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One thing all Asian cooking shares is that it starts with a properly seasoned wok if it is made from carbon steel or cast iron.
Here's how to season your new wok: Use oiled paper towels to rub the wok with peanut oil both inside and out, then heat on a burner on high heat for just a few minutes. Do not allow the oil to burn or smoke. Allow the wok to cool and wipe off the excess oil, if any, and repeat the process until you have a thin all-natural non-stick coating. After the initial seasoning, a wok should be simply wiped clean with a dry towel then given a thin wipe with the oiled towel to seal the metal surfaces. Woks just get better with time and use!
There are two basic types of Asian wok cooking. While both methods rely solely on Asian cookware, the techniques are completely different.
• "Pao," or the “explosion” method, is where food is rapidly stirfried in a dry (but seasoned) wok over the highest heat for just about one minute. These foods have usually been marinated beforehand which provides the tiny amount of liquid necessary to sear in flavor and tenderness of the meats and providing a perfect crunchy texture to vegetables. This method would best be done in a properly seasoned carbon steel or cast-iron wok or one of the non-stick hard-anodized aluminum varieties.
• "Lui" is wet stir-frying where food is constantly tossed and turned in the wok until cooked. Peanut oil is usually the preferred wok oil for its high heat properties and nutty flavor. The different foods are often cooked in stages, removed and then combined at the end with a sauce, using a mixture of cornstarch, stock, soy sauce and spices and seasonings to give it a beautiful glaze.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|