Using a wok can be a very good alternative to Western cooking methods. Because of it’s curved shape and sloped sides, it is easier to manage and control food while cooking. Instead of chasing food around the pan, most of it falls back into the middle of the wok naturally, where it cooks most effectively.
Wok cooking is not only a quick and effective means of cooking, but it is also very versatile, allowing for different cooking styles.
Stir-frying is often associated with wok cooking and can be a very quick and is an easy method of making a meal.
Stir fry works best with thinly sliced ingredients, so that the food cooks quicker. Also, by ensuring that the food is constantly being stirred, you can cook at higher temperatures without it burning.
For example, take this egg noodles and stir-fry vegetables recipe:
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
- 1 carrot, 1 courgette, 100g baby sweet corn (cut into strips)
- 1 tbsp. corn flour
- 150ml beef stock
- 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Heat 1 tbsp. sunflower oil in a large wok, stir-fry garlic, carrot, courgette, and sweet corn for 3 to 4 minutes. Add beef and continue to stir-fry for 4-5 minutes. Mix corn flour with 1 tbsp. water and mix into beef stock. Stir this into wok together with sugar, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Bring to simmer, cook until slightly thickened, then serve with rice.
Steaming can be a great method of cooking, in which food is placed on a perforated surface over boiling water, the food is then cooked by the heat of the steam, which although hotter than boiling water, is less dense and cooks more gently.
The ideal means of steaming in a wok is with a bamboo steamer. Unlike conventional pan lids, bamboo steamers prevent the steam from condensing and dripping back onto your food. They are cheap, efficient, and almost perfectly designed for the job. Alongside this it allows multiple bamboo steamers to be used simultaneously through stacking.
Although even without a bamboo steamer, steaming can still be achieved using a bowl, or even an empty aluminum pie dish, with holes pierced in it. Steaming is a great means of cooking vegetables especially, as it helps preserve the nutrients in the vegetables that can be lost through boiling.
An under-appreciated and ingenious method of cooking in a wok is to smoke food. Due to its depth and width, it is possible to use a wok to smoke food indoors. Although much of wok-smoked food may require further cooking afterwards, it is often worth the extra step to infuse that smoked flavour.
- For example, a brilliant precursor to broiling chicken wings is to smoke them before grilling:
- Cover wok in heavy-duty foil, pressed into bottom of wok, with enough to hang over the edges by 5-6 inches.
- Set a metal rack above the wok.
- Add sugar, white rice, green tea pearls, star anise and coriander seeds.
- Set burner to medium-high, heat ingredients till they begin to smoke.
- Place chicken wings on rack, evenly spaced.
- Cover wings with a second layer of foil, crimp edges to create contained space around food.
- Leave on medium heat for 10 minutes, turn off heat and leave for 20 minutes.
- Upon completion, the wings will be ready to be grilled.
Deep frying can be easily achieved in a wok, and because of its shape, requires less oil than regular pots. Also because of it’s size, you can often fry more food simultaneously without crowding, meaning you can fry larger amounts quicker.
Not only this, but with its steep edges, deep-frying in a wok can mean less spillages. When deep-frying in a wok, you shouldn’t fill it more than half way, as such spitting fat doesn’t make it over the edges of the wok. Not only is this cleaner, but there is less risk of burning fat landing on skin or clothing.
In conclusion, a wok is a must-have item in any kitchen. Not only does it make for easy and efficient cooking, but it is also a very versatile cooking utensil.
Sally Lindsey likes to experiment with new cooking ideas and share her experience with her friends and colleagues. She is also keen discovering new interior design trends for kitchens. She developed and improved her design ideas while working at Audus Kitchens.