It’s been many years since I’ve owned a wok. I gave mine away when I downsized to a small condo with no good place to store it. I’ve since been doing my stir-frying in an all-purpose skillet, but it’s not ideal. Foods don’t cook as quickly or evenly without those high sloping sides and extra surface area. The wok’s unique shape makes it easier to flip and stir the ingredients without them flying all over the counter. That’s one reason why I don’t do much Chinese cooking home.
Lately, though, I've acquired quite a few excellent Asian cookbooks that have inspired me to step-up my stir-frying game. The one I'm fixated on now is "Wok On: Deliciously Balanced Meals in 30 Minutes or Less" (Kyle, $24.99) by Ching-He Huang, a British-Chinese TV chef who has starred in several cooking shows for the BBC and The Cooking Channel, and has written a number of other best-selling cookbooks focused on fast, healthy, contemporary Chinese cooking. She's also the creator of the Lotus Wok, a nonstick, flat-bottomed version of the traditional tool and designed for the modern kitchen.
Stir-frying is just one of the techniques Huang covers in “Wok On.” She also shows us how to use this “one-pan wonder” for steaming Pearly Beef Balls, shallow-frying Miso Ribs, deep-frying General Tso’s Chicken Wings, and simmering Crabmeat Sweetcorn Soup. Recipes are straightforward, creative, and attractively presented with symbols indicating cooking and prep times (some do surpass the 30-minute time frame touted on the cover) as welll as dietary lifestyles such as vegan and gluten-free. Chapters are organized by protein source, including one devoted to meatless dishes.
I thoroughly enjoyed a simple vegan stir-fry of baby spinach and garlic in a ginger-miso sauce to go with rice for a fast meal one evening. And as I wiped up the stray spinach leaves that had escaped my skillet in the process, I found myself scanning the kitchen for a hook or a shelf that might accommodate a new wok.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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