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Wok and Chopsticks

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abcdefg

Agree with @iand in #`18 --

 

The site I linked to (which is the site for The Wok Shop in Chinatown, San Francisco, which supplies the Panda Express chain with all their woks) says that Chinese-made cast-iron woks are nearly as light as carbon steel woks, unlike the American too-heavy-to-lift cast iron woks you see at Williams-Sonoma.

 

When I began looking at woks in the stores here (in Kunming) I was very surprised that the ones they were showing me and suggesting were actually cast iron. They are much thinner, smoother, and lighter than the trusty old heirloom cast iron skillets that I was used to back in the US. Must be made by a somewhat different process.

 

I season my cast iron almost monthly to insure that the non-stick surface maintains itself

 

That's a good tip, Alex_Hart. I had not thought of doing that. I also liked the video tip about stir frying a batch of chives or scallions as step in seasoning a new wok. Removes any lingering metallic taste.

 

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/25717-understanding-stovetop-cookware/

Another excellent resource, @iand. Thanks.

 

In that forum, they pose the question, "What kind of cooking task to you want (this new pan) to do?" For me, the main task at which I want my new wok to excel is making stir fried dishes. Anything else beyond that is a bonus; nice, but outside the scope of the pan's main job description.

 

I've learned a lot from everyone's contributions.

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iand

 

In metalworking, casting involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify.

 

I think this one process should be able to produce thick or thin, depending on the mold used. However, because of the different thermal properties of thick and thin cookware, American cast iron tends to be on the thick side. In fact, historically it wasn't as thick as is common from brands like Lodge today. Because thick is the preferred style, you'll even see American woks cast thick.

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abcdefg

That makes sense, @iand. I suppose it might also have to do with the formula of the iron used. Mine says "Extra hard cast iron fry pan" 超硬铸铁炒锅。 The label says "99 percent high purity steel" 99%高纯化铁, and also says something about it being unlikely to rust, 就是锈不了。

 

Here's a mobile phone snapshot showing two Chinese cast iron woks in the store. The one on the left is the one I bought, and the one on the right was thinner and lighter. Neither resembles the heavy cast iron skillet I have back in the US.

 

post-20301-0-86294200-1458521783_thumb.jpg

 

Just looking at them on the shelf, I would never have guessed they were cast iron. Perhaps Chinese metallurgy differs from that of the Western world. The side of the box has what looks like an explanation, but my technical Chinese isn't up to the task of reading it without looking up way to many words at one sitting.

 

post-20301-0-51153600-1458524385_thumb.jpg  post-20301-0-60371700-1458524393_thumb.jpg

 

Perhaps someone with better language skills can have a go at it. Might shed light on how this cast iron can so strongly resemble carbon steel. Makes me wonder what I'm missing. Duuh!

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ChTTay

Alex is partly correct though, the Wok is a multi-purpose item. As he says later, you can use them to fry, braise, steam, boil, ...

Certain western foods tend to lend themselves to being cooked in a non-stick "flat" pan though. I have lived in China for almost 5 years and only ever really needed one flat "frying pan" with raised sides and a lid (not sure the "right name") and a wok.

Recently I moved house and there isn't a microwave. I got a small sauce pan for re-heating soup or baked beans.

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Alex_Hart

Found two cast iron woks on Amazon: the first by Lodge weighs 10 lbs and the second by Joyce Chen weighs 4.2 lbs. Quite a difference for two woks that seem to be the same size! 

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Angelina

Do people actually use olive oil for cooking chinese food?

 

I tried once, it was a disaster.

 

I am afraid canola oil is genetically modified :(

 

here is an old topic on how to find the best oil for a wok

 

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46953-how-to-season-my-wok-铁锅)/

 

 

I was under the impression Olive Oil shouldn't be used in cooking that requires quite high heat (like Chinese) as it has a lower smoke point (or something?). Best to use peanut oil or something similar for Chinese cooking.

 

 

I would only use vegetable oil for seasoning the wok. It has a neutral taste and so won't colour any of your food with unwanted tastes.

 

Personally I only ever use vegetable oil for all my cooking for this very reason. I don't like the taste of the other oils on my food and they have a much lower temperature threshold, this means they burn at the high temperatures that are sometimes needed for good woking.

 

I think lard is not a good choice for the wok, it is good for roasting meat and vegetables but I wouldn't use it for any thing else.

 

I would stick with vegetable oil to start with and as you get more experienced you can experiment with other oils.

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vellocet

Yeah, I mean you CAN use a wok to do those things.  I did.  But my experience was that my wok (bought in China, round bottom) sucked at it.  For cooking jambalaya or pasta or soups, there was too much surface area on the bottom and you had to constantly stir instead of just cover and leave on the stove for 20 minutes.  For cooking meats, there was uneven cooking and again, constant shifting was needed.  My saucepan was a breath of fresh air, and when I got my full set I was off to the races.  Try cooking mashed potatoes in a wok.  The right tool for the right job, I say. 

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ChTTay

Yeah, as maybe didn't say that clearly above, I meant the wok is multi-purpose for cooking Chinese food certainly.

 

Western food not so much. Most of the stuff you're mentioning is western food.

 

I don't really cook western anymore apart from the odd cheese toastie

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abcdefg

Thanks, Angelina. I missed that previous thread. I use corn oil for frying. The kind I usually buy is labeled "corn embryo oil" 玉米胚芽油。

 

post-20301-0-02820800-1458551297_thumb.jpg
 

I have been using it for a few weeks (not every day) and it still smells like metal.

 

The tip I found on-line for dealing with that was to stir fry a bunch of chopped up Chinese chives 韭菜 until they discolor and become almost black. Mine no longer has a metallic smell after only three uses. And I was pleased to see that this morning when I scrambled some eggs for 番茄炒鸡蛋,they didn't stick or have any unwanted odd chemical flavor.

 

"The right tool for the right job" is an excellent motto, @Vellocet. I would never argue with that. Like ChTTay, I pretty much make only Chinese food here, so I don't really need much in the way of western cooking utensils. (Got to admit that a righteous Cajun jambalaya sounds pretty darned fine!)

 

Alex -- #25 -- Interesting weight difference. I don't have a way to weigh mine, but I'll bet it's closer to 4 pounds than it is to 10 pounds.

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lips

what kind of wok you use at home. Do you prefer non-stick or cast iron? 不粘的还是铸铁的?

That's two questions! I prefer cast iron, of course, for cooking the traditionally way, the way that I learned how to cook many years ago. But .... we use a non-stick at home now. We now use very little or, preferably, no oil, and not much spice or heavy seasoning, so a non-stick is easier. The food don't taste nearly as good but it's healthier, at least that's what we (want to) believe. If we want to eat good traditional food, we eat out.

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abcdefg

Lips, If I remember correctly, you are a native speaker. This morning I attmpted to read what looked like a technical, metallurgical discussion of the properties of the various woks and of their materials to find out if they contained some arcane knowledge and might produce a revelation if understood correctly. I wound up disappointed.

 

Would you be so kind as to have a look at these two explanations from the wok package and let us know what you think they mean?

 

Here is my (lame) attempt from this morning:

 

高纯度生铁精铸成型,铁质更纯,高含有益人体健康的铁元素;厚底薄壁设计,炒油烟,更健康。

 

Translation: High purity pig iron (raw iron) highly-perfected cast shape, iron character more pure, high content of iron elements that are useful to human body,  thick thin wall design, frying soot more healthy.

 

And the other one was:

 

不锈工艺处理锅身,锅体异常坚硬,耐磨、耐酸硬性能卓越,还到超强不锈的效果

 

Translation: Non-rust industrial arts deals with the pot body exceptionally hard and wear resistant, acid resistant outstanding performance returns to exceeding strength non-rust effect.

 

Kenny, Lu, Imron -- Can you make these better? Of course you can. Smile, Please.

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lips

Yout basically got it.

 

The following is my try.

 

高纯度生铁精铸成型,铁质更纯,高含有益人体健康的铁元素;厚底薄壁设计,炒油烟,更健康。

 

Precision-cast high purity pig iron, extra pure iron, high content of iron elements beneficial to health, thick-walled and thin-sided design, less cooking fumes, healthier.

 

不锈工艺处理锅身,锅体异常坚硬,耐磨、耐酸硬性能卓越,还到超强不锈的效果

 

Body processed with anti-rust treatment, exceptionally hard and wear resistant, and superior anti-corrosiveness resulting in outstanding rust-resistant quality.

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abcdefg

Ah, thanks so much, Lips. Appreciate the help.

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abcdefg

Here's an update to what this wok looks like almost a year later. It's well-seasoned and a joy to use.

 

IMG_0105.thumb.JPG.c011b438266fd7ded40c5f2c32dd287f.JPG

 

More here, in this recent thread, about how I maintain it. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54134-show-your-cai-dao-wok-and-other-kitchen-equipment/#comment-415434

 

 

 

 

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abcdefg
On 3/20/2016 at 1:58 AM, vellocet said:

What's the vocabulary for the trapezoidal wok-stirring utensil?

 

It's a guo chan 锅铲。

 

5a71ecd39af83_guochansmallcroppedverysmallpaintapp.thumb.jpg.f5a4acf9718423b212914a68ab6a0750.jpg

 

(Just now saw your question.) 

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abcdefg

A new wok thread elsewhere in the forum (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56214-seasoning-a-wok/?tab=comments#comment-434113) drew my attention back to this earlier discussion. It also reminded me that my wok is now 2 years old. Thought it might be instructive to post a couple update photos. 

 

It has become easier and easier to use. Heats quickly and evenly, cools rapidly when off the fire, seldom does anything stick to it, even meat, rice or eggs. After each use I've established a habit pattern of how to care for it. 

 

Put water in it and let it stand while I'm eating the meal. Scrub it with a stiff brush afterwards and rinse it out. In the unlikely event that something has adhered to the surface, I scrub it a second time with the same stiff bristle brush. Once or twice I had to very lightly touch it up with a coarse steel-wool type scrubber, but I cannot remember the exact circumstances. Might have been cooking something with cheese, which is rare for China in the first place. 

 

I do occasionally use soapy water, not every time. Some purists say to never do that. (Ditto with their steel wool prohibition.) While I'm washing the wok, I light the (gas) stove and set it to medium heat. Once I've thoroughly rinsed the wok, I set it over the flame and rub it quickly with a paper kitchen towel so that it gets completely dry. Then I put in 3 or 4 drops of cooking oil (corn oil or canola/rapeseed oil) and scrub that all around with a second paper towel. The metal develops a sheen but isn't oily to the touch. 

 

Turn off the heat and let it stand a few minutes while completing other dish washing chores. Before putting it away in a reusable, breathable grocery bag to keep off the dust, I burnish it with a piece of coarse bamboo-fiber kitchen cloth. These are common in China; not sure how easy they are to find in the west. 

 

5ab83fbf8d04d_IMG_4252--60.thumb.jpg.e950c5bd582217be738fc7f811dd63ec.jpg5ab83fc556f31_IMG_4253--60.thumb.jpg.0dd324ee0abecd68d48be268b17a5432.jpg

 

 

Here's the bamboo fabric kitchen cloth and the storage bag.

 

5ab84221d3181_IMG_4256--60.thumb.jpg.a57f8831aa0b6a6379eb61de31955fef.jpg5ab84226e1e17_IMG_4259--65.thumb.jpg.496402cb4845dc5e9ce43e8095b8fafa.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

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