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Cooking note: the Chinese wok

(This is a typical Chinese kitchen belonging to a rich family 700 years ago. The photo was taken in Zhouzhuan)

The Chinese Wok

Saying about adopting the taste here in England, actually, the first thing I adopted (in terms of cooking) was the wok. After moving out from a host-family, I was almost overwhelmed with the idea of starting cooking Chinese food everyday. When I went shopping for cooking ‘equipment’, I was so surprised to find different kinds of woks in shops – I didn’t know that Chinese food was so popular here, but at the same time, I was also disappointed to see that Chinese food in the UK mainly adopted Cantonese style, which is very different to the kind of food we have back home — needless to say, homesick, or say ‘foodsick’ followed.

Types of Chinese woks

So the wok I bought was different to the ones I was used to. The traditional Chinese wok for stir frying is not very big, but deep enough, with rounded bottom, (while woks sold in the UK normally come with  flat bottom), and the top edge is a little bit ‘withdrawn’ for holding the heat.  It comes with one long handle without lid, which allows you to lift it up easily for stir frying. In Chinese, it is called ‘Chao Shao’, Chao as in ‘stir fry’, Shao as in spoon, so you can imagine. :)))

And there is another type of Chinese wok, which we call “guo”. It is normally used to cook…for example, stews.  It normally doesn’t come with a long handle, but rather with two small ones; it is much bigger, it comes with a lid, can contain more food, and it requires both hands to be lifted; the bottom is rounded, and the top edge is ‘opened up’. The ones in the UK sometimes combine these two types in one, and they are all called ‘wok’. Well, they do the job, but, it is a bit confusing, for example, when I tried to explain to my Chinese friend what do I use, she got so confused for which one I was exactly talking about. :)))

The wok is traditionally made of iron, and not ‘non-sticky’. Before cooking, ‘preparing the wok’ is needed — just heat the wok, and pour oil in, move around the wok, so the oil could touch every part of the inside, then remove the oil from the wok – now you can cook with a ‘non-sticky’ wok. I prefer this one, coz you don’t have to worry if the ‘non-sticky’ surface would come off and cause health concerns. But, if you use this wok, it is not advised to use it for boiling water or soup, it will set back your wok to ‘sticky’, then you have  to prepare again. This kind of wok is sold in Chinese supermarkets, and it is still used in the Chinese restaurants and take-aways.

The iron wok is good for stir-frying — heats up quickly, not thick enough for not getting food burned easily. We normally say that the food tastes different depending on the material the wok is made of. And now, with globalization, the wok has been changing — there are different materials, different shapes….There is a new type of wok on the market now, it is ‘double layered’, and there is a little gap between the two layers, good for keeping warm and easy to hand not to burn the food. Anyway, what I would suggest is not to get those very thin layered woks with good material. And try to lift up the wok give it a gooood stir…. feel like a really good chef! :))

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Cooking note: adding water
Mung beans in Chinese cuisine
A weekend meal idea for 2-3 people

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