The Seasoning of a Wok

March 28, 2022

With a deep love for rich food, I have to be smart and balance that with a healthy meal or two…that usually means a trip to my local favorite Asian restaurants, Sushi Masa, Oshima Sushi or Phnom Penh Restaurant…I have tried making stir-fries at home but without the right pan the vegetables end up almost steamed, lacking a seared-in flavor…so after a committed promise to embrace the art of the wok, I researched the different kinds of pans; did I want to go easy with a non-stick coating or spend the time and money for a wok that would take the heat…finally decided to go all in and get a hand-hammered carbon steel and season the pan myself

after a good pan scrubbing, I gathered peanut oil, old towels and a glass of wine and headed outside to do an initial seasoning… it produces a good amount of smoke, so if you don’t want to hear the shrill song of your alarm, a camp burner in the back yard will give you the high flames you need, and sound of birds is a lot more enjoyable…rub the inside of your wok with oil, put over the flames and let it get hot, turning the pan as it darkens ensuring that all surface area is seasoned…when the smoke goes down, remove from flames, rub with oil and repeat the process…take your time, enjoy the wine and the scenery

there is an innate thrill in this process, watching the metal change colors that will eventually form a force field of protection and flavor…after four times my pan was ready for a trial run

anxious to use my new beautiful wok for the evenings dinner, I had already chopped my vegetables, saving the scraps for the finally seasoning step…heat the oil, add aromatics (ginger root, garlic and scallions) and the veggie scraps, cook until golden, just don’t burn them…take off the heat and rub it all into the pan from one edge to the other, wipe it clean and now you’re ready to go

this method of cooking is all about good simple ingredients that are elevated by high heat and playful manipulation…starting simple since I was using this pan for the first time, I prepared a chicken stir-fry…the best tip I can give you is to be sure you have all your ingredients prepped and in place…this is not like cooking a stew, this is a balancing act, adding each element in order of how long they need to cook, then finishing with a toss of a sauce, I used a blend of black garlic shoyu, yuzu marmalade and oyster sauce

now the passion has been ignited, I can’t wait to taste where my adventures will take me…I think I have wok fervor  

yuzu stir-fried chicken

1 large chicken breast, sliced thinly into strips

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons sake wine

½ teaspoon pink sea salt

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoon peanut oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons chopped ginger root

6 dried small thai peppers

1 small head broccoli, broke into florets, slice tender stems

2 stalks celery, cut at a slight diagonal

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 small jalapeno, sliced

6 large button mushrooms

2 bok choy, chopped

1 tablespoon yuzu marmalade

1 tablespoon black garlic shoyu

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon chicken broth

blend the cornstarch, sake, sesame oil and salt, and chicken in a bowl, mix well to coat

prep all the vegetables and aromatics

mix the marmalade, shoyu, oyster sauce and stock

heat the wok, add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, then add the chicken, cook until lightly browned, remove from the pan

add another tablespoon of oil in wok if needed, add the garlic, ginger and thai peppers, topping with the broccoli and celery, when warmed through, push to the side, then add the peppers, mushrooms and bok choy

when vegetables are al dente, put the chicken back in, toss together

add the sauce mix, cooking until it glazes the vegetables but doesn’t get dry

serve as is or over rice

serves 2