Cooking with a Wok
Why Grace Young thinks a wok cooks the ultimate stir-fry.
By Grace Young
I still remember it vividly. The moment I swirled the peanut oil into the preheated wok, it shimmered. With the minced ginger, the carbon steel hummed and crackled, releasing a gingery-lemony perfume. The marinated chicken lent the wok music a steady sizzle. After searing undisturbed for a minute, the chicken, to my amazement, yielded to the metal spatula without a hint of sticking and, after a quick stir-fry, achieved a perfect golden hue. Growing hungrier and happier, I added a touch more oil along with sugar snaps, carrots and roasted cashews. Within a few strokes of the spatula, the sugar snaps turned bright green. I added a couple spoonfuls of rich chicken broth, a splash of rice wine and soy sauce. Stir-frying the mixture until the vegetables were crisp and tender, I could feel myself bonding not only with my wok, but with the hundreds of years of tradition that had produced such a simple, healthy and elegant cooking technique. The chicken that evening possessed the concentrated caramelized flavor and seared aroma known as wok hei that the Chinese prize. The vegetables were exquisitely sweet and crunchy.