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The Wok


Celery Man
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After talking about this “Kenji” fellow from the cooking internet for much of last year, my wife for Christmas got me a wok and his book, The Wok. I’m going to cook a bunch of this shit. This thread is for that, or for anyone else to join in with wok dishes they like or have made recently.

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First up, Pepper Steak.

Spoiler

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I haven’t gone to the Asian market, so I’m still low on ingredients. I thought I had Shoyu, but was thinking of Tamari. I used Tamari with the marinade but just soy for the sauce. I don’t have the wine either. Closest I have from a ph perspective is balsamic. Feels not very Chinese, but…. decided it was an ok option. I didn’t rinse my rice like I usually do, that was a mistake.

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Was actually really great. Too much black pepper for the toddler, which I should have realized. This is the first time I’ve cooked in a wok. Wasn’t sure how it would go with our standard glass top electric stove, but it worked pretty well. It does get hot AF. Obviously still getting the mechanics down and I fumbled with the meat a bit. Overall though, tasty. The actual cooking went quick. Can’t wait to get into more recipes.

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The most important thing to wok cooking is having a hot enough stove and keeping it hot. We had to look far and wide to find a stove hot enough for our wok. Ended up with a $2000 imported Italian thing (with the reliability you'd expect from Italian engineering) that does 18,000 BTU.

You can get away with less with a smaller wok.

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The book is great so far btw. Obviously lots of recipes, but there’s a lot of technique, explanation, discussion of ingredients, details  etc. For example discussing exactly that problem (wok cooking in your home kitchen with a stove that is not the temperature of the sun) he describes cooking in smaller batches as the general workaround.

 

 This go round I was trying to do the tossing thing and realized I was holding the pan off the stove for too long probably. It does get crazy hot though, oil jumping immediately upon hitting the wok.

Edited by Celery Man
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Be aware that you really need a wok burner (as mentioned above) to properly use a wok. The strength of a wok is that you always have very hot surface and you are always transitioning the food to a new, hot region of the wok. Outdoor turkey fryer burner works well for this. Indoor burner or stove doesn't do this well, it applies heat to too small a portion of the wok surface.

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I had held off on buying this/a wok even though these are the kinds of meals that hit my flavorful checkbox, my wife’s various picky eater checkboxes, and the toddler’s bite size pieces checkbox for the reasons listed above. Whether I can use this as a true wok or not, I’m excited about how this went compared to when I made… moo shu pork not long ago in a le creuset skillet. We’ll see how it goes, but the book I think is written for the home cook in a standard western kitchen and has this to say

 

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Edited by Celery Man
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Good luck. I’ve never had much success with a wok on a home range, especially my electric smooth top. I usually go for more heat over the shape so usually just use a cast iron skillet. Don’t like the flat bottom woks.

My dream kitchen would have a double wok burner that would go to a jillion degrees. In the meantime im going to try a outdoor burner.

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honestly like others have said unless you have at a minimum a 20,000 BTU burner you'll eventually find yourself frustrated with wok cooking.  (we use a turkey fryer burner on the patio.)  it's not how hot your wok gets when you initially put in the ingredients, it's how hot the wok can *stay* as you're tossing and flipping.  only direct flame, and lots of it, can do the job.  

 

there are some work arounds though.  if you're frying rice you can do it on MEDIUM HIGH for about 20 minutes and achieve almost the same results.  don't use high, you'll actually burn the rice.  counterintuitive, i know.  this method won't work for foods that have a tenderness component to them (meat and vegetables) but for stuff like noodles and rice it's fine.  

 

another strategy is to get the wok heated like normal and throw your ingredients in for a minute or two and then take it out, heat up your wok again, and throw the ingredients back in.  do small batches though.  you don't want the food resting outside of the wok for longer than a couple minutes otherwise it changes the tenderness profile.  

 

keep on cooking, interested in seeing your pictures.

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23 hours ago, Sam Lin said:

Be aware that you really need a wok burner (as mentioned above) to properly use a wok. The strength of a wok is that you always have very hot surface and you are always transitioning the food to a new, hot region of the wok. Outdoor turkey fryer burner works well for this. Indoor burner or stove doesn't do this well, it applies heat to too small a portion of the wok surface.

 

Listen to the Asian dude bro.  

 

https://www.google.com/search?q="portable+gas+burner"+wok&lr=&safe=images&as_qdr=all&ei=cPqsY8a4HaytqtsP6_C0iAc&ved=0ahUKEwjGsJuD4538AhWslmoFHWs4DXEQ4dUDCBA&uact=5&oq="portable+gas+burner"+wok&gs_lcp=Cgxnd3Mtd2l6LXNlcnAQAzIGCAAQCBAeMgYIABAIEB4yBggAEAgQHjIFCAAQhgM6CggAEEcQ1gQQsAM6BwgAEIAEEA06CAgAEAgQBxAeOgYIABAeEA06CAgAEAUQHhANOggIABAIEB4QDToNCAAQBRAeEA8Q8QQQDToLCAAQCBAeEPEEEA1KBAhBGABKBAhGGABQxQ1YmiVgqShoAnABeACAAXGIAfsFkgEDOS4xmAEAoAEByAEIwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz-serp

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Posted (edited)
On 12/27/2022 at 7:06 PM, Sam Lin said:

Be aware that you really need a wok burner (as mentioned above) to properly use a wok. The strength of a wok is that you always have very hot surface and you are always transitioning the food to a new, hot region of the wok. Outdoor turkey fryer burner works well for this. Indoor burner or stove doesn't do this well, it applies heat to too small a portion of the wok surface.

Actually, you usually want a smaller surface area getting most of the heat, right on that bottom center part of the wok. Focusing all the heat on that small area, then letting the thin metal transmit that heat around.

And you can do it indoors with (1) a great vent a hood overhead, (2) a hot enough but not too hot stove, and (3) the right size of wok (not too small or too big).

We have an 18k. central double-ringed burner, a Kobe vent a hood, 10.5" wok. Works great.

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☝️ central burner on full blast with wok and hood visible

Notice that the outer ring is about the same diameter as the flat portion of the wok's bottom. The inner ring is not optional -- you want a big blast of heat in the center.

10.5" is a pretty small wok so we can't make a ton of food at once, but we can make enough to feed the family.

Edited by Rimbo
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Mixed success with a black bean pan fried tofu recipe. Or mixed failure. I couldn’t find douchi (Asian market was more like a Korean market) and I think what I used was saltier. And this looked like death, and the kid wouldn’t eat it. But it was actually pretty tasty cut with rice, and the texture of the tofu was great.

Spoiler

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Won’t make it again probably, but will use the boiled water method to prep tofu for pan frying.

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what was a hit was canned biscuit donuts I made over the weekend with the used cooking oil from sesame chicken. Not a wok recipe but it is a pretty good frying vessel 😃

 

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16 hours ago, SimonBolivar said:

If I could learn to make the chicken from Mala Sichuan in Houston then I'd never eat anything else ever again. 

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I've tried making laziji and it just never turns out right. Maybe I need a Wok to get it right.

Looks interesting. unfortunately I have a toddler and someone who thinks pepperoni is hot at the table, so I’m a bit afraid to explore spicier stuff. Maybe I’ll figure out how to do some of these in spicy/non spicy batches 

Spoiler

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Need to get an outdoor burner when it warms up or a torch for the kitchen. Read an interesting page in the book that a shortcut to replicate the smoky flavor where you absolutely need the flames is to toast the salt in the (seasoned) carbon steel wok.

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Cheesy scallion pancakes

Spoiler

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This looked good and so I thought I’d whip it up for lunch. Seemed easy enough.

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fuck

actually not that bad, kitchen is already put back together. I’m just the worst at doing things efficiently when it is my first time. This was actually my first time making dough in the food processor. Should have tried to wrap the pancakes tighter and rolled them wider. Should have gone one at a time instead of assembly line, just for the counter space to roll.

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Pretty good. Doughy, cheesy, oniony. That’s about right.

 

I’m kinda intrigued by carbon steel now - I was able to just wipe out the pan. Which, given how poor I did containing everything in the dough, surprising. Like gsoda said - seasoning worked well. Although maybe it is simply cooking in a lot of oil.

 

will probably make again

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