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achieving smoky "wok hei" flavor at home


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大块头

I read an interesting article in the New York Times this morning about how to achieve the quasi-mystical "wok hei"(锅气)flavor in stir-fry food. Chinese restaurants do it with gigantic ranges that envelop the wok in an inferno of flame, but this author says you can mimic that effect by directly blowtorching the food.

 

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Interesting! Wow! And it is from Kenji Lopes-Alt, one of my cooking heroes. 

 

After half a year back here in the US, I am really missing my Kunming kitchen. Miss my strong gas stove, miss my well-seasoned wok, miss my superbly balance Hong Kong knive. (Don't even get me started on the local ingredients which I miss.)

 

I have managed to get wok hei there with just high burner heat if I tip and shake the pan just right. Here in Texas, my cooktop is electric and I don't have a decent exhaust hood, so it would set off smoke alarms and stink up my whole house if I even attemped to try Kenji's method. 

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In grad school, I had Chinese American housemates.  One's parents had a Chinese restaurant outside of San Francisco.  Their ancestors were from Guangdong.  For fried rice, their "secret" for smoky flavor was Polish Kielbasa sausage.  It made me laugh to think they used this in their restaurant.  

 

However, my housemate was correct, Kielbasa gave the rice an excellent smoked flavor - far far far better than the typical sausage used by Cantonese restaurants in the San Francisco area. (while I like Chinese food, I found that Cantonese sausage tasted terrible.  This type of sausage was popular in Cantonese-type Chinese restaurants in the Bay area.)  

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On 9/8/2020 at 1:55 PM, Dawei3 said:

For fried rice, their "secret" for smoky flavor was Polish Kielbasa sausage.  It made me laugh to think they used this in their restaurant.  

 

What a smart trick! I look forward to trying it, especially since it's available here (Texas.)

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