen, you'll see bowls and containers of chopped and ready-to-cook ingredients, sauces and other items the cook can use to create a dish quickly.

When cooking in a wok at home, follow this technique and don't turn on the stove until all the ingredients needed for your dish are chopped, measured and ready to go. If you do so, you can focus on cooking your dish to perfection, and not be distracted by chopping an ingredient while the others blaze away in the wok. In a good Chinese restaurant you'll also notice how precisely things such as vegetables and meats are cut, which ensures they will cook evenly.

Wok cooking is often high-temperature cooking, so be sure that the wok is sufficiently heated before starting to add ingredients. If you add them to the wok when it's just barely warm, foods will steam rather stir-fry. In a restaurant they usually have powerful, gas-fired woks that heat up in seconds. At home, though, your wok might take a few minutes to heat up, particularly on a electric range.

I like to use vegetable or peanut oil in my wok because they have a high smoke point, the temperature at which they start to burn. After the oil is added to the wok, allow it to heat up before adding the food, evenly swirling it around the bottom and up the sides of the wok. When starting to add your ingredients, move them around so that all come in contact with the hot surfaces of the wok.
Wok cooking often involves cooking ingredients in stages and then combining them at the last minute. Doing this ensures you are not trying to cook too great a volume of ingredients at once, which in turn ensures foods get properly cooked and nicely colored.

I use this technique in most of my recipes, where the vegetables are quickly stir-fried and then removed from the wok. Marinet slices of meat are then added to the wok and cooked through. A sauce mixture is added to the wok and brought to a simmer, and then the vegetables are returned to the wok for a quick heating. This dish tastes great served over steamed rice.

It makes for easier cooking than most realize.  Until next time, Good Eating, Friends...

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