Tag Archives: Wok

Lessons learned

At times it seems we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.  It may be melodramatic to call it a “wok disaster” if I actually ate the meal, but it felt like a “disaster”.  I apologize in advance to those of you who have survived tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.  I have not survived those, so I still use that word with casual abandon.

MISTAKE #1: I waited until I was absolutely starving before I started cooking, and that led me to….

MISTAKE #2: Even knowing that wok cooking goes quickly, I failed to have all ingredients ready to go into the wok before cooking, which led me to…..

MISTAKE #3: Charred ginger and garlic (the first step in the recipe)…..

MISTAKE #4: I continued on cooking despite charring the garlic and ginger, hoping somehow it would be lost in the dish.  It wasn’t.  (Note to self: Next time stop, scrub the pan, then start over.)

FINAL RESULT: A reasonable meal, which had pieces of charcoal in it that needed to be picked out or spit out, and  a kitchen that smelled like a kitchen fire for several days.  Not exactly appetizing.

I didn’t photograph the charcoal bits.


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Filed under Wok Mistakes

Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy

Recipe was from: “Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge”; copyright 2010 Simon & Schuster; by Grace Young; p. 154-155.

After choosing my new wok at The Wok Shop, I found the most adorable baby bok choy in a tiny market in SF Chinatown, so selection of this recipe was ingredient driven.  See Grace Young’s cookbook above, for the recipe (buy the book!)

The final result was like going to a terrific Chinese restaurant. The ingredients were perfectly cooked and not a bit overdone. The sauce had a lovely shiny glow:




I learned some basic wok skills while preparing this meal:

1. Get all the ingredients assembled before starting.  Wok-ing is fast!

2. A basic starting routine is to heat the wok, add oil, then aromatics garlic and ginger.

3. Push aside aromatics, then sear protein undisturbed in an even layer for half its cooking time; stir-fry until done, then remove protein to a platter.

4. Stir-fry veggies in oil, then add the protein back in, cover with the sauce, and stir until finished.

I goofed when cooking, because I could not read the entire recipe and simultaneously keep up with the cooking. When the protein was half-cooked I added the veggies and sauce all at the same time and I never moved the protein to a platter.  Oops!  It did not seem to affect the taste any. Everything tasted perfectly prepared. I used prawns instead of scallops.

Next time I plan to reduce the high-sodium ingredients in the sauce because the taste was much too salty for my taste buds.  Typically I cook without added sodium.  I calculated that this meal had almost 2,600 mg sodium and I already had omitted the added salt and used low-sodium broth instead of regular broth.  The above sodium count does not include sodium that may be in the brown rice.

I have been mulling exactly how to reduce the sauce ingredients and still capture authentic Chinese flavor. It must be possible because Chinese restaurant food is less salty than this dish using the recipe as written.  I am not certain how to do it, though.  I plan to research recipes in my 1979 cookbook, “The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook”, by Gloria Bley Miller and see if I can figure that out. I remember thinking that book was very expensive, though in 1979, it was $14.95 for 926 pages.

Tonight I am cooking the same recipe with scallops instead of the prawns I used the first time, and I will alter the sauce to reduce the saltiness, then edit this post to report my experiment.  The easy answer could be to cut salty sauce ingredients in half, but I may try to compensate in some way.


Filed under Wok cooking

Buying my first carbon steel WOK

Luckily I live a short drive from The Wok Shop, Tane Chan’s San Francisco Chinatown store, where my friend and I each bought the 14″ size of this wok:


USA-made-pow-wok USA-made-pow-wok-in-1

Without wooden handles, this wok can be used in the oven for paella, or even to roast a turkey.  It is jumping ahead, but I discovered while cooking, that the hollow handle stays cool, and it is easy to wok and serve with it.

It was so much fun being in Tane’s store. Every inch of the little store is crammed with merchandise having to do with either wok cookery or eating wok creations. Tane is extremely outgoing and friendly, and seems a woman of integrity, so by the time we left the store I felt like she is now a friend. I can’t say enough good about Tane.  She is the nicest person I have met in any store in a very long time, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting her.

The Wok Shop (wokshop.com) is the place to buy your wok because you can’t make a bad purchase from Tane, and you can’t buy cookware from a nicer person.

In addition to the wok we added a domed lid, steaming insert, natural bristle brush, chop sticks, stainless oil canisters, and spatulas of various types and sizes.  Of course, we also bought Grace Young’s book, “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge”.

An unexpected purchase was a mortar & pestle for grinding dried spices, of an unusual design, which has the pestle the same size as the mortar.  Image


Filed under Buy wok