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Where in the DC area to buy an authentic wok?

One of my New Year's resolutions was to complete my array of cookware. I got a cast iron skillet for Christmas, but I need to get a WOK. I've heard that in almost every instance, the cheaper the better and likely more authentic. Where do you suggest that I got a real authentic wok?

Also, while we're at it, is there a kitchen supply store in the area?

Happy New Year!!

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  1. I did the rounds at Asian markets to find a cheap and "authentic" wok as a Christmas present for someone, but I wasnt satisfied by what i found--I couldnt tell what material they were (no labels) and I didnt like the handles. I also checked out williams-sonoma. You can get an all-clad wok for like 200 bucks. Ha! Absolutely ridiculous.

    I ended up getting a carbon steel wok (the most-often recommended surface) at target for like 20 bucks.

    1. Do you mean woks with the rounded bottoms where you have to use a wok ring? I would probably look online for one, especially one small enough to use on a standard western stove.

      As for "authentic", any wok made out of steel will work well if properly seasoned and if you get it hot enough. Mine's from IKEA (yes, the cheap one with the flat bottom) and has worked great after a few uses since it's got a nice seasoned coating on it.

        1. re: dining with doc

          Maxims Chinese grocery on Rockville Pike, for under 20 bucks. The one I got was stainless steel, which I like better than the carbon steel. The wok ring is about 3 bucks

          1. re: dining with doc

            No luck with Hmart Fairfax as of March 2013!

            1. if you are near NOVA, go to the great wall. They have the wok and all the accessories you might want.

              If you are near rockville, Maxim or the other chinese grocery (name escapes me now) about two block away carry a good selection.

              my two cents, my stove (most stoves) don't get hot enough. A good cast iron will work just as good if not better.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Soup

                I got an extra burner grate for my (gas) stove and cut out the middle so the wok sits just above the flame, not as high as it does with a wok ring. It works just fine. Every stove should be equipped with a "wok grate." ;)

                1. re: MikeR

                  I have a propane two-burner outdoor stove that I ordered through Home Depot for about $150. It puts out 150,000 btu's. The average kitchen stove burner only puts out around 15,000. It's called a Bayou Cooker, or something like that. Unless it's raining or too windy, I do all my frying, blackening and wok cooking on the back deck. Some things you just can't do properly without high heat. Best investment I ever made.

                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                    Wow! I think the furnace in my house is only 80,000 BTU. I've used a wok on one of those singler burner propane stoves like what comes with the turkey fryer kit and that worked
                    pretty well. I suppose that a commercial stove (some people have those in their home kitchen) would work well too. Whenever I cook something in the wok, the house smells like whatever I cooked for a couple of days. It really gums up my over-the-stove exhaust fan so I don't usually that when I'm "woking."

                    I saw a house in California that had what they called a "wok room" in the kitchen. It was sort of like a shower stall with a big exhaust fan over it. That's what I need.

                    1. re: MikeR

                      Yeah, this thing is a beast. The cast iron burners are larger than the turkey fryer and they have a venturi valve to adjust the gas mixture. A tank of propane will last an amazingly long time. You have to special order it online from Home Depot because they generally don't stock them in the store. It is a very simple, but heavy-duty apparatus. At about 150 bucks plus shipping, it is well worth the investment.

                2. re: Soup

                  On the pad thai episode of Good Eats, Alton uses his wok on a grill instead of the stove to get it hot enough.

                3. Oddly enough, I found a very acceptable wok at Ikea. yes, it's got a little flat part on the bottom, but otherwise it's perfect. I use it to make stir-fry all the time.
                  However, my tools were found in Chinatown, long before they went commercial.

                  1. I got a pretty awesome carbon steel one online from http://www.wokshop.com/

                    Used it Sunday night to make Strange Flavored Pork and it was outstanding.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: HilkaryIC

                      At the risk of being accused of heresy, on one of the recent Cook's Illustrated TV shows, they mentioned preferring a good, heavy skillet to a wok I thought I'd try it. I have a good heavy non-stick skillet with tall'ish sides, and you know, it DOES work better. The skillet has more bottom surface area than the wok does, and it is really more effective for stir-frying.

                      1. re: ivysmom

                        Remember that the wok evolved from kitchens where the heat source was a charcoal burner. Temperature control was done by taking it off the heat when it was cooking too fast, and having something with little inertia was important. Also, you want a pan that will heat quickly so you don't have to keep the charcoal burning any longer than necessary.

                        A heavy skillet is great for cooking when you have adjustable heat because it tends to hold temperature well, once it gets there. .

                        1. re: MikeR

                          Also, part of the point of the wok's shape is exactly *in order* to have less bottom surface area; that way the heat is concentrated in one part of the skillet, allowing you to vary the heat by moving the food around in the pan. It's a very useful wok technique to be able to scoop food up onto the sides of the pan and add a new item to the blazing hot middle.

                          1. re: sweth

                            That is why some of the best woks are surprising. Te hand hammered ones have uneven surfaces that make it easier to keep the cooked food warm on the sides. I have come to favor an old Le Creuset cast iron wok that keeps all the ingredients warm before final mixing. I am sure this would never be considered authentic, but it is the best wok I have ever used, and I used it first on an electric burner, now gas.

                            It has a properly curved inside, but it rests on a small flat bottomed stalk. I have a 15000 btu burner that is too powerful for it, the 9000 btu burner makes it plenty hot.

                    2. If you wanna go nuts, there is a recent thread about Asian markets/groceries in the area, and in it you will find a link to a Google map of nearly all the East Asian groceries in the area. you can plug your address in, and see all the places near you.

                      I glanced around for a legit wok at Great Wall, but mostly saw flat bottomed coated stuff.

                      If you want to go totally overboard with your cookware expansion, get a $30 jet burner at a BBQ or similar grill store -- it serves as the wok ring too. You hook it up to a propane tank (the one on your grill or its own tank) and it'll give you a flame that is ridiculous. Works great for wok stuff, and super fast corn, lobsters, etc. (anything in a giant stew pot.) It's nice cooking in a wok outside too, plus any oil or specs of food don't have to be wiped off the backsplash, and no oil build up on your ceiling and cabinets.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Russel Shank

                        I'm with ya, man. Some things, like deep-frying, should not be done in the house. All the clean-up can be done with a garden hose. You do have to be careful working with that much heat, though. Keep the kids and drunk neighbors clear and don't cook in the garage or under a cover.

                      2. DC: You should be ashamed. With a diverse Asian population and metropolitan population that enjoys Asian inspire dishes, why in the hell is it so hard to buy a carbon steel wok in this area. In a two day period, I frequented Chinatown, H-Mart Fairfax, and Eden Center and left each of these shopping districts empty handed. What really just drove a dagger in my heart was all the cheap, tacky coated cookware. Seriously, this can't be life!!!

                        I cannot believe that everyone is ordering their Woks online. Is there a secret password to obtain woks.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: cityhopper

                          What I've seen at those markets was exactly what I saw in Chinese markets... except maybe the ones here are Heavier gauge.
                          It was one of the many Many MANY "wow it'll be great to be able to buy The Real Thing" expectations I took to China that were "adjusted" by actual life in Beijing!!

                          1. re: cityhopper

                            There used to be plenty of places to buy woks in DC. Instead today you have Penn Quarter.

                          2. Interesting thread, which led me to also find the CH thread below about tabletop burners.

                            Barbara Tropp once claimed that Americans would be better off using flat-bottomed woks, since the curved ones are designed to nestle into a pile of coals, not sit on a grate. She recommended two brands, Joycook and Cook-Aid. (The link below is to an article preview, not the full article.)



                            2 Replies
                            1. re: KWagle

                              I bought a replacement burner grate for my gas stove and cut out the center so that my curved bottom wok sits down into the flame as it does on a Japanese gas stove or a charcoal burner. Of course this wouldn't work with an electric stove

                              1. re: MikeR

                                Any Chinese grocery store that sells woks also has these metal rings that allow your wok to sit comfortably a couple inches above the cooking element. They cost about $2.00 and they totally work. When I buy a new wok, I always buy two--one for the burner and one to set the wok off to the side. The last place I got them was at Maxim Grocery in Rockville.