Wonders of the Wok

wok

I left my wok in Argentina. And I feel nearly as strong about that as Tony Bennett leaving his heart in San Francisco.

Fine, maybe not that much, but I will miss it.

When my dad came to visit me in Buenos Aires, he was surprised to learn I had bought the wok only two months before. “It looks really well seasoned already,” he said.

Yes, I had put the wok to a lot of use. It was perfect for cooking for one. It cooks things quickly, it’s easy to clean, and it’s shaped so you can make your food do fun flips. For the first month I had it, I didn’t use the oven at all, making everything in the wok instead. Asian-style stir-frys and fried rice, of course, but also my version of Chipotle’s burrito bowl and other one-dish creations like a meal of sausage, potatoes and zapallitos redondos (round squash). Plus, a wok gets really hot quickly, and since I didn’t have a microwave, I used it to reheat pasta or other leftovers.

From what I’ve read, the most important thing to look for in buying a wok is carbon steel. Don’t go for non-stick. Carbon steel conducts more heat and gets that great seasoned effect from food sticking to it. Plus it’s cheap, especially if you can get to a Chinatown. (Mine was U.S. $11.)

Before you use a wok the first time, there’s a bit of a process to go through. I used this and this as a guide. Then you can make all sorts of dishes in it as long as you use an oil with a high smoke point (peanut oil, grapeseed oil or refined oils). It gets more seasoned with each use. (Don’t ever use metal utensils in it or you’ll end up with scratches like I did.)

Part of me wished I could have fit the wok in my luggage, but I guess I’ll have to get a new one and start over.