The art of “Wok”.

I really do not know what “Wok” really is, but for me it is a taste. It is like grilling with charcoal versus propane. Sure the differences are subtle, but I believe it is what separate the good Asian cooks from the great ones.

To get that “Wok” taste, I heard that you need a really high BTU, so it can prevent a phenomenon, that western cooks calls crowding the pan. If the chef can control the flame s/he should have a “Wok” taste without char in the dish of stir-fry.

The trick seems to be heating the wok to a high enough temperature that you can see that it is about to smoke, then add oil. When you see the oil starting to whiff, not smoke, then you start to add the ingredients. Usually it starts with flavoring the wok (maybe the oil), then adding the meat (if it is not vegetarian). Once the sear has developed and the meat, which all should have a similar cook time, then you add the remaining ingredients at a really high temperature and stir-fry it some more. It seems that the rocking motion is not as easy as it seems, but it keeps ingredients from turning to char. When everything has touched the wok, then you might need to add the broth to simmer some hard to cook items. Adding broth is not always in the step unless you want a gravy/sauce. Keep in mind you still need to season the dish as you are stir-frying.

Contrary to America’s Test Kitchen I have never, seen a cook add soy to the beginning of a stir-fry, but if it is part of the stir-fry it is added right around the time broth is added, which near the end. Once the chef finishes up the sauce if any, then s/he plates it up. And we should be able to taste the “Wok” flavor. The absence of it or it there is too much oil means, that s/he has not mastered the art of “Wok”.

P.S. A good test of the chef is to order stir-fried bean sprouts.¬† It should be hot and crispy with a light hint of ginger and, of course, a taste of “Wok”.

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