Classic non-seasoned carbon steel wok in the Boston area?
- cassis Jul 3, 2010 03:56 PM
Decided I'm ready for the real thing, read Grace Young's "The Breath of a Wok" for background, set out for Ming's. Found unseasoned carbon steel round bottom with two ear handles, maybe for restaurant use, and "Myland" brand flat bottom woks with long handle and short helper handle but non-stick. Walked over to C-Mart, same story--lots of Myland non-stick woks. Drove to Super 88/Hong Kong, same story. Drove to Reliable, ditto. H-Mart, ditto.
Do Asian home cooks no longer use traditional woks, so versatile and sturdy? am I hopelessly romantic to want the real thing? do you know where I will find a 12" or 14" unseasoned carbon steel flat bottom wok with westernized handles that I can season with pork fat and Chinese chives and set off the smoke alarm?
Cassis, have you tried the Wok Shop in California? You can google it; they sell online. Also, they distribute some of their woks via Amazon.
Try that Asian restaurant supply shop in Chinatown.. think its on Lincoln St., not too far from the C-mart over there - its small and tight, not much in the way of signage.. and you can pick up some cool tiki mugs while you are there.
I agree with both iyc_nyc and grant.cook. It is pretty sad that many Asian home cooks no longer know how to use traditional woks. A lot of Asian supermarket carries them, but some don't. Your best bet is Chinatown. I have also seen carbon steel wok in Bed Bath and Beyond.
I personally don't like it because I find it is a bit heavy. I like to toss my food in a wok.
All in all, sometime the easiest thing is just to buy it online. The Wokshop offers nice selection and the price is not too bad. Nonetheless, the shipping fee does kick the price up, so I usually buy a few other things along a wok from the Wokshop.
For what it's worth, I asked my friend's mom about this. her wok pedigree is this: she's from Hong Kong originally and the family now owns 4 Chinese restaurants in the greater Boston area. I figure she might know a thing or two about woks.
She made a really funny looking bad face and asked why the heck I would want one. She said that seasoning it is a pain, that the oil used to season can go rancid on the surface if not used frequently enough, and that it's not worth the effort. She recommended a non-stick wok. If you read Cooks Illustrated, they suggest using a 12" saute pan because the typical American stove works better with a flat bottomed pan.
If you're still set on it, there are restaurant supply stores in/around Chelsea and Everett, not too far from the Market Basket (if you know where that is).
Right. You should ask your friend's mother if she actually uses any nonstick wok in her restaurants. I doubt it.
Cook Illustrated is simply wrong when they stated a saute pan work better than a wok for Asian cooking on a American stove. Cook Illustrated is probably thinking about the very light stir fry that some people do by pushing foods around. There are many styles of wok cooking. "Bao" won't work very well on a saute pan.
Read about Bao here:
I think whoever wrote that wok article has never done "egg fried rice".
Here is a video of fried rice.
I have used very high heat and need to constantly flip and toss the rice to avoid burning and sticking together. I cannot do that on a saute pan, whereas I can do that easily in a wok (flat bottom or round bottom).
one other thing, to echo another poster.. if you want to try wok cooking, you will never get enough heat out of a normal home stove to do it in the way that most authentic Asian recipes call for. You'll pretty much need to do it over a kettle grill using hardwood charcoal or buy one of those outdoor propane burners.
I won't say that one cannot make authentic Asian recipes using an American home stove,consider the fact that most Chinese in China have less powerful stoves than Americans.
I think the key is to properly heat the wok to the proper temperature before placing the food and not to overwhelm the wok.
I've seen cast iron woks get hot enough to get good results on a home stove but only the daring should attempt tossing the food.
Non-stick and woks seem like a marriage made in hell. Usually too slippery and can't take the high heat.
Another outdoor option to use with a carbon steel wok might be a paella burner, some of those can put out some serious BTUs.