Wok This Way
Stir-frying is cooking small bits of meat and veggies over high heat for a short amount of time and, since it doesn’t require much fat or oil, it’s a good healthy-cooking technique to pick up. Sure, you can stir fry in a regular frying pan or even in a pot, but a wok can turn any ho-hum weeknight dinnertime into a dramatic, choreographed stir-frying event.
Ching uses a wok to make many of her recipes in Chinese Food Made Easy and there are two main types that she recommends: cast iron and carbon steel. Cast iron is most traditional for Chinese cooking, but it’s heavy. Carbon steel is more lightweight and easier to swirl. Ching uses a round-bottomed carbon steel pan in her show, with a wok stand to hold the wok steady over the burners, but you can also get flat-bottomed pans that sit flush on the burners. It’s best to avoid non-stick woks, since you cook at such a high heat, and also electric woks which won’t get hot enough for traditional stir-frying.
Prepare all ingredients in advance so they can quickly be added to the pan when ready. Cut all veggies into uniform sizes and add longer-cooking veggies to the wok first. Use oil with a high smoke point, like peanut oil or vegetable oil. Add food to the wok in this order: Aromatics (garlic, ginger, chiles, etc.) meat, then vegetables. Some recipes call for cooking the meat first and then setting it aside while you cook the veggies. As a last step, throw in a simple sauce made with a combination of Asian ingredients like soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil.
Start with a few easy recipes, and then let your imagination (and your refrigerator) be your guide. Once you get the techniques down and have a few simple sauces in mind, you’ll be cooking up stir-fry’s everyday with no recipes in sight.