Wok Wednesday No. 1

I signed up for Wok Wednesdays in the hope of overcoming my issues with the cooking implement. Things did not get off to a reassuring start. My new 14-inch carbon-steel wok was, as the directions said, “coated with a food-grade clear protective layer at the factory before shipment.” This had to be removed. Thirty minutes and three SOS pads later, I was grateful I hadn’t bought the mani on Saturday, just the pedi. Is polyurethane “food grade”? Because that’s what appeared to be on my wok.

After eliminating the last bits of the stuff with the aid of C-4 (ha, ha, just kidding, TSA), I consulted our Wok Wednesdays bible, “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” by Grace Young (Simon & Schuster, 2010). Young’s seasoning instructions – stir-frying sliced ginger and scallions for about 15 minutes and rubbing them all over the wok – were a breeze.

Our first recipe was a simple one: Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach. it was just, well, garlic and spinach (with vegetable oil, salt and a little sugar). I wondered what the big deal could be. I’ve made sauteed spinach and garlic hundreds of times in conventional frying pans. Honestly, it was different. The deep wok holds copious amounts of fluffy greens more easily than a saute pan. The greens didn’t collect liquid, like they do when I use a saucepan, probably because the wok can get super-hot very quickly. It got hot fast even on my electric range. And it took longer to wash the greens (I threw in some swiss chard, too) than it did to cook them.

Since the wok was there, after cooking the greens I cooked some diced tofu, onions and Japanese turnips in soy sauce, sesame oil and sherry. Frequent visitors here know that I am also attempting to embrace the bean curd. Cooking it in the wok gave it the crispy outside texture I’d been looking for.

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