Wok Cooking - Recipes, Secrets & Skills - eBook

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Wok Cooking Introduction Wok The cooking craze for gourmet meals and exotic cooking at home has finally arrived, states a feature article of TIME magazine of december 19, 1977. The cooking craze rampage has caused homemakers to purchase thousands of Chinese woks across the country. From the sensuous pleasures that these people have derived from dining at top quality Chinese restaurants across the nation, the zeal for Chinese food has reached a popularity that surprises even the most season
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  Wok Cooking Introduction   Wok   The cooking craze for gourmet meals and exotic cooking at home hasfinally arrived, states a feature article of TIME magazine of december 19, 1977. The cooking craze rampage has caused homemakersto purchase thousands of Chinese woks across the country. From thesensuous pleasures that these people have derived from dining at topquality Chinese restaurants across the nation, the zeal for Chinesefood has reached a popularity that surprises even the most seasonedChinese restauranteur. Few of these wok purchasers know much aboutwook cookery, but most express a desire to learn how to cook well inone. Hence, the reason for writing this booklet. The author has spent some ten years teaching Chinese cooking bothformally in a university classroom and informally to various consumer groups. This booklet was written in response to the numerousquestions that she has been asked within the last two years. Thebasic instructions and recipes have all been used by her manystudents. One should have a desire to know something about China and its foodsbefore seriously embarking upon cooking stylistic dishes of itscuisine. It lends greater fascination to know how some of thesedishes were developed and gives one a slight insight into Chinesecustoms and culture. The country of China, now known as The People's Republic of China, isthe largest country in the world by population, with 800,000,000people. It is the third largest country in the world by geographicalarea. Probably the best known feature of Chinese culture andcivilization is its cuisine. Chinese restaurants are found in almostall large cities of the world. Chinese cuisine has been at a high stage of sophistication for countless centuries. This is evidenced by Confucius when he wrote inhis Analects during the sixth centure, B.C., that he liked his meatminced fine and his rice polished white. Regional cooking styles haveexisted in China for at least a thousand years. Even foods described  in poetry by the Sung Dynasty poet, Su Tung Po (1037 to 1101 A.D.)are not much different from the ones consumed today. There are extantdescriptions of court banquets at Hangchow of the Sung Period (907 to1279 A.D.) that consisted of 40 to 200 courses and were served over aperiod of one to three days. To serve all this food, the elite of this period used gold, silver, jade and all types of porcelaindishes. Some of these wares are presently on display at the PekingMuseum. Since it is impractical in our society to strive toward ancientChinese court life, we can nevertheless strive to become sopisticatedgourmets. Some students are quite content to learn some Chinesedishes and add variety to their diets. To become an accomplished wok cook, it is not essential to use truly Chinese ingredients. Somestudents do prefer Chinese ingredients, but the author has found thatmost beginning wok cooks could not readily find the time to go to aChinese grocery store. Because of this inconvenience, this initialbooklet is designed to utilize ingredients that are readily availablein a large supermarket. Recipes utilizing true Chinese ingredientscan be found in another booklet, Advanced Wok Cookery , by the sameauthor. China has had a long legacy of high civilization, and it has long beenrecognized that man must exist harmoniously with society and nature.Even today, despite increased technology in agriculture and animalhusbandry, nature still creates its catastrophes; hence, the Chinesereverence for good food, well prepared. If one has only one life tolive, then at least let it be pleasant as possible for one's durationon the Earth. It is not known exactly when the Chinese first used woks. By examiningextant funerary stoves and stone relief pictures of the Han Dynasty(200 B.C. to 220 A.D.), the author conjectures that they definitelyhave been used for at least two thousand years. Since the Chinese wok is a concave shaped cooking pan without seams or corners, it war probably invented to fit directly over the round hole of the Chinesecooking stove. Wood was used to fuel the cooking stove. When the wok was put over the cooking hole, the rounded bottom of it would becomethe hottest part of it, while the upper sides remained somewhatcooler. To take advantage of this heating condition, the Chinese chow or stir fry pieces of food that have been cut up into bitesize quickly in the wok. The high heat at the bottom of the wok sealsin the individual flavours of each ingredients. With a quick stir of the wrist, all of the flavours of the ingredients are blendedtogether to form harmonious or contrasting tastes and textures.   Deep frying and steaming may also be performed in the wok. The wok isactually an all purpose cooking utensil for the Chinese. Except for avery good Chinese cleaver and a pot for cooking rice, that is allthat a Chinese really needs to prepare his meals.  Selecting A Wok   Because there are many types of woks available for sale on themarket, the novice wok cook should make some distinction among them.Some woks are sold individually while others are sold as sets withlids, rings, etc. The materials that woks are made of are spun sheetsteel, hand hammered iron (low carbon steel), and stainless steel.There are also teflon coated electric woks. For the beginner, theauthor recommends that he purchase a wok set with lid, ring, wok turner, ladle, and strainer. A wok made of low carbon steel ispreferred are this type of metal is a better conductor of heat. If one is concerned with appearance, a stainless steel wok isrecommended. It can be scoured with steel wool and restored tonewness after each use. Because stainless steel is a relatively poor conductor of heat and tends to reflect the heat back to the stove, itis recommended that a stainless wok be chosen with a slightlyflattened bottom, to provide greater contact with the heating elementof an electric stove. Regardless of the type of wok that one selects, one should consider the concaveness of a wok. There are shallow concave woks and deepconcave woks. The best wok shape is a medium concave wok. If a wok istoo deep then the heat of it will be mostly concentrated in thebottom of it and not enough on the sides. If the wok is too shallow,again, only the center of it will be heated and sides hardly at all.For the same reasons of heat conductivity, a thicker gauge wok ispreferred to a thin metal wok. Only iron and steel woks need to be seasoned. Stainless steel woks donot need this treatment as they are far less porous than iron or steel woks. However with stainless steel woks, more oil is requiredto prevent the food from sticking. Seasoning a steel wok enables foods to glide smoothly over the cookingsurface of the wok. In a properly seasoned wok one should be able tomake perfect omelettes. If the omelette even sticks ever so slightly,  then the wok is not properly seasoned and should be re-seasoned. There are two methods for seasoning the iron or steel wok. After purchasing the wok, wash it out thoroughly with detergent to removethe surface grease which is applied to keep the wok from rustingwhile in shipment. Instead of grease some woks are coated withvarnish coating and is difficult to remove. Bicarbonate of sodashould be boiled in the wok to rid the surface of this coating. Whenthe cooking surface of the wok is free of anti-rusting coatings,apply a thin coat of polyunsaturated cooking oil to the surface of the wok. Heat the wok up over a very high cooking flame for three or four minutes until the oil begins to smoke. Reduce the heat and keepthe wok over low flame for the next half hour. From time to timebrush some of the oil up around the sides of the wok to season it. Atthe end of half an hour the wok is ready to use. Another more thorough method of seasoning a wok is to brushpolyunsaturated cooking oil on the cooking surface of the wok and thenplace the wok into an oven at 150'C. for four hours. The oil in thewok will become pooled while heating in the oven, so about every hour or so, take your brush and brush the oil up around the sides of thewok and continue heating.  New woks may cause a slight metallic taste to the first two or threedishes that are cooked in it, but after use, the metallic tastedisappears.  Caring for and Storing the Wok   A properly seasoned wok should not be scoured with abrasive materialsuch as steel wool. After cooking foods in the wok, iti s best to runvery hot water into it and clean the surface of the wok with a bamboobrush or plastic scour. Dry the wok thoroughly with a paper towel andstore for future use. Some gourmets will place a small amount of oilon their fingertips to re-coat their woks to keep them in top cookingcondition. Eventually through repeated usage, a dark brown film willdevelop in the wok. The wok is now truly seasoned. This film isessentially carbon and is not harmful to one's health. The bottom of the woks, the part that touches the cooking flame of the stove shoulddefinitely be scoured over occasionally to free it of collectedresidue. If one has the misfortune to accidentally burn food in the wok, itwill be necessary to take steel wool and scour out the burnt material
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