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Asian Foods - Learning How To Wok

I got my first wok at age 12, along with a cleaver and a book of Chinese cooking styles and recipes.

The wok is a great, all-purpose pan. I think if I had to have only one pan, it would be the wok. It's best for high tempearture stir frying, but can also be used for deep frying, soups, and just about anything else a regular stove top pot or pan could do. I haven't tried it, but I bet it would be good for popcorn.

The wok is one piece of curved metal, designed to take the high heat at the base and spread it evenly up the sides. There's a saying that you can't have a wok that's too hot. You can turn your stove burners all the way up for stir frying.

The key to most chinese recipes is to cut the food into nice, bite-sized, chopstick-ready pieces before you begin. The small pieces increase surface area, and allow for rapid cooking under high heat. It's also good to have some finely chopped garlic and ginger to toss in for added flavor, too.

If everything is prepped, cooking is a snap. Heat up a good high temperature oil such as peanut oil until it is almost smoking, then cook each ingredient by adding it into the wok and rapidly tossing it about with your wok spatula.

I usually start with the meat. A couple of pork chops or pieces of boneless chicken cut into cubes and lightly covered in cornstarch can be cooked in an inch or so of smoking hot oil in about 20 seconds.

When the meat is done, I take it out and let it drain while I toss the vegetables in. I work my way from those that require the longest cooking, like peppers and onions, to those that just need a bit of it, like bok choy, spinach, or pineapple.

Final step is often to toss the meat back in and add some sauce material. This can be as simple as some soy, or a bit spicier with a spoonful of black bean sauce, hoison sauce, or other pleasures. I've used maple syrup in some sauce mixtures.

The wok is easy to clean, too. It's like a cast iron frying pan in that it gets seasoned and builds up a nice protective layer over time, so usually it requires rinsing, a scrub with a good brush, another rinse, and a light coat of peanut oil after it dries.

A wok is a must-have kitchen tool, in my view. That wok I got at age 12, btw, lasted nearly 40 years. It's a good investment.

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Fried Rice

Fried rice is a pretty easy dish to make. The trick is to use day-old rice.

First, scramble an egg and set it aside.

In your big pan, add a bit of oil and quickly stir fry whatever meat you may be using. When it is just about done, add in your chopped onions and get them going.

If you have other vegetables than need some cooking (as opposed to just heating) add them and toss them around. Carrots, pepper, and so on.

Time for the rice. I add it in small batches, and adjust the amount of cooking oil to make sure it doesn't stick, but also doesn't get soggy. Sesame oil adds great flavor. Peanut oil works but doesn't have quite the right taste.

When the rice seems browned, I add soy sauce for color and flavor and toss it all some more.

Final step is to toss in the scrambled egg and any vegetables that need to be heated up but not thoroughly cooked, like peas or sprouts.



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