What better possible way to celebrate the Chinese New Year on Friday 16th February, than with a with a spectacular home cooked banquet! Cooking authentic Chinese food at home doesn't need to be scary, all the ingredients you need can be found in supermarket aisles throughout the country and the beauty of much Chinese and Far Eastern cookery, is the ease and speed by which delicious, aromatic and healthy meals can be created!
Wok cooking is a tremendously versatile – not just for stir-frying, you can use them for steaming, deep frying and making curries. This supremely versatile piece of cookware will quickly establish itself as one the your most used pans in your kitchen. Here’s a quick low-down on some of the most common queries regarding woks and stir-frying in general:
There are 2 common materials for non-stick woks – a steel or aluminium construction coated with a non-stick coating which is great for convenience and fitting in with the way we normally cook. Quick and easy to clean and available in a wide range of shapes and sizes from 8” (20cm) up to large 14” (35cm) woks.
A Toughened Non-Stick Wok has the added benefit of an aluminium substrate which gives exceptional heat distribution throughout the entire body of the pan, and the Le Creuset TNS wok features their outstanding coating, which can withstand higher temperatures than traditional non-stick coatings.
Modern woks feature a slightly flattened base (a traditional Chinese wok would be completely curved) which means that they can be used on gas or electric hobs – although the best heat source for stir frying is a gas burner as that is traditionally how they were designed to be used. Many of our woks can even be used on induction hobs.
These are more like the traditional Chinese woks, and when new have a silver metallic finish. Before use a carbon steel wok must be ‘seasoned’ which involves heating some vegetable or groundnut oil in the pan for a period of time and wiping it around the interior surface. If a wok requires seasoning, it will carry the full instructions on the packaging, so please read this with care.
Once seasoned a carbon steel wok should not be scrubbed clean after each use as this will rub off the seasoning layers that you are building up – over time the interior of the wok will become blackened, this is a good thing! This layer adds flavour and effectively works like a natural non-stick coating over time.
What Equipment do I need?
Apart from the wok itself, many of the tools and equipment used in Chinese cookery are much the same as the normal equipment you will already have in your kitchen, if you cook Chinese food regularly or want to go for a more authentic experience, here are a few suggestions to get you started…
The secret to stir-frying is to keep the food moving in the pan, the easiest way to do this is using a long spoon or spatula. We recommend a silicone ended spatula, as they can withstand extremely hot temperatures and will not damage or scratch the coating on your wok.
Great for when you are using your wok as a deep fat fryer for Chinese snacks such as wontons, these wire basket scoops allow you to easily pick out the pieces that are cooked individually, or by a scoopful if they are all perfectly golden.
Not a necessity exactly, but a wonderful way to cook and serve steamed dumplings, or pancakes to accompany crispy duck, at the table, reminiscent of a traditional Chinese Dim Sum restaurant. Bamboo steamers can sit on top of your wok, or on top of a normal saucepa, and can be used for steaming fish, meats and vegetables too.
Skilled Chinese chefs will use their chopper for almost every imaginable cutting task in the kitchen. The fine edge and deep square blade cut, shred, chop and slice with ease. Any sharp kitchen knife will do the job admirably, but if you really want to feel the part, with a cleaver in your hand you will feel like the great Ken Hom himself!
How to turn heads and impress your friends with your Chinese kitchen prowess! Who hasn’t looked around in a restaurant before to see where that amazing sizzling sound and fabulous smells are coming from? Turn any meal into a banquet feast with this show stopping presentation.
Traditionally Chinese people tend to eat the majority of their meals from bowls using chopsticks. The shape of the bowl makes it much easier to pick up the smaller foods – nobody enjoys spending 5 minutes chasing a single pea around a large plate with their chopsticks! If you are not confident with chopsticks but still want to join in the fun, we can help you there, with the Chopsticks Buddy which clips 2 chopsticks together or the Rookiestix which are sprung and therefore really easy to use – even small children will be able to use them with ease.
Top Tips for Stir-frying:
1. Chinese cooking is 90% preparation and10% cooking – so make sure that you have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go before you start any cooking. Jeremy has a fabulous suggestion of arranging all your prepared ingredients on a plate, place the first ingredient at 12 o’clock on your plate, then work around in a clockwise direction, placing each ingredient in the order that your will need them.
2. Both agree that before cooking you need to heat up your wok and a small amount of oil until it is smoking hot
3. Jeremy suggests that you don’t add all the oil for the recipe to the pan right at the beginning – it’s much better to add a little after each ingredient (if needed) as this will prevent your food from becoming too greasy
4. Ken recommends that vegetables should, where possible, be cut to the same sizes – this means they will cook evenly and look more aesthetically pleasing too! Remember that tougher vegetables such as broccoli will need to be added to the wok earlier than foods like Pak Choi, as they require more cooking.
5. Keep it moving! It’s called stir-fry and that’s what it needs – stirring. You can try the flipping technique if you are feeling brave, but using a turner will work just as well and has far less potential for covering your kitchen in scorching hot vegetables and oil!
Whatever wok you go for, we know it will give you many, many years of delicious service - Happy New Year of the Dog!