I’m referring to Chinese and Asian cooking that is. I recently purchased a 14″ Imusa wok and couldn’t be happier with it. Before I made my purchase I did a lot of price-comparison, reading reviews, and moreover, wanted to find a wok without a non-stick/ coated surface, but don’t think I succeeded. Why not go with a coated or the non-stick kind, you might ask yourself. Because harmful chemicals in those coated and non-stick varieties can leech out when cooking, and granted, I have no idea if the one I purchased is non-stick/ non-coated. It’s carbon steel though.
When I made my selection both woks I viewed at the store were identical. The only thing that set them apart was the difference in price by a dollar or two, and by their handles. One had plastic handles. No thanks. And the other had wood handles. Both were made by the same company Imusa. One price tag stated non-stick, the other stated 14″ wok non-coated. Neither label on the woks indicated which was non-stick/ coated and which wasn’t. The labels just stated ‘seasoning required’. I decided on the carbon steel wok with the wood handles. Woks, no matter the brand, will require seasoning before using them. I even looked at an $8 non-stick coated wok at Big Lots and wisely decided against it. It was too small and flimsy for my needs.
The only con I have with my new wok is that it requires oil before and after although it’s not that much of a pain. Woks are one of those high matience fancy skillets kind of like dutch ovens are and so are nearly all cast iron skillets. So far it hasn’t distracted me from teaching myself how to make fried rice, and other Chinese/ Asian-inspired cuisine, etc.
A wok is great for stir fry, something of which I truly fell in love with more than nine years ago. However, the cost for all the ingredients became expensive. Back then, however, I wasn’t much of a full time gardener like I am nowadays and didn’t know the benefits of going outside and plucking my produce next to nearly nothing nor was I aware of freezing the stir fry ingredients like snow peas, onions, green bell and red bell peppers and whatever else appealed to me, either. And back then I didn’t kick my chicken habit or that of my pre-boxed Minuet white rice addiction. I haven’t had much success with fried rice yet but I keep trying. I believe this is because my rice turns out gummy from sitting overnight in the fridge and/ or I must be doing something wrong when cooking it.
I absolutely love Sesame oil but it loves me back in the wrong way. Other than that I would highly recommend the toasted Sesame oil by Kadoya. I also bought another brand of Sesame oil by Sun Luck, which doesn’t seem to give me problems, however, I noticed it lacks the robust flavor. Maybe it’s just plain, not toasted sesame oil.
Some excellent soy sauce I recently discovered is San-J Tamari. It’s gluten free. For the longest time I wouldn’t purchase any soy sauces simply because they always were too rich for my system, for one. Secondly, the other brands of soy sauces have so much MSG, flavor enhancers, and other added junk and wheat ingredients in them that the taste was too much for me, that is until after much reading discovered some rave reviews for San- J Tamari soy sauce. I thought “… well, I’ll only waste about three dollars if I don’t/ can’t stomach it.”
Is San- J Tamari soy sauce vegan? From what I’ve read, yes, it is.
Is it strictly for stir fry, Asian and/ or Chinese cooking? Nope. San- J Tamari soy sauce is excellent on salads, hard-boiled eggs, raw cabbage leaves, tomatoes and avocados and has a meaty flavor without being too rich and contains no wheat ingredients. San-J Tamari soy sauce also compliments any meal just about.
Now back to the wok. Here are some do’s and “I can’t believe I just did that!” kitchen calamity learning experiences. Okay, maybe ‘disaster’ doesn’t quite fit, but oh, well… 🙂
Do wash and dry the wok thoroughly, especially when the manufacturer’s instructions recommend to oil the wok in order to “season” it before cooking in it for the first time. Seasoning is basically a process that darkens the wok and creates a type of coating on the surface. Some regular cooking pans even the cast iron skillets and dutch ovens will require seasoning before use. A wok is no different.
I like to oil my wok with a little bit of coconut oil and/or used to use a drizzle of sesame oil and smear it around using a dry clean paper towel this way there’s no mess winding up in my laundry. Grease and oil is very difficult to remove from kitchen towels, etc.
The Don’ts when using your wok:
Don’t use metal cooking utensils when cooking with a wok. This will scratch and gouge the surface, and it was a mistake yours truly here made the first night even though I was gentle with the metal slotted spoon. Make sure to have some wooden utensils on hand when cooking with a wok.
Another useful healthy tip: Don’t buy used wooden cooking utensils, no matter how clean they appear. They can harbor nasty bacteria, have unseen surface cracks where dirt and other filthy particles can linger and/ or be splintered.
Make sure to buy new wooden utensils. If you opt to purchase used/ second hand wooden utensils you never know where they’ve been or what they were used for, and they may not have always been used for cooking meals, either. And wooden utensils can be breeding grounds for mold spores especially if the utensils are untreated or show a lot of use. I’ve recently bought one of those new ‘economy’ three packs of wooden spoons and like to refer to these as “get me by until I can find something better” wooden cooking utensils. But thinking way back to some similar wooden cooking spoons my mother had when I was a child, those were better made and lasted us many, many years without cracking, splintering even beyond their normal wear and tear. There was something that made those older version wooden spoons of yesteryear better made from higher quality wood, perhaps and I’m just guessing on that.
The three pack I bought in a pinch made me seriously question if I’d get nasty splinters in my food or lodged in my intestines. The new spoons were rough cut with jagged edges and so poorly made I couldn’t believe the quality was so shoddy they were allowed to be sold. I scrutinized all the wooden spoon packs they had at the store which weren’t many, by the way and the workmanship is very crappy. I realize that hardly any wooden spoon set out there will even be worth $3 (and I think paying $8 is excessive for a very rough produced bamboo set, too). I decided to use the cheap three pack of wooden spoons for something else other than cooking, like gardening or stir sticks for when its time to re-paint.
I went to the new small grocery store and in my “hustle my bustle” usual manner when its late I found a Chef Craft heavy handled beechwood spoon for $1.79. That’s a far better price and the quality was surprisingly better in my opinion. In fact, I was so impressed with the heavy handled Chef Craft brand beechwood spoon, I bought a second one later on. So far they seem to hold up well cooking with the wok and its been little more than a week. However, I never leave the wooden spoon unattended in the wok while my food is cooking. I like to use one of my old Corningware dishes as a spoon rest.
So for the least amount of money the Chef Craft brand wins. Now as far as how long these particular wooden spoons will last, I have no idea. I assume quite a while with normal use just depends. And I discovered I had a Sushi mat, chopstick and rice paddle set that I just got around to trying out for the first time.
Honestly, I have no prior experience using a Sushi mat. I had to watch several different tutorial videos on how to use a Sushi mat and it requires the right ingredients. But since I’m extremely allergic to Seaweed, (this is what the rice, raw fish, etc. has in it), I instead opted for cabbage leaves and Turnip greens. It was just my personal preference for the cabbage and the Turnip greens were on sale and never tried those before until just recently.
And please don’t nag at me that I didn’t use the correct type of rice in my first Sushi knock-off experience. I don’t get uptight if the rice isn’t what so-and-so uses. I use whatever rice is either organic (whenever possible), and nutrient rich (not bankrupt like most ‘enriched’ and ‘parboiled’ inexpensive rice brands are). And I like to stretch my rice and mix it with wild and/ or brown and Basmati rice (again finding a non-parboiled and non-enriched brand can be tricky at times). Don’t know if Basmati rice is any healthier but with nearly all rice, it might contain trace amounts of arsenic. So boil, boil and BOIL that rice for at least 35-40 minutes on the stove top. The recommendation is 25 minutes, but I go the extra mile and drain the water off and use a little fresh distilled water in my rice so it won’t stick to the pan after I cook it. Do I always remember to fluff my rice with a fork? Not always and it still turns out okay for my taste.
Using a Sushi mat flattens the cabbage leaves stuffed with cooked rice and tuna I found out and keeps everything from spilling out. I also tried using Turnip Greens as well but noticed those didn’t do good at all and I find they don’t make good Seaweed subsitutes, either. I later found out that Turnip greens are supposed to be cooked, but seldom eaten raw like lettuce. I’m no gourmet chef and will attest to that. I live and learn like the rest. 😀 I do love food and enjoying trying new dishes at least once. I will more than likely pass on the Turnip greens from now on.
What I couldn’t understand according to one youtube Sushi mat tutorial video by a how-to beginner why the lady placed a Sushi mat in plastic wrap. As she went onto explain in the video it was to prevent the Sushi mat from becoming messy and dirty. Messy… eh, excuse me, but dirty, seriously? She sounded like one of those women that just can’t stand the thought of a making a mess and everything has to be perfect and very clean.
And she seemed more overly concerned about how clean her Sushi mat and work surface appeared than about getting down to the task and showing the viewer how to make Sushi rolls and there was a lot of missing ‘step-by-step’ instructions as well. By the middle of the video and this woman’s worry over “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” Florence Nightingale mentality, I was scratching my head with a slight perturbed look on my face while having a good laugh. That’s why you reach for the scouring pad, a little bit of Ajax and some dish soap and water to clean up the counter tops after having fun in the kitchen. That’s why if any mess falls on the floor and your little furball four-legged vacuum cleaner doesn’t like cooked rice or bits of Seaweed, you bust out the broom and dust pan and simply clean it up. I began to wonder if this lady wouldn’t be one of those kind to just suffer a public freak out mental breakdown moment, curl up into a fetal position and try to find her ‘safe place’ if she ever came face to face with a soiled Sushi mat that wouldn’t come completely clean. As a viewer I couldn’t watch this particular Sushi mat tutorial all the way through and had to find a few more that had better instructions and that were thorough instead of being vague. I won’t knock the lady’s ‘give it a try’ spirit though.
And one thing I wanted to add about wok cooking, the veggies will be crisp (not wilted or mushy) and it all depends on the temperature setting used. I use medium-low heat when making stir fry and lower setting when I’m re-heating my leftover rice.
One dish I do love is wild rice, fresh washed and sliced Jalapeno pepper (about four slices since they’re hot), and for some real heat try some Sarreno chili pepper (extremely hot in my opinion) and that’s if you’re a fan of spicy-hot dishes. So it’s not nearly cooking Asian or even Chinese cuisine, but eh, I enjoy it. And I also use some of the San- J Tamari Soy Sauce, a dash of Redmond Real Salt, and a dash of black pepper (whatever I have on hand in the Hosier). As always thank you so much for sharing, liking, re-blogging, tweeting, commenting, etc. I always appreciate it. 🙂