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January 2011 Cookbook of the Month WINNER

smtucker Dec 16, 2010 04:37 AM

The winner(s) of the January 2011 COTM are THE BREATH OF THE WOK: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore & STIR-FRYING TO THE SKY'S EDGE: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories, Grace Young.

Please use this thread to discuss techniques, ingredients, meal planning, along with any other interesting tidbits about these books and recipes.

If you discover any online sources for recipes from these books, please feel free to post them.


  1. s
    smtucker Dec 16, 2010 04:39 AM

    Here is a link to the voting thread:

    and the nomination thread:

    1. JoanN Dec 16, 2010 04:50 AM

      There are a few recipes on Grace Young's Web site. I didn't double check each one, but I'm quite certain all of these recipes are from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.


      1. Gio Dec 16, 2010 04:57 AM

        From The Breath of a Wok...

        Breath of a Wok Introduction:

        Chiu Chow-Style Pork Spring Moon

        Fried Rice with Ham, Egg, and Scallions

        Liang Nian Xiu’s Moon Hill Corn and Beans
        Seasoning a Wok: Hung Chong Chinese Chive and Oil Stir-Fry
        Jean Yueh's Shanghai-Style Shrimp

        Stir Fry Pork

        Moo Shoo Pork (adaptation

        Grace Young's website with recipes:

        Thank You, SMT...!

        1. Gio Dec 16, 2010 05:22 AM

          From Stir-Frying To the Sky's Edge...

          Stir-Fried Clams with Spicy Bean Sauce Recipe

          Stir-Fried Squid with Black Bean Sauce

          Stir-Fried Lotus Root with Bacon and Vegetables

          Wok-Seared Vegetables

          Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce Recipe

          Stir-Fried Chicken with Carrots and Mushrooms

          Spicy Orange Chicken

          Kung Pao Chicken

          Crabmeat Fried Rice

          Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Sichuan Pepper and Salt

          Squid with Black Bean Sauce

          Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef (2 pages

          Beef chow fun

          Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp
          Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli

          Stir-Fried Ginger Beef,
          Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas With Shitake Mushrooms,
          Velvet Chicken With Asparagus,
          Stir-Fried Chili Scallops With Baby Bok Choy

          Grace Young on The Simple Stir-Fry

          2 Replies
          1. re: Gio
            Gio Dec 16, 2010 07:32 AM

            Stir-Fried Ginger Beef with Sugar Snaps and Carrots

            Hoisin Explosion Chicken

            1. re: Gio
              bayoucook Dec 24, 2010 03:15 AM

              I've bought this cookbook but haven't read it yet - so excited about it being one of this month's selections!!

            2. The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2010 05:30 AM

              Thank you, smtucker. Very exciting! I just picked up a copy of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge and already love it, even though, naturally, I haven't cooked from it yet. She met with Chinese homecooks from around the world to learn how they've adapted stir fry to their environments. So, you get a discussion on Jamaican Jerk Chicken stir fry, for instance, and, of course, American Chop Suey. Lots of classic dishes in there, too, I think.

              Also, she says that since she was writing this book for the home cook, and she knows we don't have the big powerful stove-tops that restaurants have, she tested all of the recipes on both a flat-bottomed wok and a 12-inch skillet. So, even if you do not own a wok (which I do not), you can cook many of the recipes in the book. She says there are a few recipes she couldn't get to work in the 12-inch skillet. For those, she will tell you in the headnotes that for this particular recipe, you really need a wok.

              Finally, I was delighted to find that many (not all of course) recipes call for only 2 TBSP of oil, which is pretty diet-friendly. (Many of the recipes serve 2 as a main dish with rice.)

              It is currently on sale for $14 "bargain price" at Amazon, for anyone who is interested.


              22 Replies
              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                LulusMom Dec 16, 2010 06:56 AM

                This book sounds great, and I can't wait to read the reports. Probably end up buying it, if the recipes turn out well.

                1. re: LulusMom
                  bayoucook Dec 27, 2010 02:11 AM

                  I read Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge last night and loved it - earmarked about a dozen recipes. It is so full of useful information; there was no actually recipe until page 50 or so. You can't go wrong using a wok if you pay attention to her instructions! It's brilliant and I may get her other book(s). I have a wok and hope to start trying some of her recipes later this week!

                  1. re: bayoucook
                    The Dairy Queen Dec 27, 2010 04:58 AM

                    I am equally enthusiastic about this book and author. My wok is en route. :).


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      bayoucook Dec 27, 2010 06:11 AM

                      Did you get one like the author recommended? This is going to be fun.

                      1. re: bayoucook
                        The Dairy Queen Dec 27, 2010 06:28 AM

                        Yes, of course! :) I bought it on Amazon. Same as JoanN's (she provided a link SOMEWHERE in this thread), but with the lid. I also bought a bunch of the accessories Young recommended. The various vegetable slicers, the spatula, the skimmer, etc.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                          JoanN Dec 27, 2010 06:38 AM

                          Oooh! Oooh! I want the vegetable slicers! Tried to julienne celery in the food processor the other evening. Un-unh. Wasn't gonna happen. I *need* those slicers, don't I?

                          1. re: JoanN
                            bayoucook Dec 27, 2010 07:48 AM

                            Of course you do! And which wok did you buy that TDQ also bought? I've had mine for 26 years and may buy a new one.....(still got some Christmas cash).

                            1. re: bayoucook
                              JoanN Dec 27, 2010 08:01 AM

                              My first wok, inherited from a friend, lasted me more than 10 years. No idea how long he'd had it before me. In the end, the wok was still fine, but the handle had broken off. I replaced it about a year or so ago with a wooden-handled, flat-bottomed, 14-inch carbon steel wok with a wooden helper handle. It was just something I picked up inexpensively in Chinatown, but it turns out to be exactly the wok Young recommends in Stir-Frying. Although now that I've read Breath of a Wok I'm coveting one of those hand-hammered woks as well. Maybe if I just buy the vegetable slicers that covetous feeling will pass? Ya think?

                              1. re: JoanN
                                roxlet Dec 27, 2010 08:55 AM


                                1. re: JoanN
                                  The Dairy Queen Dec 27, 2010 10:58 AM

                                  ***GOOD DEAL ALERT FOR THOSE OF YOU LOOKING FOR A WOK AND/OR A BOOK***

                                  JoanN, I don't think this will help you much since I think you already have your copy of S-FTTSE but The Wok Shop is offering a 10'' hand-hammed wok PLUS a copy of S-FTTSE for $35. The hand-hammered wok is apparently normally priced at $50. So, if you haven't really used Amazon copy of the book, you could return it and get the Wok Shop deal instead.

                                  I meant to tell everyone about this deal at the Wok Shop, but I misunderstood it the first time I read it and didn't think it was a very good deal. Now that S-FTTSE is no longer on sale on Amazon for $14, I think the Wok Shop deal is a great deal.



                                  1. re: JoanN
                                    buttertart Dec 27, 2010 03:09 PM

                                    JoanN: Get one of the little Japanese jobs at Kam Man, there's one that has a julienner, v cheap and handy.

                                    1. re: buttertart
                                      JoanN Dec 27, 2010 03:51 PM

                                      Exactly what I had in mind. Sometime after the thaw.

                                      1. re: JoanN
                                        buttertart Dec 27, 2010 03:57 PM

                                        Roll on the day.

                                2. re: JoanN
                                  The Dairy Queen Dec 27, 2010 10:49 AM

                                  I think anything that's going to make it easier and faster to prep vegetables is a must-have! That way, you'll eat more of them, or, that's my theory!


                                3. re: The Dairy Queen
                                  mebby Dec 29, 2010 12:19 PM

                                  TDQ, I don't see the slicer recommendations in Breath of a Wok -- would you mind sharing? My knife skills are definitely not up to par and I might just *need* these too.

                                  1. re: mebby
                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 12:27 PM

                                    Of course. Mine just arrived, actually. I seem to have come down with a cold, so, I'm resisting the urge to run out to the grocery store for stuff to stir-fry and just resting instead, so I haven't had a chance to try them, but they seem very sturdy and well-made.

                                    Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler with Blade Protector

                                    Green Onion Negi Cutter #4235


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      mebby Dec 29, 2010 01:31 PM

                                      Thanks -- and I hope you feel better!

                            2. re: bayoucook
                              LulusMom Dec 27, 2010 06:19 AM

                              I'll be reading along and cooking vicariously!

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen
                            Gio Dec 16, 2010 07:34 AM

                            I already have my New Year's Eve thinking cap on. There are several recipes from S-FTTSE that will be perfect for us. It's going to be difficult to choose.

                            1. re: Gio
                              The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2010 07:46 AM

                              I think I recall the book has a sidebar on symbolism of dishes for Chinese New Year. Might be fun to pick some of those for NYE!


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                Gio Dec 16, 2010 08:01 AM

                                Thanks for the suggestion. I ordered Stir-Frying and it's on its way to me as I type. This will be the third year we make our own NYE Chinese dinner instead of take-away. Before that and cooking from COTMs I wouldn't have dreamed of making Any Asian food in house. This is Sooooo much better in every way.

                              2. re: Gio
                                The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2010 10:14 AM

                                The sidebar listing certain ingredients and the symbolism for each is on page 194, eg., shrimp=happiness and laughter. Noodles=longevity, etc.


                            2. Rubee Dec 16, 2010 08:27 AM

                              If anyone has cooked or gone through both books, could you give a brief description of each? Recipes/variety, which is the best addition to a home library? I can only buy one and not sure which I should try. From recipe links above, it looks like BOW has recipes I'd like to try, while Stir-Frying has a lot of Cantonese, which my husband loves. Thanks!

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: Rubee
                                JoanN Dec 16, 2010 08:45 AM

                                Haven't cooked from either but have been reading both (and gave up flagging individual recipes in both because there were so few I WASN'T flagging.

                                I think Stir-Frying does indeed have more Cantonese recipes, at least in part because as she says in Breath (quoting Florence Lin), "The Canonese superiority at stir-frying is well known." She also says it is the Cantonese who stress the importance of wok hay. So it makes sense that her book on Stir-Frying would emphasize Cantonese cooking.

                                Breath has a lot of information on how woks are made, how to choose one, how to season it, how to clean it. Even though I've been using a wok for years, I found much of that material fascinating. It may be too basic for you.

                                On the other hand, the introductory pages of Stir-Frying have a lot of info on ingredients and cutting techniques, much of which you would also probably pass right by.

                                I think it's a tough call and would probably be best if you sit down with each of them. Does Amazon still have Breath for $14? That really is almost too good a deal to pass up. Especially since you know you'll probably be getting both eventually, right?

                                1. re: JoanN
                                  Rubee Dec 16, 2010 08:51 AM

                                  <Especially since you know you'll probably be getting both eventually, right?>

                                  Ahh, you know me too well! As I was reading through your response, I had already decided that before I hit your last sentence.

                                  1. re: JoanN
                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2010 08:52 AM

                                    Breath was also $14? Or did you meant S-FFTSE? The latter was still $14 on Amazon when I checked this morning.

                                    My library has them both, but they are both checked out!


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      JoanN Dec 16, 2010 09:00 AM

                                      Sorry, sorry, sorry. Another instance of fingers engaged but not brain. I did indeed mean Stir-Frying. My bad.

                                      1. re: JoanN
                                        Gio Dec 16, 2010 09:10 AM

                                        Well, I bought Stir-Frying for 14.00....and that's it for me. November was a big cookbook buying spree. I have to be good from now on. Until the next must have comes along.

                                        1. re: JoanN
                                          The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2010 09:55 AM

                                          Ah, well. I would have loved to have gotten a great deal on BOTH the books, but, I shall be satisfied with the one I have, especially since I do not own a wok. :)


                                      2. re: JoanN
                                        buttertart Dec 16, 2010 09:49 AM

                                        If the mention of Florence Lin makes you want to know more about her, she wrote the definitive book on flour-based Chinese cuisine "Florence Lin's Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings, and Breads" which is a treasure (and priced accordingly used). Just checked - it's available in the Brooklyn library system and even in my NJ county one, so I should think it's widely distributed. ***If you are interested in Chinese cooking get your hands on this*** . Period.

                                        1. re: buttertart
                                          JoanN Dec 16, 2010 10:16 AM

                                          Yes, I know Florence Lin. I published her first book, the Chinese Regional Cookbook. It speaks to the age of the book that so many recipes called for the use of monosodium glutamate. But it was her recipes that were my introduction to Asian cooking. I'll never forget using giant safety pins to hang pork strips from my oven shelves to try to make her Chinese Roast Pork.

                                          1. re: JoanN
                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 16, 2010 10:25 AM

                                            That's pretty cool, JoanN. i recently snagged a used copy of her 'one dish" meals and have my eyes out for others.

                                            Young mentions her in S-FFTSE too.


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                              buttertart Dec 16, 2010 10:31 AM

                                              Trust me, the bread etc book is amazing. And JoanN the "you" was the general, not the specific - am not in the least surprised you are FL-savvy!

                                      3. re: Rubee
                                        MelMM Dec 16, 2010 09:24 AM

                                        I have both books, and have cooked some, but not much from them. Looking forward to some motivation to try more. To me, the most important difference between the two books is that they have two very different missions. Breath is more about the wok itself, and what you can do with it. So it covers a wider range of techniques, such as steaming, tea smoking, braising. The dishes are Chinese and Chinese-American. Stir-Frying is about stir-frying in particular, but it is also about the food of the Chinese diaspora. It contains dishes from Chinese people all over the world, so you get things like Chinese-Indian or Chinese-Trinidadian dishes, that you would not normally see in a Chinese cookbook in this country. I find that particularly fascinating, and for me it is the biggest selling point of the book.

                                        1. re: Rubee
                                          greedygirl Dec 16, 2010 01:39 PM

                                          I'm in the same wok as Rubee - can only justify one and will have to be sight unseen probably. Unfortunately I can't take advantage of the Amazon offer as it's US only...

                                          1. re: greedygirl
                                            smtucker Dec 16, 2010 02:49 PM

                                            Want me to ship a copy to you?

                                            1. re: smtucker
                                              greedygirl Dec 16, 2010 11:56 PM

                                              That's very sweet of you, but the postage would probably wipe out the saving!

                                          2. re: Rubee
                                            Rubee Dec 17, 2010 09:59 AM

                                            With all of you talking about the great Amazon price, and now author Grace Young just posting on her Facebook page how Stir-Frying is 61% off at $13.65, it's a sign - I had to get it. Can't wait to start cooking out of it next month! She also posted this link about the books being COTM on her FB wall : )

                                            1. re: Rubee
                                              dimsumgirl Jan 8, 2011 09:56 AM

                                              I have both and also the Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young. I find that I use the Wisdom and Breath of a Wok books most often.

                                            2. s
                                              smtucker Dec 16, 2010 12:26 PM

                                              Surprised to discover that "Breath of the Wok" is not available through my library. Eight copies and every single one of them is out with a hold. Hope this isn't the case for all the other library users amongst us. Sure hope I like the book since I ordered it.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: smtucker
                                                buttertart Dec 16, 2010 12:27 PM

                                                Maybe there are 16 COTMers in your immediate area!

                                                1. re: smtucker
                                                  Gio Dec 16, 2010 05:22 PM

                                                  SMT, The Breath of a Wok is listed at 3 libraries in the Noble network in my area: Beverly Farms, Marblehead, Everett. Would you like me to order it for you?

                                                  1. re: Gio
                                                    smtucker Dec 16, 2010 05:29 PM

                                                    Such a kind offer, but my copy has already shipped! I was concerned that I wouldn't have the book in time to build the January threads if I put myself on a waiting list.

                                                2. j
                                                  JaneEYB Dec 17, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                  Very happy with the choices for January though I hadn't had time to participate in the nominations. I've been meaning to get both these books as I've heard so many good things about them so ordered both on amazon for $37 with free shipping. What a bargain!

                                                  My son will be delighted that we're doing these books as stir-fries are his favorite meal.

                                                  1. s
                                                    smtucker Dec 17, 2010 11:03 AM

                                                    Books arrived today, and they are both very beautiful. Looking forward to looking through both of them this evening.

                                                    51 Replies
                                                    1. re: smtucker
                                                      smtucker Dec 17, 2010 05:04 PM

                                                      Just finished reading through the Breath of a Wok. Wow! What an insightful book. Lots of narrative accompanied by somer recipes that all look wonderful.

                                                      Sad thing is she proclaims that the wok I bought in Chinatown in 1976 for $7 will never cook properly. Maybe this is why my wok-hay has never amounted to much. Guess I will be buying myself a new wok for Christmas.

                                                      1. re: smtucker
                                                        The Dairy Queen Dec 17, 2010 07:08 PM

                                                        smtucker, what's wrong with your wok? In S-FFTSE, I think she recommends a flat-bottomed wok. Is that correct?


                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                          LulusMom Dec 18, 2010 04:30 AM

                                                          Wonder how she'd feel about my using a enameled dutch oven as a wok. Probably not pro.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom
                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 04:34 AM

                                                            I don't recall that being discussed. :).


                                                            1. re: LulusMom
                                                              greedygirl Dec 18, 2010 05:00 AM

                                                              I wouldn't imagine it gets hot enough. I wouldn't be without my wok tbh. In fact, I've got two.

                                                              1. re: greedygirl
                                                                JoanN Dec 18, 2010 05:15 AM

                                                                Do you see the light bulb going on above my head? I've often wondered how COTMers manage to put together a meal of multiple wok-cooked dishes. A true d'uh moment. Two woks. Wish I had room for another.

                                                                My ex-sister-in-law had three woks. But she is Chinese and it wasn't unusual for her to put a dozen dishes on the table for seven people. I might also add that she never sat down to eat with us. She was in the kitchen still bringing out more food until those of us at the table were just about ready for seconds.

                                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                                  The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 05:33 AM

                                                                  That's impressive, about your ex Sister in Law. I couldn't do it.

                                                                  I loved Grace Young's comment that her father wouldn't start stir-frying until everyone was seated at the table.


                                                                  1. re: JoanN
                                                                    greedygirl Dec 18, 2010 05:43 AM

                                                                    If you get slightly smaller one, they fit inside each other.

                                                              2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                smtucker Dec 18, 2010 05:02 AM

                                                                Mine is not carbon or cast iron. I will keep it for steaming dumplings though.

                                                                1. re: smtucker
                                                                  Gio Dec 18, 2010 06:24 AM

                                                                  GY does say that a 12" skillet is acceptable for all but a few recipes. My wok is cast iron and it's Heavy! And ancient, the '70s sounds about right. Bought during the Joyce Chen era.

                                                                  1. re: Gio
                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 06:32 AM

                                                                    I know she says that in S-FTTKE, but does she also say that in BoaW?

                                                                    *Hopeful, not wanting to purchase a wok, but wanting ANOTHER cookbook*


                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                      Gio Dec 18, 2010 06:41 AM

                                                                      <"I know she says that in S-FTTKE, but does she also say that in BoaW?">

                                                                      Dunno... Did she come to that conclusion before writing S-FTTSE??

                                                                      Anyway, we use both a skillet and a wok to prepare multi stir-fried dishes. Although...I'd love to have a carbon steel wok. But I just can't see G having the patience to do the many required seasoning steps. I'm just lucky he likes the wok we have and uses it more often than other pans and for recipes other than stir-frying.

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                        JoanN Dec 18, 2010 07:12 AM

                                                                        <"I know she says that in S-FTTKE, but does she also say that in BoaW?">

                                                                        Hate to disappoint you, but the title of the book is Breath of a Wok, not Breath of a Skillet. :-o

                                                                        Just curious why you don't want a wok. I adore using a wok. And what she calls a spatula but I call a shovel. It makes stir-frying so much easier to say nothing of so much fun.

                                                                        As for the hassle of seasoning, I had to buy a new wok a year or so ago and even without regular use it seasoned up very quickly. It looks almost as good now as some of the photos in the book.

                                                                        1. re: JoanN
                                                                          Gio Dec 18, 2010 07:25 AM

                                                                          Well Joan, That's very good to know. I don't remember what I did to the original wok when I bought it way back when. In those days I did All the cooking and was able to follow directions (in the kitchen - hah) to the letter. So the wok probably got seasoned as instructed. I'm definitely in the mood for a carbon steel wok now.

                                                                          1. re: JoanN
                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                                            I was thinking maybe there was such a thing as skillet hai that I hadn't heard of yet. :). I see that there is a recipe for popping popcorn in BoaW and I was pretty sure that couldn't be done in a 12-inch skillet! Also, I can see that BoaW has chapters: Smoking, Braising, Boiling, and Poaching, Steaming, and Deep-Frying. Even though I haven't read the recipes in those chapters, I'm guessing they won't work in my skillet.

                                                                            I don't want a wok because I eschew specialized cooking equipment of any kind, unless it's just absolutely essential for something I make all the time or something I have no other way of enjoying (ie., no local restaurant serves it).

                                                                            Funnily (sadly) enough, my in-laws have figured out that I like cooking "exotic" foods, so, every year for my birthday and Christmas my in-laws give me some really obscure piece of cooking equipment. Usually not inexpensive or small, either. My husband gets upset if I re-gift it or donate it, but I just have not the time, energy or patience to deal with dragging this equipment into my tiny kitchen, so I just box it up and put it in some dark corner of the basement. It is one of my greatest shames. I can see that they are really trying. I wish I could just tell them to donate the money to charity or something.

                                                                            I did a big move several years ago and threw out, donated, gave away dozens of boxes of "precious" things, many of which I hadn't seen or used in years, partly because I'd forgotten I had them or couldn't find them. I vowed never to find myself in that position again, even though I am a thrifty packrat at heart, so, I really try to bring very few purchases into my home. I know it's probably hard to for you all to believe that the way I've been buying cookbooks lately. ;-).


                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                              greedygirl Dec 19, 2010 12:14 AM

                                                                              In my book, a wok is an absolutely essential piece of kitchen equipment. I bought both of mine in Chinese stores. One is about ten years old now and is beautifully seasoned - my Singaporean friend was impressed. Even Mr GG knows how to look after them and he's very conscientious about not using washing up liquid, and wiping them down with a bit of oil after cleaning.

                                                                              Can you even get the famous "breath of a wok" without using one in the first place?

                                                                              I dunno, it seems bonkers to me to have a book all about stir-frying and other stuff like Dunlop and not have a wok! No offence, TDQ and LLM!

                                                                              1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                LulusMom Dec 19, 2010 03:37 AM

                                                                                No offense taken! I seem to have stirred a hornet's nest. Sorry about that.

                                                                                The funny thing is, it was someone on here, at the beginning of Dunlop month, who suggested using a dutch oven, and it worked for me the first time, so I just kept on doing.

                                                                                1. re: LulusMom
                                                                                  beetlebug Dec 19, 2010 03:58 AM

                                                                                  I think it was me. Up until recently, I never owned a wok. My mother never cooked with one and she only eats chinese food. I always got great results from a dutch oven or a 12 inch skillet. Over the last couple of years though, I decided I preferred the skillet over the dutch oven mostly because I could get it hotter.

                                                                                  But, I recently got one. My mom was cleaning out her basement and had one down there - a 10 inch never been used wok. I have it. I like it. But, I'm not convinced it does a better job then the skillet or dutch oven. I'm also not convinced that you have to have a wok in order to make delicious chinese food. Maybe my stove just doesn't get that hot because the results of my dishes in both implements are about the same.

                                                                                  1. re: beetlebug
                                                                                    LulusMom Dec 19, 2010 03:47 PM

                                                                                    Thanks beetlebug, I thought it was you. I've really had great luck with it, and have always been grateful for the advice. The burner I use on our stove gets amazingly hot (so much so that I can't cook rice on the lowest setting on that burner), and things always turn out beautifully in my dutch oven.

                                                                                2. re: greedygirl
                                                                                  oakjoan Dec 21, 2010 04:16 PM

                                                                                  I have had a wok for years and use it frequently. I remember reading somewhere lately (past couple of years) that unless you have a really fancy stove a wok is pretty much useless (that is it can't produce what it would in a restaurant kitchen) because the heat isn't high enough.

                                                                                  I keep using my wok anyway, but I see what they mean.

                                                                                  Another question: Is it even possible for us to get wok hai without having that extra high heat?

                                                                                  1. re: oakjoan
                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 21, 2010 04:36 PM

                                                                                    It's hard to say. She has a whole sidebar on it on pg 111 in SFTTSE but kind of skirts the issue, saying home cooks have other advantages over restaurants in terms of freshness and healthfulness.


                                                                                    1. re: oakjoan
                                                                                      LulusMom Dec 22, 2010 03:01 AM

                                                                                      I have a fancy (and incredibly dumb) oven/stove. The burners all have different heat levels, the oven has broken twice, customer service is nil. Just a warning to everyone: never buy a Viking.

                                                                                    2. re: greedygirl
                                                                                      pikawicca Dec 21, 2010 05:20 PM

                                                                                      I would love to see a blind tasting on the whole "Breath of a Wok" concept. I think it's total hooey, much the same as oenophiles claiming to discern the difference between lesser and nobler wines (they can't). Not meant as a personal attack, gg, just don't think there's any facts to back up the claims.

                                                                                    3. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                      Rmis32 Dec 25, 2010 10:47 AM

                                                                                      Coincidently, I'm reading this as I'm munching on popcorn I made in a Calphalon 10" skillet. It works fine for popcorn, try it.

                                                                                3. re: Gio
                                                                                  smtucker Dec 18, 2010 06:48 AM

                                                                                  You know.... the cookbooks cost $32. Add all the other Asian books I have bought since being sucked into COTM and we are getting closer to $100. The new wok will cost about $20. Doesn't seem like too high a price to make better food. The funny thing is, I had bookmarked a web page about 8 years ago for the "wok of my dreams" and it is the exact model recommended by Ms. Young! From the exact same shop.

                                                                                  Certainly compared to the All Clad and Le Crueset cooking vessels I have purchased over my lifetime, the wok is a deal!

                                                                                  1. re: smtucker
                                                                                    LulusMom Dec 18, 2010 07:20 AM

                                                                                    Well, since I won't be around for this coming month, I'm not going to sweat the lack of a wok (although I have a feeling I'm going to want to buy the books!). I've done really well with the dutch oven, tbh, during both Dunlop and Vietnamese months. If it ain't broke, and all that. But I can see that some of you feel very passionately about your woks. Food for thought (ouch).

                                                                                    1. re: smtucker
                                                                                      Gio Dec 18, 2010 07:29 AM

                                                                                      Ah.. The cookbook shelves expandith. Funny how that happens. I'm waiting to read reports of BOAW before I change my mind and succumb to yet another. In the meantime I'll wok from the library.

                                                                                      1. re: smtucker
                                                                                        bizkat Dec 18, 2010 07:36 AM

                                                                                        smtucker, could you please post that link to the wok recommended by Ms. Young?

                                                                                        1. re: bizkat
                                                                                          JoanN Dec 18, 2010 07:42 AM

                                                                                          This is the wok she recommends. Not this brand, necessarily, but a 14-inch, flat-bottomed, carbon steel wok with helper handles.


                                                                                          Purely coincidentally, this was the wok I bought about a year ago even before I read either book and I'm very, very happy with it.

                                                                                          ETA: I should add, this is sinilar to the no-name brand wok I bought in NYCs Chinatown for at least 1/3 less than what it's going for on Amazon.

                                                                                          1. re: JoanN
                                                                                            Gio Dec 18, 2010 08:38 AM

                                                                                            Many negative reviews for that particular model. Joan. Did you have trouble with your wok rusting? We treat our wok like a cast iron skillet.

                                                                                            1. re: Gio
                                                                                              JoanN Dec 18, 2010 08:55 AM

                                                                                              Are we looking at the same link? I took a look at those reviews and one negative was because it didn't include instructions and one 4 out or 5 stars really liked the wok but complained that it didn't have a glass lid!?! The only really negative review was because the handle fell off.

                                                                                              No, I had no trouble with my wok rusting, but as you say, I treat mine as I do my cast iron skillets. I also, ever since Dunlop, use her method of heating the wok to smoking, tossing in a bit of oil and swirling it around, tossing out that oil and then adding oil to cook. I think this technique seasoned my wok a lot more quickly than it might have had it been seasoned traditionally. It also allows me to use quite a bit less oil for cooking.

                                                                                              About that handle falling apart. My first wok was inherited from a friend. Not sure how long he had it before me, but I had it for more than 10 years. It was hung on the wall by a screwed-in ring at the end of the bamboo handle. One day the screw pulled out and the wok came crashing off the wall. I tried to glue it back in, but it came crashing down again at about 2:00 one morning. Decided not only for me but for the sake of my neighbors that it was time to buy a new one. So, I guess the wood can/does eventually dry out. But I haven't had any problems with my new one.

                                                                                              1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 09:09 AM

                                                                                                That wok on Amazon is eligible for their 4 for 3 promotion, too. If only there were 3 other things on Amazon that I wanted/needed right now.


                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                  smtucker Dec 18, 2010 09:17 AM

                                                                                                  <whispering>More cookbooks?</whispering>

                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                    JoanN Dec 18, 2010 09:18 AM

                                                                                                    Are you asking for a little help from your friends?




                                                                                                    I’m not being facetious here. Well, not really. I use all three of these things nearly every time I use my wok and I wouldn’t be without a single one of them.

                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                      The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 09:23 AM

                                                                                                      HA! You two crack me up. Let me look at the links! Maybe now is the time to buy a wok. BUt, where will I put it?!


                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                        JoanN Dec 18, 2010 09:48 AM

                                                                                                        This is where mine lives.

                                                                                                      2. re: JoanN
                                                                                                        oakjoan Dec 21, 2010 04:20 PM

                                                                                                        JoanN: I LOVE that "spider skimmer" and use mine all the time. I got all my Chinese cooking equipment (ALL? Okay so I only have a few things) in Oakland's Chinatown. The stuff is remarkably cheap.

                                                                                                        1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                          mebby Dec 21, 2010 05:10 PM

                                                                                                          OK, stupid question, Joan, but the brush is for proper wok cleaning, right? I'm not gently massaging my veg as it sears?! Sorry, I don't do cast iron either, so I'm a bit of a moron in this area, but hoping to correct that. Thanks!

                                                                                                          1. re: mebby
                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 21, 2010 05:52 PM

                                                                                                            Oh, I assumed it was a vegetable brush, not a wok brush.

                                                                                                            Grace Young actually discourages the use of the hard bamboo wok "brush" for cleaning a home-wok. She thinks it scratches of the delicate patina. She thinks they are fine for restaurant use. Pg 28 SFTTSE.


                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                              mebby Dec 21, 2010 07:19 PM

                                                                                                              Thank you, TDQ -- I just thought it was very wok-specific from Joan's comment and extrapolated (I'm sure wrongly) from there. Who am I to question JoanN\ (really?!). But I am decidedly hampered in this conversation by the fact that I do not have either book OR a wok -- which also explains why I am excited about this month's COTM!

                                                                                                              1. re: mebby
                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 21, 2010 10:43 PM

                                                                                                                Mebby, you may still be correct re: how JoanN uses the brush. I'm still hoping JoanN will weigh in with her insight! I only assumed it was a vegetable brush, but Amazon describes more broadly.

                                                                                                                P.S. I'm excited for this month, too!


                                                                                                            2. re: mebby
                                                                                                              JoanN Dec 22, 2010 05:34 AM

                                                                                                              Ooops. Sorry. Arriving a bit late this morning.

                                                                                                              Yes, I did post that as a wok or pot brush, not as something to clean vegetables.

                                                                                                              I believe that the bamboo wok brush Young was saying should not be used is this kind of a brush which is often the kind of brush sold when you see wok sets on sale.


                                                                                                              The brush I linked to is just one variation on a theme. As a category, they’re called “natural bristle pot brushes.” I’ve also used one that looks like this: http://www.amazon.com/Scrubber-Strong... You can find natural bristle pot brushes in just about any Chinese market that sells cooking equipment. Don’t ask me why, but they invariably have prom-dress-pastel handles and are ugly as sin. You can hang them up, which I like; but this little round brush fits nicely in the hand and is so much more attractive.

                                                                                                              Probably half the cooking I do is in either a wok or a cast iron pan and these brushes are my cleaner of choice for both. Young is right when she says that bits of food particles can stick in them. But I don’t find them difficult to clean and I run them through the dishwasher every so often.

                                                                                                              1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 22, 2010 06:08 AM


                                                                                                                And, yes, that stiff bamboo brush that you linked in this most recent post of yours is the kind Grace Young says she's against.


                                                                                                            3. re: JoanN
                                                                                                              mebby Dec 25, 2010 02:50 PM

                                                                                                              While it might not have been meant for me, Joan, I took the help gladly and ordered one and all (indulgent I know, but my hint arrived a bit late for holiday purposes and I feel like I have license to be indulgent when it comes to COTM). Thank you for your guidance -- having missed out on Dunlop, I am very excited about this month!

                                                                                                            4. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                              LulusMom Dec 18, 2010 09:54 AM

                                                                                                              Or you could stay on the side of apparent evil (see me twirling my non-existent mustache) and not buy one.

                                                                                                              1. re: LulusMom
                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 18, 2010 11:32 AM

                                                                                                                It's like being in one of those cartoons where you get an angel whispering advice on into one ear and a devil into the other!

                                                                                                                I think I'm going to wait and see how Christmas shakes out at my house. Who knows, maybe my in-laws will randomly give me a wok this year! And, in the meantime, maybe I'll try a couple of recipes in my skillet and see what I think.

                                                                                                                ETA: I wouldn't mind owning a wok, if I used it all the time. I can certainly find a place for a USEFUL piece of equipment. Joan did!


                                                                                                            5. re: JoanN
                                                                                                              Gio Dec 19, 2010 03:50 AM

                                                                                                              You know... I Was looking at the wrong item. I like the Dunlop method of oiling/cooking works well for us too.

                                                                                                          2. re: JoanN
                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 19, 2010 10:07 AM

                                                                                                            Okay, you HAVE to see these aprons available at the Wok Shop. So, so funny!



                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                              JoanN Dec 19, 2010 10:38 AM

                                                                                                              Oooh . . . oooh. Too late this year, but "Drink Sake - Stay Soba" definitely has someone's name on it.

                                                                                                              1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 19, 2010 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                I love that one!

                                                                                                                I've got all of my items picked out at The Wok Shop. I think I'll zoom over to my neighborhood Asian market first, though, to see if I can get a bit of a price break.


                                                                                                          3. re: bizkat
                                                                                                            smtucker Dec 18, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                                                                            Here is the style and shop that she references:

                                                                                              2. roxlet Dec 18, 2010 04:44 AM

                                                                                                Just took a look at Grace Young's web site:


                                                                                                1. s
                                                                                                  smtucker Dec 18, 2010 03:32 PM

                                                                                                  I have now read through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. Ms Young clearly notates the few recipes that can not be done in a fry pan, so those folks without woks should not have any issues with participation in January.

                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 19, 2010 07:24 AM

                                                                                                    Exactly. In S-FTTSE she says nearly all of the recipes in that book will work in a 12-inch, heavy-duty stainless steel skillet. But, she says that's what she suggests when "pressed to stipulate a pan for cooks who prefer not to use a wok." For the few recipes in S-FTTSK she could not get to work in the skillet, she specifically says in the headnotes to the recipe that a wok is essential.

                                                                                                    However, I just noticed that she says, "A 12-inch skillet has a much larger flat surface area then the well of a 14-inch work," and, therefore, more oil is required for stir-frying in a skillets. So, I guess I just found my reason to purchase a wok. Still, I will wait to see what Christmas brings before forging ahead, but since I'm going to buy a wok, I'm going to buy BoaW (it's in hot demand at my library, so, I'm not going to bother to wait...). Also, I want to have a look at all of those utensils JoanN recommends, since I own none of those.

                                                                                                    Gio and JoanN--if it's not too much trouble, would you kindly please provide a page # reference to Dunlop's seasoning method? I own both books, so, either will do.

                                                                                                    Thank you, dear COTM-hounds.


                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                      smtucker Dec 19, 2010 07:35 AM

                                                                                                      I am neither Gio or JoanN, but will answer none-the-less:

                                                                                                      BoW: Wok Buying Guide page 38
                                                                                                      BoW: Seasoning the Wok pg 47

                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                        JoanN Dec 19, 2010 07:41 AM

                                                                                                        Just to be clear, the seasoning that Gio and I were talking about is the seasoning Dunlop does before each use of the wok. She describes that type of seasoning on pages 41-42 of Land of Plenty. That is different from seasoning a new wok, which she describes on page 47 but which you won't need if you're buying BoaW anyway.

                                                                                                        1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                          smtucker Dec 19, 2010 07:46 AM

                                                                                                          Totally misread..... thank you for the catch Joan. I should probably review Land of Plenty in the next week.

                                                                                                          1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 19, 2010 07:49 AM

                                                                                                            Hey, I need all of the help I can get. Thank you JoanN & SMTucker!


                                                                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                          blue room Dec 19, 2010 08:26 AM

                                                                                                          The cooking area of a 14 inch wok is about 29 square inches, the cooking area of 12 inch stainless skillet is about 64 square inches. But...won't it still take the same amount of oil to fry x number of food chunks? It's how much hot oil contacts how much food, right? Not how big the pan.

                                                                                                          1. re: blue room
                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 19, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                                                                            She says it takes more oil in a 12 inch skillet than it does in a 14-inch flat bottomed wok because of the differences in the amount of flat surface area. Top of page 15, S-FTTSE if you want to read it in her words.


                                                                                                      2. Rubee Dec 19, 2010 05:09 AM

                                                                                                        RE: Woks. My book hasn't arrived yet, but I found a couple of youtube videos with Grace Young discussing woks, and really enjoyed them. I'm tempted to buy a second wok and start all over with seasoning it with her tips and recipes. Thanks Breadcrumbs for nominating her books - I'm really looking forward to learn and cook from them.



                                                                                                        and on Chow:

                                                                                                        Grace Young Is a Wok Evangelist

                                                                                                        1. blue room Dec 19, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                                                                          Here is an interview that might add a little more info--
                                                                                                          I don't think this has been linked to in this thread yet.

                                                                                                          I'm no longer worried about 1 or 2 new cookbooks or a new cooking vessel -- I'm starting to think "bigger kitchen" "room addition pantry" I want those built-in bookshelves that cover a wall and rotate to reveal a hidden room!

                                                                                                          1. buttertart Dec 22, 2010 06:03 AM

                                                                                                            If anyone in NYC (Manhattan) is casting about for a good place to shop for Chinese (and some Japanese) cooking implements, the basement at Kam Man on Canal is the place to start - wide range of things, good prices, nice dishware/serving pieces. Highlights other than the usual wok and spatula - a cheap cheap cheap fine skimmer for soups (on the wall by the right side of the stairs, facing them) and a thin slicer (plastic casing) that works about as well as a Benriner and costs under $5.00, in a bin in the same area, which is mainly Japanese.
                                                                                                            In the Chinese aisles, cheap bamboo spoons and spatulas and large steamers made of thin aluminum that heat up quickly and hold lots of water for prolonged steaming. Cleavers too although I haven't bought one since getting my Gerber one over 30 yrs ago. Some of the really cheap Japanese knives and scissors (in the section with the skimmer and slicer) are not to be scorned either. Very fun place.
                                                                                                            The Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester has some nice stuff too (downstairs on the right side wall facing the stairs) including things like pasta scoops at a fraction of the BB&B price.
                                                                                                            And while you're shopping, be sure to get some Kimlan soy sauce and Evergreen sesame oil, excellent brands from Taiwan.
                                                                                                            If your interest extends to Yixing teapots, the best source in Chinatown is Jade Garden Arts at 76 Mulberry St - looks a bit junky on the outside but is owned by a conoisseur of the form - the pots are beautiful and range from very inexpensive to rather (quality is high and Shirley, the owner's daughter, knows her stuff). They have a few real collector's items at correspondingly high prices - I still dream of the Buddha's hand citron teapot Shirley showed me that seemed alive in your hand. Kitschy Mao etc plates, teacups, some dishware.

                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                              The Dairy Queen Dec 22, 2010 08:20 AM

                                                                                                              If all goes according to plan, I am going to sneak out of work early today and go to my favorite neightborhood Asian market to do some wok shopping. Wish me luck!


                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                JoanN Dec 22, 2010 08:33 AM

                                                                                                                Oh, what fun! Even though I have nearly all the toys I could possibly use, including a recently inherited rice cooker that I don't how I lived without all these years, I still wish I could join you. I was at Kam Man a couple of weeks ago and my friend practically had to drag me up the stairs.

                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                  roxlet Dec 25, 2010 02:48 PM

                                                                                                                  A Chinese friend of ours gave my husband a rice cooker for his birthday a few years ago, and now we also wonder how we lived without one all these years!

                                                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                  buttertart Dec 22, 2010 08:43 AM

                                                                                                                  Hooray what fun! I love those stores. Obviously.

                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 22, 2010 01:11 PM

                                                                                                                    I love them too, but, here's the thing, in my mind, they have kitchenware everywhere in these Asian grocery stores. I was certain they would be at Shuang Hur, because they have 4-5 aisles of kitchenware (short aisles, but, still...) but I don't think they had any woks at all. Bah. I went to 3 to other groceries (Sun Foods, and Dragon Star for anyone local who is interested) and there really wasn't much selection. Turns out, once you take a close look at the kitchenware available, you discover that most of it is various sizes (form gigantic to enormous) of pots for cooking rice and soups. Wah. There are a zillion more shops I could check, or I could go to the Hmong flea market, but I don't think it's going to be quite as easy as I imagined. Hmmm...online shopping sounds very appealing all of a sudden!


                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                      smtucker Dec 22, 2010 01:37 PM

                                                                                                                      That is what I decided. All the woks I have seen lately at Asian markets have been of inferior quality, but there is no way I was going to buy something by All Clad or some other high end cookware. I did grit my teeth when I saw how much shipping cost but decided that I could spend that much in subway fare going from place to place looking.

                                                                                                                      [Yes, I am justifying! :-) ]

                                                                                                              2. greedygirl Dec 22, 2010 11:36 PM

                                                                                                                I got my copy of Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge yesterday. The recipes look great, but there's way too much blurb! Some of it is useful (seasoning your work, cutting techniques etc) but does it really have to take up 60+ pages? I would have preferred less chat, and more recipes.

                                                                                                                Disclaimer: I slept badly, got up at six, it's freezing cold and I'm working on Christmas Day. In short, readers, I am grumpy.

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                  JoanN Dec 23, 2010 02:18 AM

                                                                                                                  Ha! I'd be cranky, too, if I had to work on Christmas Day. In fact, I'd be cranky if I had to go back to work at all!

                                                                                                                  Remember how, when we first voted for the Dunlop books, we poured over that introductory material, discussed brands, posted photos, asked for substitutes and probably spent more time stocking our pantries than cooking? We've come a long way, baby.

                                                                                                                  1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                    greedygirl Dec 23, 2010 02:52 AM

                                                                                                                    Which brings me to another thing - what is flank steak in the UK?

                                                                                                                    Google, here I come...

                                                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                      JoanN Dec 23, 2010 03:27 AM

                                                                                                                      Seems to me we've been 'round this barn before. The flank, ironically since you don't have it over there, is also called "London Broil." It's the muscle from the belly of the cow. Used to be pretty cheap and considered very tough. It was then discovered that if it was cut in thin slices across the grain, it was a very flavorful cut--great for marinating and grilling and also terrific in stir fries. It's kinda like a skirt steak, but it's a much larger muscle.

                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                        greedygirl Dec 23, 2010 03:45 AM

                                                                                                                        I think it's probably mainly made into mince here. Skirt is a bit more available. I need to have a chat with my butcher.

                                                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                          JoanN Dec 23, 2010 03:56 AM

                                                                                                                          That wouldn't surprise me at all since that's how it used to be used here as well.

                                                                                                                  2. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                    LulusMom Dec 23, 2010 05:03 AM

                                                                                                                    My sympathies to you gg. Make them ply you with your adult beverage of choice at work that day.

                                                                                                                  3. buttertart Dec 27, 2010 06:22 AM

                                                                                                                    I'm really looking forward to hearing how the recipes come out, because even though the books are gorgeous (particularly Sky's Edge, the colors) and the information very solid, I didn't find the recipes as enticing as the Dunlop ones. My taste in Chinese food leans to the spicy, though.

                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                      The Dairy Queen Dec 27, 2010 06:30 AM

                                                                                                                      Agreed, not as enticing as Dunlop, but I think (for me personally) I needed something this focused and specific to feel I can become adept at stir-frying.


                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                        buttertart Dec 27, 2010 06:44 AM

                                                                                                                        They will definitely do that. I prefer a book with the whole range of techniques, though.

                                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                          roxlet Dec 27, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                                                                                          Of course! You're an old hand! I like the simplicity of these recipes, particularly for quick week night dinners when we get home from sports with a starving boy. I can prepare before I leave and cook when I get back. Looking forward to this!

                                                                                                                          1. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                            buttertart Dec 27, 2010 08:06 AM

                                                                                                                            I'll be very interested to hear what's good!

                                                                                                                      2. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                        JoanN Dec 27, 2010 08:32 AM

                                                                                                                        No question about it, the flavors in the Young books are subtle. The first couple of recipes I tried, I was almost disappointed. Having tried a few more, I find I'm liking them more and more. These books aren't going to usurp Dunlop's position at the top of my Asian cookbook list, but they will supplement it very nicely--especially for friends, and I have a surprising number, who cannot tolerate what I call only mildly spicy food. I'm not sure this will hold up, but I'm also finding Young's recipe quicker and easier to prepare. Perfect, as roxlet says, for putting together a lovely meal in practically no time at all.

                                                                                                                        1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                          roxlet Dec 27, 2010 08:57 AM

                                                                                                                          I'm very handy with a bottle of Siracha. It may not be traditional, but it gives almost anything-- including take-out Chinese food that is never hot enough -- enough of a spicy kick to make me happy.

                                                                                                                      3. poptart Dec 27, 2010 07:26 AM

                                                                                                                        Found "Breath of a Wok" at the library and am excited to read it. Already skimmed it and found
                                                                                                                        some great looking recipes. I may buy this one or Sky's Edge, but first going to get a feel for them to see which to get first.

                                                                                                                        1. pikawicca Dec 27, 2010 06:02 PM

                                                                                                                          I'm wondering if anyone who voted for Stir-Frying, etc., has actually cooked from it? I've made three recipes this past week, and they were all decidedly blah. Not bad, just unexciting and pedestrian. I wish I hadn't been seduced by the COTM vote into buying this.

                                                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 27, 2010 06:08 PM

                                                                                                                            Hmmmm...not yet, pika. I'm waiting for my wok to arrive. I'm bummed you're not thrilled with your results. I hope it's a fluke, though I fear not. Which recipes have you tried?

                                                                                                                            (P.S. I realize you've specifically asked for responses from those who voted for the book, which I did not. Don't know if that makes a difference, but thought I'd mention it in the interest of full disclosure.)


                                                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                              Rubee Dec 27, 2010 06:54 PM

                                                                                                                              I made Stir-Fried Cilantro Chili Noodles with Egg (p. 266) and really liked it, though I did make some changes. Recipe is to stir-fry thin noodles with soy, rice vinegar, chicken stock, Anaheim chiles, and ginger (didn't have so used garlic) and toss with strips of egg, cilantro, and sesame oil. My changes - I used bean thread noodles, added garlic, quartered the recipe but used one egg, and a Thai red chili to make it spicy. I'm adding it to the lunch repertoire, so will try it again with the rice noodles and ginger and see which version I like better.

                                                                                                                              I also plan on making one of the stir-fry chicken dishes, and the jerk chicken fried rice (p. 262) this week.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 28, 2010 02:31 AM

                                                                                                                                Oh I've been so curious about the jerk chicken fried rice. I hope it doesn't disappoint!


                                                                                                                                1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                  pikawicca Dec 28, 2010 01:25 PM

                                                                                                                                  We found the stir-fried chicken with ginger to be bland.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 28, 2010 01:52 PM

                                                                                                                                    Bummer. That's one that I had my eye on. Do you think it could be remedied with more ginger or with something else? Or, do you think it's a lost cause?


                                                                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                      JoanN Dec 28, 2010 02:51 PM

                                                                                                                                      What were the other two dishes you didn't care for?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                        pikawicca Dec 29, 2010 06:45 AM

                                                                                                                                        Stir-Fried Eggs with Velvet Shrimp (an odd jumble of ingredients) and Stir-Fried Salmon with Wine Sauce (stir-frying is not the best way to treat wild salmon, IMO).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                          JoanN Dec 29, 2010 07:16 AM

                                                                                                                                          Agree totally with regard to the salmon. In fact, even she seems to agree saying in the intro that she never thought to stir-fry fish until her friend cooked this dish for her. And the eggs and shrimp isn't something I'd be likely to try anyway. I am going to give the chicken and ginger a go, though, to see how it compares to some of the other dishes I've made.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 07:58 AM

                                                                                                                                            Maybe it's 20-20 hindsight after having read pikawicca's comments, but neither that shrimp+ egg dish nor that salmon dish appeals to me. They will be easy to avoid. I can see how one could be drawn to the salmon dish after Young tried to convince us that it's good even though it sounds weird.

                                                                                                                                            That chicken lo mein with ginger mushrooms still sounds good to me, though. I re-read the ingredient lists and it is hard to imagine that combo could be bland. Maybe it's necessary to be heavier handed with the spices?


                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                              pikawicca Dec 29, 2010 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                                              If you have any Chinese black vinegar, I think a splash would help, as would a little garlic.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 12:31 PM

                                                                                                                                                Thank you, pikawicca! Those are great suggestions. Maybe with these two tweaks, I'll have better luck than you did.


                                                                                                                                  2. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                    JoanN Dec 28, 2010 03:41 AM

                                                                                                                                    As I said just a few posts above yours ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7538... ), the flavors are subtle. That's very different from pedestrian. I find the more I cook from these books (2 recipes from Stir-Frying so far and 3 from Breath), the more I appreciate them. The timing of the recipes has been spot on and the balance of flavors very much in harmony. Those expecting Sichunan- or Hunanese-type dishes will be disappointed. I've been rather enchanted.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                      Rubee Dec 28, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                                                                                                      I just read through the book last night, and found it fascinating. You can tell great care has gone into this book. She emphasizes the subtleties of stir-fries. For example, because of the nomadic lifestyle of the Hakka, the hallmarks are "simplicity, with an emphasis on vegetables" and "peasant-style cuisine known for its use of uncomplicated and earthy foods".
                                                                                                                                      I really enjoyed all the informative sidebars, accounts of families adapting to regions and countries worldwide in recreating their dishes from home and substituting ingredients, and these same personal family recipes that she includes. The cross-cultural progression of stir-fries is so interesting; I was happy to see that there's a recipe for lomo saltado, a favorite Peruvian dish, and the history behind it.

                                                                                                                                      After reading the book from cover to cover, I found I understood the author's approach more than when I first looked through the recipes. I agree with you that it's a good supplement for other Chinese cuisines, such as Dunlop's books.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                      buttertart Dec 28, 2010 06:31 AM


                                                                                                                                    3. The Dairy Queen Dec 28, 2010 11:06 AM

                                                                                                                                      YAY! My copy of BoaW just arrived!


                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                        LulusMom Dec 28, 2010 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                                        Let the games begin!

                                                                                                                                      2. s
                                                                                                                                        sarahcooks Dec 29, 2010 04:48 AM

                                                                                                                                        I've been overwhelmed with Christmas and two little kids so I didn't even check what books were being voted on this month. And now I see you've chosen two books I have and love!! I'm beyond excited! I have cooked more from SFTTSE than I have from any other cookbook ever, and I only got it a few months ago! Hope everyone likes it as much as me! Perfect choice for after the holidays as well.

                                                                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                          blue room Dec 29, 2010 06:41 AM

                                                                                                                                          sarahcooks, after reading this post of yours, I figure you have a wok already? I want to cook along in a 12" skillet (didn't vote, don't have books, no wok.) Is this kind of cooking new to you, or is it just SFTTSE that is new?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                            sarahcooks Dec 29, 2010 10:56 AM

                                                                                                                                            I got a wok after reading BoaW, but I didn't use it that much until I got SFTTSE. I use it much more now. I think you'll be okay with a skillet for most things. I am not good at cooking with a stainless skillet, things always stick. And a nonstick skillets is definitely not going to work for stir frying. I'm definitely an overly ambitious home cook, with a well stocked pantry and not as much skill as I'd like, but both books are hugely useful in learning techniques.

                                                                                                                                            The things I like about SFTTSE are mostly unique to where I am in life right now, and goals I have for healthy cooking. I'm a SAHM with a very clingy 3 1/2 year old and a 10 month old. I can prep everything while they're napping - cut the veg, get the meat marinating, mix the sauces, and get the rice going in the rice cooker. Then when it's close to dinner time it only takes around 10 minutes to get it all cooked, depending on the recipe. I like that her recipes use little oil, not just because it's healthier, but because it's less messy and I don't have to worry about disposing oil I've only used for "passing through". I often serve them with brown rice and feel like I'm actually serving a healthy, balanced meal. I also like that in SFTTSE most of the recipes contain protein and vegetables so I only have to make one recipe. That was my problem with most chinese cookbooks - so often they have tons of meat-only recipes, and then you have to make separate vegetable dishes. The Kung Pao chicken in LOP is very similar, but in SFTTSE it has red bell pepper in it. Since the prep is very similar for all the recipes, I don't need to think so much about what I need to do and at what time. And since for the most part they're not spicy, I don't need to prepare separate food for the kids. They're predictably three servings, so since my three year old eats almost nothing, I always have a tasty lunch out of the leftovers. So that is why this book works so well for me. It's every day meals kind of food, maybe not what other people are necessarily looking for in a COTM, but it means I can actually participate this month!

                                                                                                                                            I find the dishes in it aren't *quite* saucy enough for our tastes, and make sure you have a flavorful stock in frozen 1/4 C servings handy because a lot of the flavor comes from that. I also like to add a little more cornstarch than she recommends because otherwise most of the sauce gets left behind in the wok rather than cling to the food, but that could be something I'm doing wrong, dunno. It's easy enough to adjust to taste.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                              The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 11:09 AM

                                                                                                                                              This is great info, sarah, thank you for sharing it. And, even though I don't have young kids at home, I share your goals for wanting quick and healthful meals, especially for weeknights.

                                                                                                                                              RE: stir-frying in a stainless steel skillet, I noticed that Grace Young says that it's possible to do MOST of the recipes from SFTTSE in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet, but she does say you'll need to use more oil than if you were using a wok (and this is why I broke down and finally bought a wok). So, for those who are using a 12-inch stainless steel skillet, you might want to remember to use more oil than the recipes call for, if you're having problems with sticking.


                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                sarahcooks Dec 29, 2010 11:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                You're welcome! I have often found your posts helpful too, since we must live within a few miles of each other!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                  The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 11:34 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Funny small world, isn't it?


                                                                                                                                              2. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                blue room Dec 29, 2010 11:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                Thank you for this nice post, sarahcooks. Our circumstances differ somewhat (my "kid" haha is 59 1/2, he's not real impressed with "overly ambitious" cooking in general.) But I too don't want spicy hot, and nobody's gonna televise my prep anytime soon!
                                                                                                                                                I have an assortment of flat/curved/nonstick/stainless/cast iron -- to me, the flavor comes first -- if I like how it tastes I'll be happy to work on texture/technique later!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                  mebby Dec 29, 2010 12:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                  +1 on the helpful, thorough post, Sarah -- thank you. I especially appreciate your note about the one-dish meal aspect with both protein and veg in one. And as a working mom with two kids under 10 I have high hopes for this being a family-friendly COTM (albeit perhaps with some spicy condiments for the grownups). I wish I had been participating in the Dunlop days, but I am hopeful that these books will give me a solid foundation in technique to jump into those books afterward.

                                                                                                                                                  My wok and BoaW arrived yesterday -- haven't had time to look at the book yet, but can't wait to get started!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mebby
                                                                                                                                                    roxlet Dec 30, 2010 04:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                    +2. What you do, sarahcooks, is my plan -- prep early and cook when we get home.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: roxlet
                                                                                                                                                      LulusMom Dec 30, 2010 04:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                      Me too. I try to get as much done while Lulu is at school as possible, and then cooking at dinner time is a snap.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                    JoanN Dec 29, 2010 01:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                    My situation is diametrically opposite yours (single, retired, cooking for one) and everything you say is why I, too, am becoming so fond of these books. In addition, I'm discovering the recipes to be not only healthy, but very diet friendly. I'm cutting back on the oil, but only slightly, and I'm losing weight. Even when dinner includes a cup of brown rice. Weight Watchers out there take notice. I'm finding these recipes fit very comfortably and almost effortlessly into the WW points program.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                      The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 01:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                      Very encouraging.

                                                                                                                                                      I've noticed most of the recipes in SFFTSE call for 2 TBSP of oil. If you consider each recipe to be 2 servings, that's only 3 tsp per serving. WW requires you to have a minimum of 2 tsp of "healthy fats" per day, so if you use Canola then it's really only a tiny bit more than you're required to have on WW per day anyway. Not bad at all.

                                                                                                                                                      P.S. Congrats on your weight loss!


                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                        roxlet Dec 30, 2010 04:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                        That's great JoanN! I'm planning on going on WW in January. So good to hear, and such a relief from a broiled chicken breast!

                                                                                                                                                2. Gio Dec 29, 2010 05:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Having read and re-read most of the recipes in the book I've finally chosen the dishes we'll be making for New Year's Eve Dinner. They're not terribly involved, nor that exciting but the recipes are appealing, and definitely non-taxing which was G's request:

                                                                                                                                                  S-F garlic Shanghai bok choy
                                                                                                                                                  S-F garlic eggplant
                                                                                                                                                  Dry-fried Sichuan beans
                                                                                                                                                  S-F chicken w/black bean sauce
                                                                                                                                                  Singapore-style stir-fried lobster
                                                                                                                                                  Steamed rice, of course

                                                                                                                                                  All washed down with... Prosecco in the interest of inclusion.

                                                                                                                                                  15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                    BigSal Dec 29, 2010 06:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                    I think your menu sounds wonderful! I can't wait to hear back about the results. I have been eyeing the lobster recipe myself, as well as the dry-fried beans and eggplant.

                                                                                                                                                    I took the plunge and purchased a new wok (but not the hand hammered wok...I may have a tinge of wok envy) and just seasoning the wok with the garlic chives and ginger made the kitchen smell wonderfully fragrant. It has me excited about January and Chinese cooking (I've done much more with Japanese and Korean cuisine). I like JoanN's description of the food as "flavors in harmony." It reminds me of Japanese food- subtle flavors, but still delicious.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BigSal
                                                                                                                                                      Gio Dec 29, 2010 06:31 AM

                                                                                                                                                      Oh thanks Sal...! I hope it all works out, but I'm confident. Hard shell lobster here is 6.99/lb so I couldn't resist. The rest of the dishes were easy to choose. The menu is a little veggie heavy but that's the way we like it. I loved reading JoanN's description of the book and completely agree. Sichuan cooking is easily accessible via Fuchsia Dunlop so January will be something different to look forward to. Neighborhood Chinese at home.
                                                                                                                                                      Good luck with your new wok.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: BigSal
                                                                                                                                                        blue room Dec 29, 2010 06:46 AM

                                                                                                                                                        BigSal, you got a new wok so you'll have two for certain meals? Or was something not right with the old one?
                                                                                                                                                        Just curious -- since I'll probably eventually be buying.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                          The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 06:51 AM

                                                                                                                                                          If you have neither the book nor a wok, you might consider this wok+book deal at The Wok Shop.



                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                            blue room Dec 29, 2010 08:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                            Yes, I saw that the other day when you originally posted it, and was *very* tempted, (hand hammered!) but 10 inches seems too small.
                                                                                                                                                            I'm really gonna try to Patiently absorb the COTM posts this month before I decide which book and what wok.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                              The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 08:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                              Actually, it's just as well you're not interested in that combo. The more I think about it, since the recipes were written and tested for a larger wok, you'd have to fiddle around with the recipes, which may not be so great.

                                                                                                                                                              Really, though, it seems to me you could cook along with the online recipes and a 12-inch skillet and be just fine, if what Grace Young says is true.


                                                                                                                                                          2. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                            BigSal Dec 29, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                            I had a wok that is a little smaller and was not used much, nor was it properly seasoned (I may try and give it Young's wok facial). I am using COTM as an opportunity (errr..excuse) to get a 14" carbon steel wok (just freshly seasoned).

                                                                                                                                                            TDQ mentions the Wok Shop which is where I got mine. I ended up getting the set. I do love kitchen gadets. I also got the kinpira peeler and the green onion slicer. I have not used the green onion slicer yet, but the kinpira peeler is not something I will use again. The product works as designed, but the shaving are too thin for kinpira the way I like it.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: BigSal
                                                                                                                                                              blue room Dec 29, 2010 01:00 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Haha I had to look up "kinpira", but now I understand. My gadgets tend toward dessert aggrandizers.
                                                                                                                                                              Someday it will be just the right tool for something--even if it's a craft/home improvement project, no food involved.
                                                                                                                                                              I'll keep the Wok Shop in mind--sounds like the place for... woks.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                          Rubee Dec 29, 2010 10:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                          Your menu sounds fabulous Gio! What time should I be over : ) I think I'll do something for Chinese NY for the two of us. Great idea. Singapore lobster will definitely be on the menu if I can find 2-lb lobsters on sale.

                                                                                                                                                          I made the chicken with black bean sauce last night (left out the carrots) and we both had seconds. E liked it as is, while I added a bit of chili oil to mine.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                                            Gio Dec 29, 2010 04:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Thanks Rubee. There's already been a change. Lamb with scallions instead of the chicken with black beans. G decided he was tired of poultry. I think it will be an OK alternative. Happy New Year...!

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                            mebby Dec 29, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Your menu sounds delicious, Gio -- what a wonderful way to ring in the new year! I'm curious -- how do you manage the number of dishes -- do you have multiple woks or do you find that the dishes hold and reheat well? Also, I'm guessing that the lobster dish is from Sky's Edge, as I don't see it listed in Breath of a Wok, correct? My copy of Sky's Edge is still on its way, but I just might emulate you with that lobster dish for new year's if it gets here in time.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mebby
                                                                                                                                                              Gio Dec 29, 2010 04:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I only have To the Sky's Edge so that's what I'll be cooking from unless I find some on-line recipes I like from BOAW.

                                                                                                                                                              ...We have one wok but also my uncle's 60 y/o restaurant 12" stainless skillet, well seasoned and virtually non-stick at this point. (I Love this pan) We cook the easy recipes first, keep them warm tented in a low oven or cook 2 dishes at once, and move on to the more involved... rice is cooked while other dishes are cooking. Everything makes the table with pretty good heat. I warm the plates in the low oven too. I used to have a range with 2 ovens and a stove top. Lordy... I miss that dinosaur. It was the dreaded avocado green too...

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                                buttertart Dec 30, 2010 04:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Ah, the 1970's. Mine was gold. In more ways than one.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: mebby
                                                                                                                                                                Gio Dec 30, 2010 05:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Mebby, here's a list of indredients you'll need for the stir-fried lobster. I don't have the book in front of me now, but if your SFTTSE doesn't arrive today I'll paraphrase the recipe for you tonight... unless someone else wants to before I get a chance. Let us know.

                                                                                                                                                                soy sauce
                                                                                                                                                                One 2lb whole lobster (raw or have the market steam it for about 5 minutes, You'll be stir-frying it later)
                                                                                                                                                                peanut oil
                                                                                                                                                                rice vinegar
                                                                                                                                                                tomato ketchup
                                                                                                                                                                chicken broth
                                                                                                                                                                Thai bird's eye chiles
                                                                                                                                                                Shaoxing rice wine
                                                                                                                                                                egg whites

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                                  mebby Dec 30, 2010 07:16 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks, Gio -- that's so thoughtful of you! My SFTTSE arrived last night. I heard the UPS truck pull up and I was outside before he even made it up the walkway! I'm loving the look of this book. I have BofaW too but it hasn't called to me as much. Thanks again for the offer. Happy new year!

                                                                                                                                                            2. s
                                                                                                                                                              smtucker Dec 29, 2010 03:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                              Today was Chinese market day. Lots of success, with a few items I was unable to locate. Cloud ears. No one in the store knew what these were and kept asking "wood ear?" And pickled turnip. In the pickle area there were melon, lettuce, cucumber, mixed vegetable, shallots to name just a few. But no turnips.

                                                                                                                                                              So for Boston folks, have you found these two items? And how about Shao Hsing rice wine? I do recall some discussion of this during past months, but have no recollection as to where folks found it.

                                                                                                                                                              The wok arrived today and it is really wonderful. Much thicker and stronger than my old pressed aluminum version. I purchased some Chinese chives to season the wok.

                                                                                                                                                              Oh, and I bought some more Kecap Manis which I fell in love with during "The Cradle of Flavor."

                                                                                                                                                              46 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                buttertart Dec 29, 2010 03:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                                The Chinese for cloud ears (Mandarin anyway) is mu er, literally wood ears. 木耳 are the characters. Cloud ears is an alternate name. I don't think I've seen them labeled such. Black ruffly things, often in clear plastic bags, with the dry goods.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                  Gio Dec 29, 2010 04:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  SMT re: Shao Hsing rice wine. I found it at the Malden Asian market during Dunlop month and subsequently bought it there as needed...used to be Super 88 but now it's? C-Mart?? Need some more of a few things so shall go again later this week. I'll look for the cloud ears as well.. will let you know. Love Kecap Manis.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                                    smtucker Dec 29, 2010 04:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    I am actually planning to hit this exact store this week. I am sure I will be successful this time! Thanks for the nudge. p.s. I think it is Hong Kong Market.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                      beetlebug Dec 29, 2010 05:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      The shao xing wine is usually over with the vinegars, sesame oils and cooking oils. Not by the soy sauces. This is for HK Market in Allston, but it's like that in the Boston chinatown grocery stores as well (CMart, Sun Sun, etc.).

                                                                                                                                                                      Cloud ear and wood ear mushrooms are the same. Mine come in a box. Inside the box, they are in plastic wrapped rectangles shapes. Soak and they expand to a huge amount.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: beetlebug
                                                                                                                                                                        smtucker Dec 29, 2010 05:41 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        Never found it in Allston today, but at some point, my eyes started to glaze over. It happened somewhere between the chicken feet and Chinese sausage. After reading all the ingredients on all the difference sausages, without glasses no less, it was time to take my goodies and pay.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                                      pikawicca Dec 29, 2010 04:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Were you actually able to find the wine? All I can find here is the heavily salted cooking wine.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                        Gio Dec 29, 2010 05:22 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        Well... it seemed like the wine. Not heavily salted, we limit our salt intake and can tell. A trip to the liquor store will be on our junket tomorrow. But, all the recipe notes seem to indicate Asian market type rice wine.


                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                                          pikawicca Dec 29, 2010 05:38 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          Our liquor stores don't have it, and the Asian markets only have the salted variety. Sherry is proposed as an alternative, but I have no idea if the flavor comes close to the Chinese wine.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                            Gio Dec 29, 2010 05:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            Pika - curiously, gin is often cited as a substitute for rice wine. Seems it's closer in flavor than dry sherry. Since gin is a staple in our liquor closet I might just give that a try...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gio
                                                                                                                                                                              pikawicca Dec 29, 2010 06:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              Well, It's mother's milk; to me, so I'll give it a try.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: pikawicca
                                                                                                                                                                          The Dairy Queen Dec 29, 2010 07:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          That's mostly what we can find here, too, pikawicca. I'm going to see if any of my Asian markets carry this pagoda brand Andrea Nguyen recommends http://www.asiandumplingtips.com/2010/02/shaoxing-rice-wine-a-buying-guide.html

                                                                                                                                                                          BIgSal said she found Shao Xing wine at a local market Truong Trong, but I didn't see it the last couple of times I was there. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6642... It sounds like it might not be of drinking quality though. But, then again, if Andrea Nguyen says it costs about $4, I just don't know how drinkable to expect it to be!


                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                            JoanN Dec 30, 2010 04:09 AM

                                                                                                                                                                            I have the Pagoda brand Shao Xing that Nguyen recommends and it's 14% sodium. I don't recall exactly what it cost me at Kam Man on Canal Street, but I'm quite certain it was something under $4. And it was the most expensive Shao Xing wine on the shelf of about half a dozen different kinds. The bottle is labeled, in English, "Not to be used or sold as beverage." There's no indication on the bottle what the alcohol percentage is.

                                                                                                                                                                            Interestingly enough, I have another bottle of Pagoda brand Shao Xing wine, this one a gift from my Chinese ex-sister-in-law to my parents, that I discovered when I was cleaning out Mom's house. That one is in a very fancy ceramic bottle with a cork stopper. There's no listing of nutrients so I don't know sodium content, but that bottle is labled "18% alcohol by volume." I haven't opened that bottle yet, and considering how long it must have been sitting around Mom's house, I'm not sure that what I'll find when I do is what it was supposed to have been.

                                                                                                                                                                            ETA: I'm quite certain, in fact 99% positive, that the gift wine was supposed to be drunk, not just used for cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                              buttertart Dec 30, 2010 04:46 AM

                                                                                                                                                                              In that kind of a bottle it would be for drinking. Also it's labeled Shaoxing hua (flower) something wine, so it may be flavored (or be the "flower of" Shaoxing, the usage in that sense is also Chinese).
                                                                                                                                                                              I always use Scotch (or Irish) in Chinese cooking, based on Nina Simonds'* recommendation - it's closer than sherry really and I don't really see gin in Chinese food (saw gin recommended by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, my least favorite authority on the subject). We always have whisky (his tipple), we don't always have sherry, and I don't think I've had Shaoxing in the house since we lived in Taiwan.
                                                                                                                                                                              *Nina Simonds is one of the lesser-sung but best authorities on Chinese food - she trained in Taiwan, translated the Wei-Chuan cokbooks, and is no slouch, believe you me. Her Classic Chinese Cuisine is great and very user-friendly.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                                                                JoanN Dec 30, 2010 07:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks, buttertart. I wonder if it is flavored. Only way to know is to open it. Time to invite one of my best friends over for a Chinese dinner--something I've never done because I didn't want my cooking compared unfavorably to her mom's, which it would most certainly be. But I'll bet my friend has had wine like this both at home and in China. I'm sure, especially if there's backup libations, we could make a fun evening of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                  buttertart Dec 30, 2010 07:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm sure the special bottle will be appreciated even if as a curiosity. Sounds like fun!

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 04:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                HA! Now I'm really confused. I just pulled my bottle of Shao Xing wine out (so I could see how the sodium compares to yours) and it says "Golden Brand Pagoda" with golden image of a Pagoda. But, it's not the same image as what's on yours (which is the same as Nguyen's). So, I don't know if I have an impostor (and Nguyen says there are many) .

                                                                                                                                                                                Oh, wait, I see mine says "cooking" wine on the label, which is a definite "avoid" per Nguyen. Strange--I expected mine to be higher in sodium than yours, but mine is only 133mg or 5.5% sodium (per label on back). On the front, though, it says "15% alc by vol 1.5% salt." Maybe I don't know how to read the label.

                                                                                                                                                                                Hmmmm...I think I need to go shopping.

                                                                                                                                                                                The real question is what does Grace Young mean when she calls for Shao Xing wine in her recipes. Does she mean the real "drinkable" wine or does she assume we're all getting this sodium-laden stuff and has adjusted her recipes accordingly? I'm going to read up a little and see if I can find more in Boaw or S-FTTSE.

                                                                                                                                                                                [EDIT: okay, that was a 2 second exercise. Boaw pg 224. Also, SFTTSE pg 37. The photo of the Shao Xing wine is identical to JoanN's/Andrea Nguyen's and in the description on page 226 Boaw and SFTTSE pg 37 she says it's "inexpensive." Also, she prefers Pagoda brand. So, whatever JoanN has, I think that's what we all should be using. Also, I note she says "Store at room temp." Mine has been in the fridge. Will it ruin it completely if I just leave it out from here on out? Assuming I don't replace it with Pagoda Brand if I can find it?...]

                                                                                                                                                                                That is very neat about the fancy ceramic bottle. The problem, as you say, is you don't really know what to expect, so it will be hard to tell if it's "good" or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                (P.S. in my post above I mentioned that BigSal said she'd found some Shao Xing wine; I meant to specifically say she'd said it was "unsalted".)

                                                                                                                                                                                Here's a guy who analyzed a bunch of shao xing wines on his blog. Unfortunately, his source for the wines (mentioned in part IV) is no longer in business per their website. But, he found at least one bottle of the stuff in the ceramic bottle in the Bay Area. Won't do me any good, alas! http://www.chevsky.com/2009/12/shaoxi...


                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                  buttertart Dec 30, 2010 05:09 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  I very much admire your thoroughness and desire to comply entirely with the recipes but unless you got a real howler of a bottle (like a Roland brand Chinese cooking wine, help!!!) you will be fine. Relax.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 05:13 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh good. :) Thank you. I have about 1/4 of this bottle left. I'm just going to finish it off and keep my eye out for the Pagoda brand on my shopping trips. Now that I know what I'm looking for, I think it will be easy to ask for it and/or recognize it!


                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                                                                      Gio Dec 30, 2010 05:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      Well... I do like the sub idea of whisky instead of dry sherry or gin... if I can't find the semi-real thing this time around.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                      sarahcooks Dec 30, 2010 05:48 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                      I have Pagoda Brand and the back says 14% *of daily value*, the front says 1.5% salt by volume.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I find recipes in SFTTSE to be very light on the salt, and there is often table salt in the recipes, so it would be easy to leave out. I don't like highly salted food and I've never found these recipes to be so.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                                                        The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 05:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Excellent! Do you remember where you bought it?


                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                          sarahcooks Dec 30, 2010 06:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm sure I got it at Shuang Hur, but I see it all over the place. It's the brand I've always bought, though I don't know how I happened to pick it in the first place.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 07:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                            That is so funny--you must have good instincts. :) I can't believe neither of the two bottles I have is that brand (I must not have good instincts. HA!). But, I will be on the lookout for it. I will definitely check Shuang Hur. Thanks!


                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                              BigSal Dec 30, 2010 02:12 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                              Did some shopping today and United Noodles also has the Pagoda Brand (the red label only), but it also has salt in it. I also bought some of the wet bean curd (red and white). I wasn't sure which brand to pick.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                                                          Gio Dec 30, 2010 08:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                          Apparently the Pagoda brand is what we should be looking for.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Here's a photo:

                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                          JoanN Dec 30, 2010 07:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                          I ♥ TDQ.

                                                                                                                                                                                          That link told me everything I needed to know about that bottle of wine I’ve got. (1) It’s definitely meant to be drunk. (2) It keeps for a long, long time. (3) It’ll knock your socks off.

                                                                                                                                                                                          And I know just the guests to serve it to.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 07:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh, that is fantastic! I can't wait to hear how you like it and how it goes over with your guests. And, the wonderful menu you serve it with.

                                                                                                                                                                                            I saw your post above about a friend you've been nervous to cook for because you were worried your cooking wouldn't measure up to her mom's. I understand that kind of nervousness, but I am certain she will be so touched by your serving her a home cooked meal and, even if it's not exactly like her mom's, I'm sure she'll love it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Very exciting!


                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                              JoanN Dec 30, 2010 08:54 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              Ooops. Obviously gave the wrong impression. I've cooked for this friend many, many times. In fact, she asked me to host and cook her wedding rehearsal dinner--a real honor. It's just that because she's Chinese, I've never cooked Chinese food for her. Sorta the whole coals to Newcastle thing. This wine, though, will be the perfect excuse. And really, she and her husband and son are much too good friends to make me nervous. We'll have a gas--whether the food compares favorably to her mother's or not.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 08:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                Ah, okay, now you're sounding more like yourself! HA!

                                                                                                                                                                                                I can't wait to read all about it!


                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                  greedygirl Dec 30, 2010 10:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was worried when I cooked Chinese food for my Malaysian-Chinese friend (who's actually from Singapore). She was very gracious and said she was impressed by both the patina of my wok and my stir-frying technique! I say give it a shot and I bet she'll be really happy...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  On the Shao Hsing wine debate: I buy whatever is stocked in my local Chinese market. I don't think it makes much difference. I'm currently using a Taiwanese brand called TTL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 01:18 PM


                                                                                                                                                                                                    And, speaking of patina on your wok, we're having a heatwave here (39 degrees!) so, I'm going to hurry and season my wok before it gets too much darker/colder.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                                                      JoanN Dec 30, 2010 01:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      My wok is looking pretty good. And I'll have all of January to practice my technique, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not really worried about it. She and her family are always appreciative. And maybe she can give me some good tips.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                            BigSal Dec 30, 2010 06:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, the brand I found was on a lower shelf in the back of the store if I recall correctly, but it is not the Pagoda brand (it is Pavillion) .I used it this week to make ma po tofu. And I must have misread the label. It does have sulfites. 5.7 mg per serving. It must have been all that time staring at shelves and shelves of ingredients. Sorry for the misinformation.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: BigSal
                                                                                                                                                                                              The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 06:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting. Well, Andrea Nguyen says they are often located near the refrigerated foods. If I recall, there is a fridge section in the back of that market!

                                                                                                                                                                                              I shall keep an eye out! I just did a check of my pantry and see I have yet another bottle of Shao Xing wine waiting for me to run out of my current bottle. So, it may be awhile!

                                                                                                                                                                                              I recall reading somewhere, don't recall where, maybe Dunlop, that for a lot of these products price really is an indicator of quality. So, when I'm deciding between a million bottles of Shao Xing wine or whatever, I just choose the most expensive. The difference is often only 50 cents or something. Not a big difference.


                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                                        qianning Dec 30, 2010 10:20 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                        Boston Sources:

                                                                                                                                                                                        1) Kam Man on Quincy Ave, Quincy, the most complete Chinese grocer in the area.
                                                                                                                                                                                        2) Mings Market, Washington St. South End/Chinatown border near the Herald, second most complete Chinese grocer in the area.
                                                                                                                                                                                        3) C-Mart, between Lincoln & Surface Road in Chinatown.
                                                                                                                                                                                        4) The old Super 88 locations (now Hong Kong Market) Allston, Medford/Malden, and South Bay, beware of expired or soon to be expired canned goods.
                                                                                                                                                                                        5) China Merchants, Burlington.
                                                                                                                                                                                        6) H-Mart Burlington (better for Korean and Japanese ingredients, but does carry a pretty good selection of Chinese dry goods, and wide selection of Asian produce)

                                                                                                                                                                                        There are more in the outer burbs, so let me know if you need something more specific to a locale.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Meanwhile, "pickled turnip" is "甜菜脯" in Chinese characters, pronounced "Tian Cai Pu" in Mandarin, and I-have-no-idea-what in Cantonese. I just bought some this past weekend at Kam Man in Quincy, so I know they have it. But my hunch is the reason you couldn't find it is that you were looking for a bottle...it is usually sold in plastic/cryovac packages, not glass/plastic bottles, there is very little if any liquid in the package, don't think "dill pickle" think "dried apricot" if you get my drift.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Also, the "turnip" used to make it is actually a white root similar to a Japanese daikon, and the English label is just as likely to be "Salted Radish" or "Salted Turnip" as "Pickled Turnip". The package I bought recently was labeled "Pres. Turnip", I assume the "Pres." was a shorthand "preserved".

                                                                                                                                                                                        I always buy my Shaoxing at KamMan, because they sell the un-salted variety. Look for the most expensive bottle on the shelf (we're talking around $5./liter) and there is some probability that it will be unsalted.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The cloud ear that I have in my pantry is labeled "Tree Fungus" in English, and I think I got it at Ming's.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Happy Hunting!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: qianning
                                                                                                                                                                                          smtucker Dec 30, 2010 11:54 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                          Aha! Radish... that is what I saw. I am going to head to the HKMarket in Malden tomorrow to complete the pantry items so I am ready to begin on January 1. Thank you so much for the clarification.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: qianning
                                                                                                                                                                                            bizkat Jan 2, 2011 08:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                            "I always buy my Shaoxing at KamMan, because they sell the un-salted variety. Look for the most expensive bottle on the shelf (we're talking around $5./liter) and there is some probability that it will be unsalted."

                                                                                                                                                                                            KamMan a hike for me. You can't find the good stuff Downtown?

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bizkat
                                                                                                                                                                                              qianning Jan 3, 2011 04:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                              You probably can, I've just gotten into the habit of buying it at Kam Man, 'cause I know they have what I want. The smaller C-town grocery stores might not have the un-salted shao xing, as they don't generally have liquor licenses, but I think there is a liquor store in Chinatown, just at the moment i can't think where, but search the Boston board and you'll probably get exact details.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: qianning
                                                                                                                                                                                                JoanN Jan 15, 2011 04:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                I was in the Manhattan Kam Man a few days ago and looked for a Shao Hsing wine without salt in it, Pagoda Brand or otherwise. Not good for these old knees that all the rice wines were on the bottom shelf, but I actually got down on my knees and read every single label of every brand they carried--maybe 8 or so. There wasn't a single one that didn't have salt in it and all of them had more or less the same percentage: only very slightly + or - 14%. What brand do you have that's unsalted?

                                                                                                                                                                                                ETA: I suddenly occurs to me that perhaps the reason I can't find unsalted Shao Xing at the Kam Man in Manhattan has to do with New York liquor laws. I wonder if New York grocery stores are only allowed to sell the "cooking" wine that contains salt. If that's true, I guess I'd have no choice but to go to a liquor store or another state. Any one by any chance seen unsalted Shao Xing at Asian markets in New Jersey?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                  greedygirl Jan 15, 2011 08:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm pretty sure mine doesn't have salt in it - it's definitely not listed as an ingredient. I use a Taiwanese brand called TTL.


                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Caitlin McGrath Jan 15, 2011 11:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    "I wonder if New York grocery stores are only allowed to sell the "cooking" wine that contains salt."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    That's correct.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                      buttertart Jan 16, 2011 06:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's a liquor store on Walker St near Center and one on Mott just below Bayard, I'd try those if you want the real deal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart
                                                                                                                                                                                                        JoanN Jan 16, 2011 07:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm going to do that next time I'm down there. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                        qianning Jan 16, 2011 12:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Picture attached, the bottle doesn't have much english on it, the brand I have on hand at the moment is "Gu Yue Long Shan", but for a non-Chinese reader that would be hard to find, as the english is down in the fine print.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        When Kam Man in our area opened up, I was searching the shelves of cooking wine for un-salted shao xing, and couldn't find it, so I asked a stock clerk if they had any, and she said " Just look for the most expensive bottles they are un-salted", and she was right. So far the trick has worked every time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        In this context expensive means over $4/bottle!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: qianning
                                                                                                                                                                                                          JoanN Jan 16, 2011 01:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks, qianning. I'm becoming more and more convinced this is a New York thing and that I'll either have to go to a liquor store or out of state.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Your "look for the most expensive bottle" tip is one I use often when debating among brands at an Asian market. I found an unusually good sesame oil that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                          scoopG Jan 16, 2011 01:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Correct - The best Shao Xing (unsalted) in NYC is only sold in liquor stores. Kam Man only sells the salted type. You won't find it in liquor stores outside of Chinatown.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. blue room Dec 30, 2010 08:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well JoanN used the word "enchanted" about this method / these books in an earlier post, and now the magic (enchanting!) phrase "losing weight". That did it for me, I just ordered the "...Sky's Edge".
                                                                                                                                                                                                  The excitement level this month is high!
                                                                                                                                                                                                  I haven't seen the wok LID mentioned yet -- not needed? It seems like it would come in handy at least once in a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 08:24 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think the LID is more for smoking and steaming and non-stir-fry type applications. Probably more applicable to Boaw than SFTTSE... She does say it's best to buy a lid at the same time you buy your wok (so you can try various lids and pick the one that fits best), but it's probably not essential.


                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Gio Dec 30, 2010 08:25 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I use the huge lid that came with my galvanized canning set.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Dairy Queen Dec 31, 2010 04:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I also wanted to mention that a lid of some sort is helpful for extinguishing a fire. After my wok overheated yesterday, I'm super glad I bought the lid. Just in case.


                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                          blue room Dec 31, 2010 04:49 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hey-- good point! (Be careful out there)
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Also, I see that the wok lids are high domes, not just the more or less horizontal/ level tops of my skillets. Wonder if there is a reason for that?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: blue room
                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 31, 2010 05:00 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            She says they do come with "Western-style" flat lids, but I personally haven't seen a lot of those. She says that domed lids are more versatile and the dome shape keeps condensation from dripping onto the food while steaming.


                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                              JoanN Dec 31, 2010 05:22 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Also, a domed lid allows you to fit into your wok one of those stacked basket steamers. Couldn't possibly use one of those with a flat lid.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              FYI, I think I've come across only one recipe so far that had instructions to cover the wok. I'm sure there are more, but not a whole lot I don't think.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 04:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Okay, I know it's not January yet, but I already have an issue. I have a 14'' inch, flat bottomed carbon steel wok (with helper handle) and a gas stove. She says to heat the wok until a drop of water vaporizes within 1 - 2 seconds. I heated for a good 10 minutes and never got the water to vaporize faster than within 6-7 seconds. When I saw that the wok didn't seem to get any hotter, I just proceeded. First I seasoned the wok using the scallions+ginger method (and stopped after 15 minutes because everything was more or less brown.) I then let it all cool down and washed the wok as she describes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I then tried the Kung Pao Chicken Recipe in SFTTSE, which starts by heating the wok (again to the point of water droplets vaporizing within 6-7 seconds instead of 1-2), swirling in the oil, then adding chiles and szechuan peppercorns and cooking for 15 seconds. The chiles and peppercorns immediately burned to a char. I just pushed them aside and finished the recipe, which was pretty good, I though. Not amazing, but not awful for my first-ever wok dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Was my wok too hot even though the water droplets only vaporized after about 6-7 seconds?


                                                                                                                                                                                                        14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                          smtucker Dec 30, 2010 04:57 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Interesting. I was distracted by making black bean soup today and didn't get around to seasoning the wok. I don't recall her ever mentioning how many degrees = water vaporizing in 1-2 seconds. Do you? If so, I would be happy to use my infrared thermometer to calculate the temp and count water drops.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 05:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Great idea, and very kind of you. I don't remember if she references a specific temp, but I will look around tomorrow to see if I can find a reference to temp. Thank you!


                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Rubee Dec 30, 2010 05:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                            It does sound like it was too hot. On page 6 she says "Occasionally, there are some woks and skillets that the water test doesn't work on....in such cases, you will have to experiment with preheating the wok or skillet until the pan is hot but the oil does not smoke once it is added".

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 05:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah, very good catch. I do recall reading something along those lines. Will have to re-read to figure out how I'm supposed to know the wok is heated.


                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                                                                                                sarahcooks Dec 30, 2010 06:09 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                One thing I've either read or learned from experience is to ignore the fact that restaurant stoves are super hot and some people have outdoor-only wok burners. I am not skilled or strong enough to cook at that high of heat. I make it hot, but only as hot as I can handle without letting the garlic and spices burn and I'm not afraid to turn the heat down. Her trick of letting meat sear for one minute before stir frying is a substitute for super high temperature. You obviously can't do both.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Edited to add that I don't want to imply that you're not smart enough to turn down the heat when necessary! I just know when I started I had this idea that wok cooking meant cook at maximum heat and it took a lot of burned aromatics for me to get it into my head that I am not a chinese restaurant chef and it would still taste good cooked slower.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 06:16 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not to worry, I did turn down the heat. But, I was trying to follow the directions so precisely, so, I wondered if I did something wrong or if (as Rubee suggested) if there's something off about my wok. I think the "water" test doesn't work on my wok...


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    sarahcooks Dec 30, 2010 07:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Maybe it's our super cold Minnesota water :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sarahcooks
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Dairy Queen Dec 30, 2010 07:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Actually, I had the window open (as she says to) while I was seasoning the wok, so, the first time around I blamed that. But, when I couldn't get the water droplets to disappear the second time around, I realized the trick just didn't seem to work for me.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Dairy Queen Dec 31, 2010 05:19 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  OK, I went back and read pg 6 of SFTTSE, upon which she elaborates in Stir-Frying with Proper Heat and Control on pp 52-53. She does say that you can always turn off the heat (or it you're cooking on electric, move the wok to an unheated burner) if you think the heat is out of control. My oil did smoke when I added it (and I had already turned the heat off, as she'd suggested), so, that should have been my cue right there that it was too hot and I shouldn't have added the chiles. :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  She doesn't give much guidance about what to do if your wok is the kind where the water beads like a mercury ball (which is EXACTLY what mine did--it was neat to watch) instead of evaporating except to say that you need to experiment to find that point where the oil doesn't smoke once it's added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  On pg 63 of BoaW she says to judge the heat by placing the palm of your hand 2 inches above the wok's surface. If you feel the warmth similar to that of a hot radiator, your wok is ready. She says it will also give off a wisp of smoke. (I didn't notice that. Maybe I need to watch more closely.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have to say, the idea of cooking with so much oil and high heat scares me and now I'm just a little more nervous. But, I don't think I'll repeat my mistake from last night, either. So I guess I learned something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks everyone.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    JoanN Dec 31, 2010 05:34 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I've never understood all the talk about home stove tops not being anywhere near hot enough for *true* stir-frying. Although the bead of water thing does work in my wok, I find that the wok is too hot by then and the oil begins to smoke as soon as I add it. Not only that, but the garlic and ginger--or whatever it is I'm first adding to the wok--begins to burn almost immediately. Sometimes I think I'm just too slow, even though I'm pretty good about having my mis en place organized and right next to the wok. So I just lift the wok off the heat for about five seconds or so to slow things down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You have to figure out what works best for you and your equipment and get into your own rhythm of it. Also, as your wok gets more and more seasoned, you'll be able to use less and less oil. In the meantime, though, you might try Dunlop's method of heating the work, swirling in some oil, and dumping it before you add the oil you'll be using for cooking. I found this method got my work well-seasoned in no time and also allowed me to use less oil for stir-frying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Dairy Queen Dec 31, 2010 05:53 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh this is very reassuring actually!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I should look at Dunlop for general stir-frying pointers anyway. I do plan on using Dunlop's seasoning method you describe.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Rubee Dec 31, 2010 10:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree that some stoves do get plenty hot. On page 5 (Notes to Reader) she says "if you are cooking on a powerful range with more than 14,000 BTUs...you will need to lower the heat levels called for and decrease the cooking times". I just looked in the manual for my GE Monogram cooktop and my big burner is 15,000 so I'll have to adjust accordingly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Dairy Queen Dec 31, 2010 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Oh that is so interesting! Who knew that a home range could generate that much heat? My stove is 1000 years old, so I can't imagine it generates that much heat.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rubee
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            LulusMom Dec 31, 2010 12:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Very interesting. I'll have to ask my husband (who keeps Every manual for everything he buys) what our burners are. I know that they get very hot (one in particular is ridiculous).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    smtucker Dec 31, 2010 05:47 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Need your thoughts please:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Tonight I have to assemble the threads for this month, and I am torn between keeping the books separated vs. merging like chapters together. In the event that one book is reviewed in the future, having them separate is nicer for the organizer, but comparing similar recipes between the two books has some appeal as well. Also, when separated, posters don't have to remember to notate which book they cooked from.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                    p.s. This isn't a vote; but an inquiry into preferences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Dairy Queen Dec 31, 2010 06:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In general I prefer combined threads. That way, even if you only have one of the two books, you still get that sense that you're cooking "alongside" everyone else because you still encounter them in the threads. But, it might be hard because the chapters only overlap for stir-frying (s-f poultry, s-f meat, s-f veg, s-f noodles) and then you'd need to think of a clever way I guess to add threads for the various Boaw techniques.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Whatever you end up with, I'm sure it will be perfect. Thank you for your hard work on these threads, as always.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        JoanN Dec 31, 2010 06:17 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I usually prefer combined threads as well, but in this instance I think keeping the books separated will make things easier for everyone--not in the least, you. I get the impression that quite a few people have one book or the other and are holding in abeyance the decision as to whether or not to buy the other. Having separate threads would not only simplify the where-to-post decision, but make comparison of the two books much easier (something that became difficult to do with the Dunlop merged threads).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          greedygirl Dec 31, 2010 07:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As there are only a hundred or so recipes in each book, maybe we could just have the two threads - one for each book?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            blue room Dec 31, 2010 07:42 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This one (greedygirl's simple 1 thread per book suggestion) would work fine for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: greedygirl
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              mebby Dec 31, 2010 08:04 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              +1 on gg's idea -- simple, easy to compare the two books, no thinking about where to post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mebby
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                sarahcooks Dec 31, 2010 08:16 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I like this best too. It was frustrating during the Dunlop month to read a great recipe and not realize until later it wasn't the in the book I had.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: smtucker
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Gio Dec 31, 2010 08:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm in the 2 threads camp. 1 thread for each book.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Many thanks for your continued administration of COTM, With a whip and a chair she shall lead them. But ever so gently.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Happy New Year...!

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