Last April I decided to purchase an authentic Chinese wok. Ironically, having worked in a Chinese restaurant growing up, I had never owned one. For some reason, I felt an underlying intimidation factor that came with wok ownership. There was the question of, is it even worth it to own a wok even though a household gas range can nowhere match the heat output of a commercial Chinese kitchen wok range? After all, it’s all about cooking food with the essence of ‘wok hei,’ loosely translated as the breath of the wok. Then there was the other issue of maintaining the wok, seasoning for first time use, and making sure it doesn’t rust. Those things were more than enough to put me off.
One day after leaving a bubble tea shop, I walked past the Chinese restaurant kitchen supply store. On a whim, I turned back and went in. Inside the shop, there was barely any walking room as aisles of steel racks were filled to the brim with restaurant supplies, looking as if something could topple over at any time. I made my way to the back aisle where the rack and floor was lined with woks of different sizes. I purchased a 14-inch stainless carbon-steel wok for about twelve dollars, which was much cheaper than I thought. For that amount of money, if I messed it up, I wouldn’t feel bad about it.
The wok I bought is round bottomed, which means it does not sit well on the stovetop grates. I ended up purchasing a wok attachment for the grates, which ended up costing more that the wok.
I’ve been using the wok multiple times per week, which is much more than I have anticipated. I’ve been stir-frying a lot more and since I am able to apply a fair amount of high heat on the wok, and the results have been amazing. My wife has complimented that my stir-fries remind her of the food that is cooked at her family’s Chinese restaurant.