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January 2011 Cookbook of the Month: BREATH of a WOK & STIR-FRYING TO THE SKY'S EDGE

Welcome to the general discussion thread for the January 2011 Cookbooks of the Month: BREATH of a WOK, Grace Young and Alan Richardson and STIR-FRYING TO THE SKY'S EDGE, Grace Young.

Each book will have its own thread. Please use this master thread to discuss woks, wok seasonings, ingredients, and general thoughts about these two books.

If you're new to Cookbook of the Month, the COTM archive thread explains how it all works:
http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

To post a full-length review of any recipe, please select the appropriate thread below.

BREATH of the WOK:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756703

STIR-FRYING TO THE SKY'S EDGE
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/756704

To review discussions from earlier threads, you can take a look at the nominations: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/752091, the voting: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/753027, and the general pre-month discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/753813

Finally, the Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Happy cooking!

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    1. re: Gio

      ...love Gio's seasonal avatars.

      1. re: steve h.

        Gio's a class act . . . an inspiration for us all.

    2. Awwwww shucks. Pulling forelock... shuffling in place.

      1. The seasoning of the wok BotW, page 48

        I went through both books and found the sheer variety of seasoning options a bit overwhelming. In the end, Wen Geng Lin's Chinese Chive Rub won since I had all the required ingredients. You wash the wok with soap and water. Rinse. And then just to be careful, I washed it again.

        Then you rub with Chinese chives, lots of them. Good thing she mentioned the weight because I would never had rubbed with just so many chives. Then you bring a quart of water to a boil, and my doubts began. As the bubbles began to form, my wok got varicose veins. Distinct black lines going up the side of the wok in a pattern that looks like, well, bubbles.

        I pressed on even though I wasn't convinced by what I was seeing. The chives rested in the wok for 30 minutes and then you rub the wok down. She warns that there the towels will be blackened, but mine weren't, but I did have lots of chive stuff stuck to the inside of the wok. Then you rub the wok with lard, let rest and then warm the wok on low until the lard has liquified. Again, she says that there will be smoke, but I really didn't have much. Cool and clean. And once again, boil a quart of water in the wok. No additional varicose veins, though the pattern was still there and very noticeable.

        Tonight I cooked with the wok for the first time. Maybe this all worked. Nothing stuck to the wok, or even threatened to. Love having one handle with the helper instead of the two loops; so much easier to manage. I did the Dunlop swirl and dump method to prepare the pan correctly, and maybe that helped as well.

        As far as the seasoning goes, the next few months will tell if the varicose veins are a good thing or not.

        1 Reply
        1. re: smtucker

          Last night, I decided that for the good of the wok [tongue in cheek] that I would do some deep frying. My wok held 3 cups of oil easily, and I prepared "Crispy Spring Rolls" from the Yan CHINA book, served with dry-fried green beans.

          Controlling the heat was completely different than when we use a dutch oven. The wok didn't drop in temperature at all, and in fact, the temperature of the oil kept getting hotter. I had to take the wok off the heat twice to stay within a safe range. I used a thermometer that hooked awkwardly to the side of the wok.

          We poured out the oil, and then I rubbed the little bit of remaining oil from the bottom around the inside top of the wok. Quick rinse and heat to dry. This morning, the touch of the inside of the wok is much smoother, and just a little oily. The varicose veins are almost gone now.

        2. So I am still trying to learn how to use my wok and these two cookbooks. My wok burner gets pretty hot with 18,000 BTU. Her high heat for the spinach dish was too hot, while the same high wasn't hot enough for the beef.

          Appreciate any thoughts beyond hers in the book.

          2 Replies
          1. re: smtucker

            You've just got to play with it - turn the flame down a bit for the spinach or greens next time. For the beef, try splitting the stir-fry batches into two portions and stir-fry it that way.

            1. re: smtucker

              smtucker: Apologies that I'm soooo late responding to your post about the BTUs. 18,000 is VERY high. The recipes for the book were cooked on a burner that had 14,000 BTUs so I would say you need to go to reduce the heat or the cooking time.

            2. OK, I started seasoning my wok this weekend, but just today saw the caution about using acidic ingredients when the seasoning is new and -- of course -- had already bought everything and was excited to make the Macanese Stir-Fried Chicken with the cup of tomatoes.

              Please help me choose among my meager 12" skillet options (none of which is stainless steel as GY recommends -- I killed that one a while back). My stove is a classic old 50s gas one, which I love, but no idea on BTUs.

              1. Calphalon -- heavy, but doesn't heat very fast or as high as some others. I am prone to blasting the heat on this one.

              2. Heavyish nonstick pan (one of those Green Pans from Crate and Barrel) -- generally much heavier than the average nonstick, but still it's nonstick.

              3. LC Dutch oven -- I know I saw this mentioned as a possibility, although the dynamics of the high sides seem so different

              I appreciate any thoughts from my wiser and better equipped COTMers.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mebby

                I've made it and I don't think it matters what you use - there is so much sauce you're not really looking for wok hay. I'd go with a dutch oven. Hope you like the recipe better than I did.

                1. re: sarahcooks

                  I agree. In an effort to maintain higher heat, don't overload the pan or dutch oven and consider making the one dish in at least two batches. You could even use two pans/dutch ovens at the same time. Get one dish or portion started and minutes later begin the other...

              2. I've been trying to work out if the shredding/julienning gadget she mentions in her book is the same as the Papaya shredder I got in Thailand. It looks like this:

                http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/.shared/i...

                Anyone know?

                4 Replies
                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Looks like it will do the same job, though. Thanks.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      My Kuhn Rikon Julienne Peeler with Blade Protector arrived yesterday and to tell the truth it looks like a serious lethal weapon. If I thought I was afraid of my mandoline... this is worse. Thank Goodness it has that blade protector. I have no idea how to use it. Nor do I know how to use the Green Onion Negi Cutter which is still intransit.

                  2. re: greedygirl

                    Greedygirl: If you want to see the exact gadgets I have posted them on my website on the shop. I hadn't realized before that they were available on amazon.

                  3. On the wok issue, I was interested to read that Fuchsia Dunlop recommends the iron ones, whereas Grace Young prefers the carbon steel version. As an owner of both, I'm definitely in the Dunlop camp. It cooks much better, develops a better patina, and is less likely to rust. IMHO, of course.

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I am not going to buy another wok. No, I'm not. Really. I'm not.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        HAHAHA! Well JoanN, you apparently would be the first then. According to Ms. Young in BOAW pg 38 in all her travels and research she never met a chef or a home cook who owns both a cast iron and carbon steel wok.

                        I'm having the same angst as you, though, wanting another wok. I bought mine on Amazon (because I wanted it shipped faster and it was slightly less expensive) but I'm wondering if I should have been more patient and ordered one from the Wok Shop.

                        But, I actually feel convinced that carbon steel (vs. cast iron) is the right choice for me. In BOAW pg 38 she says that the carbon steel ones heat up and cool down more quickly, which she says is easier for less experienced cooks to deal with. Also, they are more durable (she says the cast iron can shatter if you dont' handle it properly). Since I'm so timid about high heat, I think I am more comfortable with a wok that responds quickly to adjustments in heat. Plus, I am really hard on stuff. I'm just clumsy or distracted (or both), so I usually have to purchase the most durable version of everything because it is inevitable that I'm going to drop it or smash it against something or whatever.

                        For me personally, the biggest draw back to the carbon steel (vs. cast iron) is that they are heavier.

                        ~TDQ

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            You are a rare and exotic bird. :)

                            And I guess JoanN would be the second, then.

                            ~TDQ

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I have both too. For the most part, I prefer my 16" iron wok, and use it the vast majority of the time. I have a carbon steel one that is 14", and another carbon steel one that is huge (22"). The iron wok does have the nicest patina. Unfortunately 16" is the largest size I've seen. The cast iron is not as heavy as you might think. The iron woks are quite thin.

                            1. re: MelMM

                              Yes, it's not nearly as heavy as a Le Creuset frying pan, say.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                The main problem with home use of woks is the lack of firepower. Not enough BTU's. So a flat bottom pan works better in many cases. Here is an example of the Blue Star 22,000 BTU stove in action:

                                http://www.bluestarcooking.com/videos...

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  Not a problem for me. I cook outdoors on the Big Kahuna 65,000 BTU burner.

                                  1. re: MelMM

                                    65,000 ! I'm surprised your neighborhood is still standing! Be careful out there. What gets cooked with that kind of heat?

                                    1. re: blue room

                                      All my stir fries get cooked out there. I had been using a portable propane burner, about 30,000 BTU (IIRC), but it had to sit on a table. Last year, when I replaced my old wrought iron patio table with a cast aluminum one, I replaced my old burner with the Big K, which is on legs and doesn't need to go on the table. The Big K with the legs extended is actually a nicer height for stir frying - about hip height - than the tabletop burner was. I love it. Just because it's capable of 65K BTU doesn't mean you have to have the gas turned all the way up! I light it with the gas turned up high, then lower the flow until the flame is all blue, no yellow.

                                      Young talks about this burner, and someone who cooks with it, on p 281 of Sky's Edge. She's is fairly negative about it, not recommending for the home cook. But I really like mine, and unlike the guy in the book, I have never burned anything it it. I have everything prepped when I start, lined up in the order it goes in the wok, and everything happens very fast. The quality of the finished dishes is superb.

                                      I guess I should add that I only use this on a large open patio, and keep about 20 feet between me and the house.

                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        I agree - I've cooked on the Blue Star 22,000 BTU range in a home and even on that it can get too hot very quickly. Young might poo-poo the idea of using your outdoor model for the home cook because her book is pretty basic, no? No need to encourage the masses to run out and start burning up their patios!

                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          You are right - Young's book is trying to be accessible for all home cooks. If she encouraged using the Big K, it could discourage people who don't feel comfortable with it or have the appropriate space for using such a burner. Plus you never know what someone who just doesn't know any better might do. Who would want to be responsible for that? Anyway, her whole point is that you can cook a decent stir fry at home on your stove, and to encourage people to try it. Which I feel is admirable.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Gee can you get iron woks anymore? I thought carbon steel more or less replaced iron. I am positive Barbara Tropp in the 1980's was recommending carbon-steel...I am happy with mine.

                          1. re: scoopG

                            I've had mine for ages, at least ten years. But my Chinese-Malaysian friend says it's the proper one. She is a bit dismissive of carbon-steel flat-bottomed woks, calling them "Western"!! She is not known for her tact....

                              1. re: scoopG

                                A lot of Chinese markets, at least here, have them; they're about $10. The material is very different from the cast iron we get here, which I think Grace Young alludes to in her book.

                              2. re: greedygirl

                                greedygirl: The iron wok is indeed more traditional. But the reason I recommend the flat-bottomed carbon-steel is that the iron wok is very difficult to find. And many people in this country are cooking on electric or induction cook tops where a round-bottomed wok won't work. I'm gearing the book for the type of stoves the average reader will have. I also feel the flat-bottomed wok with the long wooden handle is easier to use on a Western stove. You can pick it up with one hand and quickly. The round bottomed iron wok with metal ears is much more awkward to work with.

                                1. re: graceyoung

                                  Do you have any advice for using a wok with induction? One reason that I haven't gotten a wok yet is because I cook on an induction burner and I wasn't sure that the sides of the wok would heat up at all, which seems that it wouldn't work very well for stir-frying.

                                  1. re: graceyoung

                                    Mine has a wooden handle - no ears. I do prefer it to the carbon steel one, which I also have. I live in the UK, by the way, where gas stoves are the norm.

                                2. Is anyone using her method of cleaning a wok by soaking it in the run-off from rinsing the rice?

                                  I don’t see this in the stir-frying book, but she mentions it in Breath of a Wok. She says that years ago a friend of hers taught her to save about 4 cups of the cloudy rice rinsing water and to pour that into the wok for about 5 or 10 minutes before cleaning it. She says that even the small amount of starch in the rice water helps to remove the grease in the wok without using soap.

                                  I didn’t try this for a while just because it seemed like a pain in the neck—one more good sized container to have sitting around while you cook and then having to clean it. And frankly, I had little faith it would work. But the last few times I’ve made rice and used the wok I’ve rinsed the rice in a strainer over a 4-cup measuring cup and saved the rice water until I was ready to clean up. It works. It really works. I was surprised.

                                  21 Replies
                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I just use the scrungy thing which she mentions - it's sometimes a little bit soapy, sometimes not. It works fine. I then dry it over a low heat (have been doing this for years off my own bat) and oil religiously using a little vegetable oil and a paper towel. Mr GG has been trained to do this also, and he never forgets!

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      That's a really interesting way to clean the wok. Of course, this would assume that one rinses rice prior to cooking in the rice cooker. I'm way too lazy for that.

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        Yeah, I hear you. I got into the habit of rinsing my rice when we first did the Dunlop books. I stopped for a while when I inherited my rice cooker about 6 months ago, but now I'm starting again. I'm cooking mostly long-grain, brown rice these days and the rinsing seems to improve the texture of the cooked rice. Might be able to achieve the same result by just adding a bit more water, but putting the rice in a strainer and running it under the faucet for a few seconds is becoming second nature again.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          How does the brown rice taste with chinese food? Also, do you add more water to the cooker to soften it up? I kind of have an irrational thing against brown rice. I should get over it but can't seem to.

                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                            During the Dunlop month G got to love cooking in the wok and since then he uses the wok about 2 or 3 times a week to cook/sautee/fry anything he thinks will do well in it. Not always stir-fry either, although I have a very large steamer insert for a 6 qt. sauce pan when we steam large items like whole fish, etc.

                                            I'll have to tell him about using the reserved rice rinsing water to clean the grease... but I bet he'll rebel. We've been rinsing rice since Dunlop and like the texture it gives rice.

                                            To add to the brown rice with Chinese food remarks, more often lately I see that many food bloggers are switching over to brown rice. We use brown Basmati frequently and I rather like the nutty flavor. I think it goes well with Chinese food.

                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                              Although in general I do like the nuttiness and chewiness of brown rice, I'm not gonna lie to you and tell you it's great with Chinese food. White rice is better. By a long shot. But I've limited myself to brown rice for about three weeks now and I'm getting used to it.

                                              Yes, I've been adding more water. Just under about a quarter of a cup is working for me with the brown basmati I've been using recently.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                I'm eating brown basmati rice atm as well, with my Young dish which I'll report on shortly. I don't think most Chinese people would touch it with a bargepole - brown rice is for the very poor, apparently. I don't mind it though.

                                                What ratio of rice to water are you using in your cooker? I've never tried brown basmati in mine.

                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  Yeah, that would be. It's not because brown rice is for the very poor. But, my mom used to say that it's what they would feed the animals in China. The irony is that my parents are supposed to eat brown rice because of health issues. They hate it so they mix in some white rice in with the brown. When I visit, they're thrilled because then it's all white rice, all the time.

                                                  ETA: It doesn't help that I don't really like the taste of brown rice, but I don't know if it's my childhood bias against it. I love other whole wheat/grain things like bread and the "funny" grains like quinoa and bulger. Although, I also am not keen on wheat pasta so maybe it's a theme.

                                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                                    My Chinese-American ex felt the same way. Couldn't stand brown rice, thought it was just wrong (and of course grew up with white rice every night, even with non-Chinese dishes), but was fine with other whole grain things, whole-wheat bread, even whole-wheat pasta. So it may just be that childhood/cultural conditioning.

                                                  2. re: greedygirl

                                                    I'm using a scant 1-1/4 cups of water to 1/2 cup of the basmati brown rice. It took me a few pots of hard, stuck-to-the-bottom rice to come up with that ratio, but that's what seems to work best for that rice in my cooker.

                                                  3. re: JoanN

                                                    Finished my bag of brown basmati rice and picked up a bag of brown jasmine rice at Trader Joe's. Have tried it twice now with Chinese dishes, one Young, one Dunlop, and am much preferring it to the basmati. It's neither as chewy nor as nutty as the basmati, cooks faster, holds better, is fluffier, and requires less water proportionately. The TJ brand says it's from Thailand. No idea if other brands of brown jasmine would perform as well, but this will be my go-to with Chinese food from now on.

                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                      Great tip, thank you! I shall be on the lookout for brown jasmine rice.

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                        I've never seen brown jasmine rice - will have a look for it.

                                                    2. re: beetlebug

                                                      I love brown rice with Chinese food. I typically buy brown basmati rice, rinse it well, and cook it at a 1 part rice to 2 part water ratio.

                                                      But that said, I don't really like the white rice I get at Chinese restaurants. It's okay, I'll eat it, but I would rather have brown. (Now the white rice at Japanese restaurants, that I love! Wonder what the difference is?)

                                                      I think there must be differences between brown rices also. Obviously there's long grain, short grain, basmati, etc. But I remember brown rice in the 70s having a more distinctive flavor. I don't know if I've just gotten used to it or if the brown basmati that I use really is milder tasting. I wonder if the brown rice of my youth was less polished than what is sold today?

                                                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                        I've had brown rice all my life. It was the rice of choice of my mother who was a Gaylord Hauser devotee so I'm used to it. In the beginning, when I was on my own, I only cooked Uncle Ben's but later on I got religion. I find Trader Joe's brown basmati has a nice nutty tasting flavor. My rice to water ratio is like yours, Karen. We alternate between white jasmine, white and brown basmati, aborio and carnaroli. Have yet to make sticky or sushi rice, though. Where's Sam when we need him....

                                                2. re: JoanN

                                                  I definitely use the rice rinse water. I just pour the rinse water into a large bowl. In fact, I've gotten so into the habit of saving the water that I find myself saving it even when there is no chance it will be used. Very silly.

                                                  1. re: mirage

                                                    I use the rice rinse water to water plants!

                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                        My plants will thank you - I never remember to water them! But next time I'm faced with pouring the unused rice water down the drain, I'm sure I'll remember your suggestion.

                                                    1. OK, ridiculous, but true, does anyone else feel they are too short to stir-fry? I have an old RSI injury in the shoulder of my dominant hand, and I feel like I'm having to torque my shoulder to hold my wok spatula at the proper angle to stir-fry and now my shoulder is sore. I'm thinking I might have to purchase a step stool, which seems silly to me.

                                                      Anyone else have this height issue and a solution to it?

                                                      ~TDQ

                                                      16 Replies
                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        No helpful solutions I'm afraid (I'm 5'8) but "Too Short To Stir-Fry" would be a great book title if you ever write your memoirs!

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          I'm 5'2" (on a good day) and too short to do everything. I can't reach things on cupboard shelves, my feet don't reach the floor when I sit on dining room chairs, I need to put my desk chair way up high to be at the proper angle to type on my desktop. But I have NO difficulty stir-frying. Is your stovetop unusually high?

                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                            That's about how tall I am, too. I don't think my stove (a Kenmore) is unusually high. The stovetop is right at the level of the top of my hip-bone.

                                                            Do you find yourself lifting your elbow almost up to eye level to stir-fry? Maybe I'm doing it weirdly.

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              Maybe you are subconsciously shrugging your shoulders up as you stir fry. Try consciously dropping your shoulder blades.

                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                My stovetop is about an inch below the top of my hip bone. Maybe that one inch makes a big difference?

                                                                I never thought about how I positioned my elbow when I stir-fry (and I sure as hell hope I don't start thinking about it now). It just all seemed very natural to me.

                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                  I hope I haven't jinxed you. I am also rather tense in the kitchen, so, this could be the problem, too. I'll do as beetlebug suggests and try to be more aware of my posture.

                                                                  The many joys of being a stress-case, a short one!

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                              2. re: JoanN

                                                                I have the opposite problem - I'd like my kitchen worktops to be higher as I feel like I'm always hunching over.

                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                  Then you would LOVE my kitchen. The previous owners were both very tall, and when they built the island and sink area [the only two horizontal spaces] they added 6 inches of height. To get enough leverage to cleaver, or open a jar, or just about anything, I have to either call the husband who is taller, or get on a step stool.

                                                                  Someday we will remove the 6 inch pedestals, but first we have to find a new sink, and then move the radiator.... it is what we call a "mushrooming project." It may never happen.

                                                              3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                Yikes! I was curious about this, and just conducted this experiment:
                                                                I'm 5'6", so I put 2 big books on the burner (equal to a 4 inch height difference) and put the wok on top. TDQ and I seem to have the same 14" Chen wok, I think. We also seem to both have Kenmore gas stoves.
                                                                And yes, I think it *would be difficult and scary* to flip hot oil around at that angle.
                                                                Seriously, I'd get a steady platform of some kind to stand on!

                                                                1. re: blue room

                                                                  Thank you for making me feel less crazy! HA!

                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    The handle of the spatula adds another 7 inches or so -- you're holding this up at an angle to avoid hot spatters AND maneuver the julienne deftly! I wonder if stoves in stir fry countries/cultures are a few inches shorter to accomodate smaller people?

                                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                                      In one of the books, BOAW I think, Grace Young talks about a woman who had a lower stove, which I thought was very interesting. I think the traditional stoves are lower.

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      You'll get used to it. I'm 5'1" (almost, my stove is a bit above my waist level) and I use my wok a lot. Just do it!

                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                        I'm beginning to think the real solution is a glass of wine. ;)

                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    In BoW I talk about the fact that the wok was originally intended to be used on a hearth stove. The stove is set 30 inches high in contrast to our standard 36-inches. The round bottomed wok sits in a hole so that you don't need to hold the wok---it's totally stabilized in the hole. So it's ergonomically much more comfortable to cook with a wok in a hearth stove. On a Western stove your elbow is lifted out which is slightly awkward. But there's not much we can do. I think cooking from a step stool would be dangerous and present other awkward problems.

                                                                  3. I'm having a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I like how easy and fast the recipes are and how I have most of the staples already stocked in the kitchen. But, many of the recipes, to me, are more dishes to be found in american chinese restaurants where the main clientele are non-asian. I mean, what is with all the dishes with carrots and green and red peppers? Those, to me, are always filler vegetables.

                                                                    This could be more of personal preference. While I love carrots everywhere else, I loathe them in chinese food. And, I'm not the biggest fan of green peppers. But, there does seem to be an over reliance on these ingredients in the non-vegetable dishes.

                                                                    Many of the dishes in the book are ones that I shy away from when I go out to eat. But, maybe I'll like them better if I make them myself. Or maybe I'll just have to make vegetable substitutions.

                                                                    25 Replies
                                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                                      I think that is, in a way, the premise of SFTTSE, how people have adapted stir-fry techniques and recipes to their new environments, taking into account availability of ingredients, etc. I do not see any problem with making vegetable substitutions for more "authentic"/traditional vegetables. After all, you'd just be undoing the substitutions the author and her sources made.

                                                                      I'd like to say BoaW is better in its use of more traditional ingredients, but, for instance, she still has a whole essay (and related series of recipes) on how her own family has adapted their traditional recipes. She talks about a "wok-a-thon" gathering her family had to help her with the book and she said only one person in her family (one of her aunties) showed up with a wok. Everyone else, including her other aunties, showed up with skillets.

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                        Yes, the recipes definitely represent the Chinese diaspora she so often talks about. The reviews say these recipes are "classic sir-fry recipes." I think that really refers to the techniques involved, though, not necessarily the ingredients. Substitution of some ingredients is almost a given here...as elsewhere. Home cooks do that with every cuisine, utilizing whatever is at hand and/or freshest.

                                                                      2. re: beetlebug

                                                                        I loathe green peppers, and will not be using any! So far, what I am learning are some new wok techniques, new mise en place ideas and some new flavor profiles. I suspect that I am already to start modifying the vegetables to reflect my Asian market's produce.

                                                                        Though the recipes are very fast to cook, I do find the mise en place, i.e. cutting vegetables, meat, measuring soy sauces etc, is fairly time [and counter] consuming.

                                                                        I am craving some more distinct flavors.

                                                                        1. re: smtucker

                                                                          smtucker, I feel the same way about the time consumingness of the mise en place. I am always astonished how long it takes. When you read the recipe it seems easy: yeah, slice up some bacon, shredded some cabbage, measure out a little sugar, soy, s&P, chicken stock, and a little oil.

                                                                          If you've got any tips about what you've learned about mise en place, I am definitely interested in hearing about that. I use small ramekins for my mise en place, then line them (and larger bowls or plates of ingredients), up in the order they go into the dish. If she says, "transfer to a plate or bowl" I set that out too. If I need special tools, I set those out. And, of course, my final serving dishes.

                                                                          My only tip is, if you're going to add several things at the same time, to measure them into the same ramekin.

                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            I use glass bowls which I own in three sizes. Items that are added at the same time go into the same bowl. I keep a small rubber spatula in the tools area so I can quickly remove all the ingredients since sometimes they don't pour out properly.

                                                                            For my "metal" spatula, I have been using the fish spatula which is working better than any tool I have ever used in a wok. I am still very slow at getting the meat into the wok in a single layer, and have to take the wok off the heat to manage this before burning everything that is already in the wok. But, I like the technique a lot so I am just going to have to practice this more.

                                                                            As another 5'2' cook, well 5'2 3/4", I too am having difficulties with the height of the stove and am not tossing the wok around much at all.

                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                              How do you feel about stir-frying while standing on a step stool? I'm worried that as I'm running back and forth to get ingredients to add in, I'm going to forget I'm on a step stool and hurt myself.

                                                                              I don't think the height thing is a huge deal, necessarily, unless you're doing a lot of dishes or you're doing one that takes longer (as Florence Lin's Red Bell pepper dish I tried Weds night from BOAW) and spending a lot of time at the stove, still, my shoulder is sore because I seem to be exacerbating my RSI. So odd.

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                I just don't have room for a step stool and a way to walk past the stove. The kitchen in my house is small [though not NYC small] with only one work surface. The work surface is an island behind me when I face the stove. To the left and right of the stove I have exactly 12 inches of cabinet to place the mise en place.

                                                                                Now, don't get me wrong... no one in the house is starving, but the kitchen layout has some challenges which with 3 windows and 5 doorways, can't be solved easily.

                                                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                                                  Well, at least you've learned to be space efficient!

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  I wonder if I can learn to stir-fry with my non-dominant, non-RSI hand?

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                                                      Excellent! Gotta keep that in mind.

                                                                                      1. re: blue room

                                                                                        HA! And, I noticed, they are sexy, according to the link.

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: blue room

                                                                                          Hysterical! I might just fall over at the first big stir!

                                                                                    2. re: smtucker

                                                                                      "I am still very slow at getting the meat into the wok in a single layer"

                                                                                      The first dish or two that I made that contained that instruction I tried placing each piece of protein in the wok individually. Even doing that I had to scrunch some pieces around or slightly on top of each other just because there was more protein than hot wok surface. The next couple of recipes that told you to do that, I just dumped the protein in the wok and spread it around with my spatula and/or a pair of tongs. It took significantly less time and achieved the same result. Maybe it would work for you as well?

                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                        This is what I do, too, JoanN, except that I haven't graduated to the tongs, yet, I've been moving everything with the spatula and been THINKING tongs would be a great idea. I just need to remember to try to set them out so they are handy.

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                3. re: beetlebug

                                                                                  beetlebug - That's my beef with the stir-fry book too. Rather deracinated, even with the diaspora angle, which is an interesting one. One of my gauges for a good Chinese (or Thai) restaurant is if there are green and red peppers in the food in dishes not usually calling for them (in which case, not so hot).

                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                    to jump on the band wagon, I have to agree. I keep looking at BOTW (got it from the library to follow this months thread) for a recipe I want to make, there just isn't one. Oh well. at least Young doesn't seem to use huge amounts of white sugar.

                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                      From the diaspora description, I was expecting more use of local (non-Asian) vegetables. So I too am disappointed with the dominance of green/red peppers, carrots/broccoli, and bok choy. I love red peppers even, but I prefer to cook with seasonal vegetables, and winter is not their season. So I'm doing what I can to adapt the recipes to my garden's current abundance: chard, mustard greens, spinach. Hmm, maybe I should try subbing shredded turnip for shredded carrots. Or shredded beets?! Somehow I can't imagine beets or fennel in ANY Chinese recipe. I think there are better uses for them anyhow.

                                                                                      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                                                        Fennel (茴香 - Hui2 Xiang1 – Foeniculum vulgare) is more commonly used in spices; in braising and in hearty dark stocks. Fennel seeds (like watermelon seeds) are sometimes used as a condiment or snack and can be found in dumplings or steamed buns.

                                                                                        Although I’ve not seem much in China in the way of sugar beets, they were introduced there during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) from the West and were commonly steamed and consumed in the south.

                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                          and fennel greens with pork filled jiao zi are a standard in the Beijing area.

                                                                                      2. re: buttertart

                                                                                        I'm wondering if it's purely an aesthetic reason, especially with the red peppers and carrots, to make the dish more colorful.

                                                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                                                          It may be, but the dishes should look appealing anyway. Peppers have too intrusive a taste and texture. You can always strew some chopped cilantro on top, if you like it and think the dish looks too blah without something.

                                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                                            From my somewhat limited experience cooking Chinese food, it seems as though lots of dishes contain both red and green peppers. Dunlop certainly uses them, quite a bit as a matter of fact. I even see a few dishes that use them in my Wei-Chuan cookbook. I understand not liking them, but I guess I don't understand criticizing the cookbook for containing recipes that include them.

                                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                                              Yes they are used, where appropriate, and I am perhaps being a bit too curmudgeonly about the recipes in this book (have read both and have not been moved to cook from either). It's a bugaboo of mine, especially with regard to Chinese and Thai restaurant food where peppers are often just thrown in as cheap filler. (I remember green peppers being very rare in the food we had in Taiwan - and in China for that matter - except in "x with green pepper" type dishes. Red sweet peppers, never.)

                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                Just my personal preference - I do usually omit carrots/bell peppers, etc out when I'm cooking Chinese. But if I have guests and want to make the dish look more colorful, I have no problem using them. I have to say that Dunlop sold me on celery with quite a few dishes, however. OTOH, a dish traditional to you can play a part. For example, my mom's sweet and sour pork isn't the same without green and red peppers for me.

                                                                                                This month I left out the carrots when I made the chicken in black bean sauce, and for the kung pao chicken I used half a pepper instead of a whole. I'll probably leave out the carrots when I make the dry-fried beef too.

                                                                                    2. Grace Young has been tweeting about us: http://twitter.com/stirfrygrace

                                                                                      See Jan 5 and Jan 3.

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Haha I could not walk OR wok if I were atop a pair!

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          TDQ (or anyone else) are you on Twitter? I'm rubee100. I love how engaging Grace Young is on twitter, she's even given me tips.

                                                                                          1. re: Rubee

                                                                                            Nah, I'm enough of a twit already. :) But, I did see she gave you some tips, which is pretty neat. Tips=awesome.

                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                        2. I'm sure this is a dumb question, but if you're stir-frying multiple dishes in a wok, what do you do between dishes. Do you wash it completely?

                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            No, need to wash it- they have they these wok whisks to clean it - or just use a bit of water.

                                                                                            1. re: scoopG

                                                                                              So, just rinse it, wipe it out, and proceed?

                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              I don't even use water. I just wipe it out with a paper towel.

                                                                                              Honestly, I don't mean to be rubbing it in, but it does help that the wok is well-seasoned so I'm not usually dealing with stuck-on food particles. If I were, I'd probably scrub it with a brush and put it right back on the flame to dry/reheat.

                                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                So, no water, just scrub it with a brush, put it back on the flame and do the Dunlop swirl and dump out method of seasoning?

                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  I think the important thing is to *not transfer flavors* --
                                                                                                  there's no question of sanitation or cleanliness in this situation. And sometimes you might not mind at all if the flavors mingle in this kind of cooking?
                                                                                                  I'd rinse it or wipe it and then SMELL it, and go from there.

                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    Yep. If you even need the brush. That's it. That's what I do.

                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        If you can get away with no water, fine. And if you don't mind yet having another kitchen tool:

                                                                                                        http://the-wok-shop.amazonwebstore.co...

                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                          I don't mind more kitchen tools (esp one that only cost $3), but GY is kind of down on those stiff bamboo brushes saying they can damage your wok's patina. Have you have any issues with the bamboo brush damaging your patina?

                                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  We don't wash the wok between recipes. Simply wipe it out with a paper towel and carry on.

                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    If you're doing multiple dishes I definitely wash the wok with water and dry it before moving on to the next dish. If you cooked the second dish without washing the wok there would be some food particles or sauce that would be left in the wok and it would likely cause sticking with the second dish. Or the other problem that could arise is that it will be harder to clean the wok after the 2nd or 3rd dish.

                                                                                                    1. re: graceyoung

                                                                                                      Aha, yes, I think I've experienced the dish 2 sticking-in-the-wok problem before.

                                                                                                      So, when you're making multiple dishes and washing your wok in-between, are you letting the wok cool down a little before you wash it? Otherwise, you'd be adding water to a hot, hot wok. Are you just taking your time cooking, bringing the dishes to the table as they are ready?

                                                                                                      By the way, I love your story (in SFTTSE, I think) where you talk about how your dad would not start stir-frying until everyone was seated at the dinner table. I've been coaching my family on this (bizarrely, everyone seems to have a last minute thing they need to do just as I call them to dinner), that they need to be ready for dinner so we don't lose the wok hay! Wok hay has been the source of important discsusion in my house this month!

                                                                                                      Don't lose the wok hay!

                                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        TDQ I love that your family is being trained not to lose the wok hay. My father must be smiling in heaven. When I'm stir-frying multiple dishes I never cook one after the other. If I did there would be no time for me to eat the first dish. So yes there's a little gap in time so I'm no putting water into the piping hot wok and warping the pan, then I wash the wok and proceed.

                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                          This is really interesting to me. I order my wok cooking so that it didn't need to be washed in between dishes. As an example, if I were to make a vegetable, a ma po tofu, and say fish fillets, I'd probably do the veggies first, then the fish fillets, and then the ma po tofu last. So the flavors would kind of build over time, but the mildest was cooked first so it's not like the spices from ma po tofu would flavor my veggies. I think I learned this from my grandma, but I might be making that up.

                                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        If there's even a tiny bit of food residue, I use hot water and a big bristle-y brush to scrub it quickly. If there isn't, sometimes I'll just wipe it down with a paper towel if I'm in a hurry.

                                                                                                      3. I know there's been some talk this month of serving dishes over brown rice (which is what I've been doing.) Chef Ming Tsai approves of brown rice!

                                                                                                        http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/01/19/c...

                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                        1. I just wanted to thank everyone for being so dedicated to cooking form The Breath of a Wok and Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. I wrote Breath partially because wok cooking is is becoming a lost culinary art form. It's been reassuring to read how all of you have embraced "wokking." And I've loved reading your input on all the recipes for Breath and Sky. Should you have any questions feel free to contact me through my website: graceyoung.com. Thank you for keeping wok cooking traditions alive!

                                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: graceyoung

                                                                                                            Thank you Grace for getting involved in our COTM. It has been wonderful to have you beside us through this learning process. I have used a wok for many years but found through using your books, and from your many helpful comments here, that I had not been looking after my wok properly (I promise to now do so). You have gained many fans through your wonderful participation this month.

                                                                                                            1. re: JaneEYB

                                                                                                              Dear Jane EYB: Thank you so much for letting me know. I'm thrilled to have a few more friends join my wok revolution! It saddens me that after being the essential tool of the Chinese kitchen for over 2000 wok culinary traditions are at risk of being lost. Keep wokking! Grace

                                                                                                              1. re: graceyoung

                                                                                                                Hi Grace. I am interested to hear you say that the art of wokking is in danger of being lost. Surely that can't be true? I have never been to China but in other countries in Asia (Thailand/Laos/Vietnam) the wok is commonly used. And here in Britain many people own woks - they may not use them very well, but they do stir-fry pretty regularly!

                                                                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                  greedygirl: I wrote my first cookbook "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" because I was so distressed that Chinese Americans are losing their culinary traditions. Most young Chinese Americans have no idea of how to use a wok. Wisdom is my family's recipes and stories and it is my most treasured work. Most of the family and friends who shared their recipes with me have either passed away or are too old to cook. Those recipes are very precious to me because they document very traditional cooking that few Chinese know these days.
                                                                                                                  And in my experiences going to China and Hong Kong young people in cities have NO idea of how to cook let alone how to use a wok. They have parents willing to cook for them and there are plenty of inexpensive, restaurants that allow them the luxury of not having to cook. So I'm not speaking of all of Asia but certainly in America and in China in the large cities, wok traditions are dying.

                                                                                                                  1. re: graceyoung

                                                                                                                    Grace, it's sad. I see that in other traditions, too. I don't know if it's a sign of the times or it's just how the American melting pot works. Here in Minnesota you hear people talk about their fond memories of eating lefse growing up, but when you delve deeper, even with foodies, you find out that hardly anyone cooks it anymore, that the techniques and recipes are becoming lost. Similar to wokking, making lefse requires special equipment--a flat griddle, a turning stick, a special rolling pin--and it's sad to see fewer and fewer people knowing how to use it.

                                                                                                                    In my own family, I've been trying to get my grandmother to talk about some of her most beloved recipes, but it's hard because she's forgotten many of them. And, she gets upset when she doesn't remember. She always cooked from memory and by feel, and I think she can only remember by doing.

                                                                                                                    You were smart to document your families recipes before it was too late. I think that's really important work. I've heard about "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" (it often gets recommended here on Chowhound) and it's been on my list of books to look into for awhile, but now that say it is your most treasured work, I will definitely make sure to get ahold of it.

                                                                                                                    Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us this month. I'm definitely adding stir-frying to my regular cooking rotation and making room for my wok! Even my husband tried a stir-fry dish this month, as well as popcorn.

                                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                      TDQ: It really is sad that the handing down of recipes from parents to children is no longer an assumed inheritance. Most children don't grow up learning how to cook from their parents and so many extraordinary traditions and so much knowledge is at risk of being lost. I really find it quite amazing that the cooking I grew up with in San Francisco replicated the recipes my parents ate in China in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Thanks for letting me know stir-frying has become a part of your cooking life.

                                                                                                          2. === POSTMORTUM ===

                                                                                                            This was a fabulous month! It was the perfect combination of a good set of books, and a wonderful infusion of many voices. Personally, I enjoyed BREATH more than STIR-FRY, but overall, I have found many dishes that I will make over and over.

                                                                                                            I love the many comments from Grace Young. Her voice was a tremendous addition to our month. Ms. Young added to the conversation without restricting our discussions. I admire her tone, and am so glad that she chose to join us.

                                                                                                            Tomorrow, I am going to do my best to take a "wok portrait." Maybe others would do the same and we can share our patinas.

                                                                                                            Anyhow, a great month! Looking forward to next month.

                                                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                              Great ideal, smtucker! If I ever work out how to reformat pictures so they're the right size for Chowhound (luddite, I'm afraid), I will gladly join you. I am quite proud of my patina!

                                                                                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                The snow is coming down which gives my house a low level of light, but maybe these pictures show something. I started the month with a brand new wok from the WOK HOUSE in SF, and cooked in the wok about 1/2 the days of the month, plus quite a few popcorn sessions. The patina has been slowly moving its way up the sides of the wok, but due to my strength issues on one side of the body, I always pour in the same direction so one side is better than the other.

                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                  Now for my quibbles with this book. I hate the way the ingredient lists are configured. You will see 3 tablespoons of oil, but it is really 1 tablespoon in this bowl, another teaspoon in another bowl, and the remaining oil for cooking.

                                                                                                                  I am remarking the recipes I will revisit with specific listings like:

                                                                                                                  Sesame Oil mixture-
                                                                                                                  1 tsp sesame oil
                                                                                                                  1 tsp soy sauce

                                                                                                                  etc.... Trying to find the small print while measuring out the ingredients, and then remember which little bowl has the sesame oil seems difficult.

                                                                                                                  I also really dislike the paper that the books are printed on. Though they make the photos look absolutely gorgeous, they smear ink when you mark up the page and glare under my kitchen lights so it is often difficult to read the type.

                                                                                                                  And finally, I would prefer that each direction got its own little section. Stir-frying goes so fast that sometimes it was hard to find my place once again. I found that it really helped to have a second person reading the directions while the actually cooking was underway.

                                                                                                                  1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                    I hear you, but I must say that none of those things bothered me. As a matter of fact, as far as your first point about dividing the ingredients into sections, I much prefer the lists the way they are. I'd rather know I'm going to need a total of 10 scallions than have to look in two different places to see I'm going to need six shredded scallions here and four chopped scallions there. Invariably I see the six, miss the four, and get caught short. And once I've got my prep done, I've never had any difficulty figuring out which dish has what in it.

                                                                                                                    It wasn't a conscious decision at the time, but I just double-checked and see that although I usually do use pen to mark up my recipes, for these books I used pencil. Funny, I didn't even stop to think about it. It's a problem with high-gloss paper--and with all cookbooks printed on it. The only real solution is to have the photos in a separate section, and that makes for a different kind of book entirely.

                                                                                                                    I come closest to agreeing with your third point. Although, since having someone read to me is not an option, I've more-or-less trained myself to read through the stir-frying part of a recipe just before I start the actual cooking and create a little power-point presentation in my head: 2 minutes, this, 30 seconds, that, four minutes, something else--up until there is an instruction to do something for long enough to be able to take a break and look at the book if I need to. I began doing that with Dunlop and I must say it has really helped me tremendously with these recipes.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                      Wow. A powerpoint in your head. I wish I could do that. I'm just not good at visualizing the steps like that. What I've been trying to do is memorize the general steps of stir fry:

                                                                                                                      1. Hot wok, cold oil.
                                                                                                                      2. aromatics.
                                                                                                                      3. meat...
                                                                                                                      4. Vegetables in order of density...

                                                                                                                      I think that's how it goes. But, when to add all of the tricky sauces, especially when sometimes you have to do it at least a couple of times? Looks like I need more studying!

                                                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                        P.S. it seems there are more of you visualizers out there http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7633...

                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                          On points one and two, I have made post-it notes with the ingredients the way I want them, with my personal note. These are heavy duty stickers, but I do fear that the notes won't last long enough. [And you are right, I like to know what I need to get from the pantry, line it up, measure into my bowls. But then I want these subdivisions. I want everything!]

                                                                                                                          I used to be able to keep 50 sequential items in my head, but my brain just doesn't store that stuff anymore. Total drag to be honest. I miss those days.

                                                                                                                          What I really need is a large screen behind the stove that goes from step to step. Heck, while I am dreaming, it could have audio that speaks to me with a foot peddle for forwarding!

                                                                                                                        2. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                          smtucker: just to give you some background on a few of your quibbles:
                                                                                                                          I think it is easier on the eyes to break up amounts for an ingredient like soy sauce if it's used in 2 different places. However, that means a recipe ingredient line is going to run longer. A longer recipe means more paper and paper is expensive in the publishing world. Maybe in the digital age designers can go back to grouping ingredients. I should say that in a baking book grouping ingredients is easier because there aren't so many ingredients. But in a Chinese stir-fry if you grouped by marinade ingredients, and sauce ingredients the ingredient line would just go on forever.
                                                                                                                          Paper is totally a publisher's call. An author has NO say. I'm grateful that the books are printed on high quality paper. It could've been the newsprint I see on many cookbooks these days.

                                                                                                                          1. re: graceyoung

                                                                                                                            The design of "Stir-frying" is absolutely gorgeous, the colors used are wonderful. Beautiful book, one of the most stunning to come out recently.

                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                              buttertart: Thanks for the compliments on the book. We worked hard on the photography. We had tremendous good fortune at Simon & Schuster because Nancy Singer oversaw the design and hired Diane Hobbing to design the book. Diane was a genius and came up with such tasteful layouts. I'm indebted to Steven Mark Needham the photographer, Nancy, and Diane!

                                                                                                                        3. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                          smtucker: I was really thrilled to see my books honored with co-COTM. It's been fascinating for me to read your comments and I'm particularly pleased that you came up with the idea of showing your wok portraits. That is such a clever way to share your wok experiences. As I wrote both books I have often worried that there is no audience for the old-fashioned iron wok---too many people have become nonstick cookware fans and aren't willing to give a carbon-steel wok a try. So it's been really gratifying to see all of you seasoning your pans, making popcorn, stir-frying, and experiencing the glories of what I call ancient, healthy nonstick cookware. Thank you all for giving me hope.

                                                                                                                          1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                            Here are my woks:

                                                                                                                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/59063543...

                                                                                                                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/59063543...

                                                                                                                            The older one is cast iron and I've had it for about ten years. The second is carbon steel - probably had that one for a couple of years or so.

                                                                                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                              I know it's hard to tell in photos, but it looks as though your newer wok has an even better patina than your old cast iron wok. Is that true? Nonetheless, I'm envious. Mine is beautifully seasoned about 2/3 of the way up the sides and then it's splotchy. Guess I'll just have to do some more wokking.

                                                                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                It does look like that but the patina on my iron wok is much thicker, if that makes sense. Apart from the bit where some food got stuck so I had to give it a bit of a scrub, thus removing a little of the patina. It's gradually building up again.

                                                                                                                          2. Today's Toronto Star newspaper carries a food article including excerpts of an interview w Grace Young and 3 recipes from SFSE. Below are the links if you are interested:

                                                                                                                            Article:

                                                                                                                            http://www.thestar.com/living/food/ar...

                                                                                                                            Beef Chow Fun Recipe:

                                                                                                                            http://www.thestar.com/living/food/re...

                                                                                                                            Kung Pao Chicken Recipe:

                                                                                                                            http://www.thestar.com/living/food/re...

                                                                                                                            Vegetarian Fried Rice Recipe:

                                                                                                                            http://www.thestar.com/living/food/re...

                                                                                                                            1. My husband made an interesting comment as we restocked the fridge yesterday at the local Market Basket and I wonder if others found this to be true as well?

                                                                                                                              Anyhow, he said "You know, Chinese month was really good on the budget. We spent far less to eat during that month."

                                                                                                                              Did others also feel that in spite of buying all those lovely bottles of goodness, that overall you spent less on food?

                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                Not only did I spend less, I had very little difficulty following my diet. In fact, now that company is getting ready to leave and I no longer have an excuse to make cakes and cookies and spareribs and lasagna, I think it's time to head back to the Chinese quartet of Dunlops and Youngs. Still so much more to explore in all four books.

                                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                  JoanN and smtucker: I'm so happy to hear that your food costs came down and that you were able to stay on your diet as well. Yes! I really feel stir-frying is perfect for our times. It emphasizes a variety of vegetables and doesn't put the focus on meat--just as the experts say we should be eating. The fat is minimal, the delicate vitamins are not destroyed because the cooking is quick, AND it uses minimal cooking fuel---something we often don't think about in the west. Making a stir-fry is a lot more fuel efficient than roasting a chicken or cooking a stew on the stove for an hour or two.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                    Yes, that's the setup to envy I meant - the special built-in wok burner in her kitchen.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                      Oh, nice! I need that wok set-up. Notice how she put the mushrooms in wet? I wonder what the deal with that is? She's basically steaming them?

                                                                                                                                      Oh my. Grandma asks, "What do you cook that I taught you?" And the granddaughter answers, "French macarons"..."that I learned online"! I guess that's what Grace is talking about, losing the wok tradition. :(.

                                                                                                                                      I'm going to have to watch more of those "cooking with Grandma" videos. Very sweet.

                                                                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                        TDQ: I would guess the wok stove grandma is using has at least 18,000 to 24,000 BTUs. THat's why she can add wet ingredients and it won't turn into a braise. THe average Western stove has 10,000 BTUs and that is why in my instructions I always insist veggies must be dry.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                          My Grandmas were both terrible cooks! I want a Grandma Ruby to learn from....

                                                                                                                                  2. Is it just me or is anyone else suffering from wok-withdrawl?!!! I miss these quick and tasty dishes!

                                                                                                                                    mr bc is out at a work function tomorrow evening and while my mind drifts from the football game I found myself searching through the COTM reviews to see what I could make in his absence!

                                                                                                                                    Since he's not a fan of Tofu I'm excited to have found Susanna Foo's Tofu, Eggplant, Mushrooms and Sun-Dried Tomatoes in BoaW. Sounds like it was a hit for Gio so I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

                                                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                      My company left this morning and I can't wait to get back to wokking. Not only Young, but Dunlop as well. I even ordered a copy of Classic Chinese Cuisine, but it hasn't arrived yet. Two weeks of sugar, noodles, meat, and heavy cream were more than enough. Really looking forward to dinners that come together in less than half an hour, taste great, and are diet friendly.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                        Funny Joan, last week I created a "Chinese Cooking" bookmark in EYB so I could search all my books based on ingredients I have on hand. Sounds like you're thinking along the same lines! Have you heard good things about CCC? Is this the one by Nina Simonds?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                          Can't recall, or find, which thread(s) right now, but Buttertart has had very high praise for it on more than one occasion recently. And I found a used paperback for less than the shipping costs. Should be here any day now.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                            Great, I'll await your reviews!! I picked up a few used Martin Yan books during the COTM since I seemed to be enjoying his dishes in Young's books.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                        I went to the Asian market today, and stocked up.... We were totally missing it. Monday and Wednesday are wok nights.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                          Oh I'm so over the foorball game tonight. After all, the Patriots aren't playing, and after having made Boston Baked Beans and Boston Brown Bread in honor of the Pats I'm missing all the tantalizing wok recipes of the last month. and of Dunlop's as well. I's odd though, because I thought I'd last longer than I did with this book. There are quite a few recipes I've bookmarked. But as someone. I think it was TDQ, said perhaps these recipes were gathered together so that they would not be forgotten...

                                                                                                                                          Susanna Foo's recipe was delicious, but remember I did change a few things.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                            That's ok Gio, I don't have all the veggies either but I do have the eggplant and tofu so I'll ad lib. I'm excited to try it. The Spicy Garlic Eggplant I made from BoaW was probably my favourite dish from both books so I'm looking fwd to trying another one w eggplant.

                                                                                                                                            After an early disappointment w ENYT, the latest dishes I've tried have all been great. In fairness that Primavera tasted fine, it just wasn't worth the ludicrous amount of effort it required. I've concluded though that I'm more excited about COTM's that focus on a particular cuisine. I really wish I'd known about Chowhound for the Dunlop, Solomon, Kennedy, Bayless, Batali, Hazan months.

                                                                                                                                            Without a doubt though, the January COTM has been my favourite so far, w Arabesque (my first COTM) in second place.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                            ...serious wok-withdrawal here too. One week after returning the books to the library, I'm ready to re-order them. But I want to road-test Young's first book too - 'cause I'm only going to buy one and I don't know which it should be.

                                                                                                                                            But, alas, I gave in and pulled Young's Good Fortune Sweet and Sour Spareribs from the net and made them for the stupor bowl. I even pulled out "the old yellow Chinese cookbook" to find something to go along with them. Will report in the appropriate thread....

                                                                                                                                            1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                              ohohoh! I can't wait to hear about the recipe you tried from the old yellow Chinese cookbook!

                                                                                                                                              And, yes, I'm going to hunt down Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, too!

                                                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                Well actually, for me it was kind of a bust. I made fried sweet potato balls from the appetizer section. They are quite simply mashed sweet potatoes with sugar and flour added and then deep fried. The Chowpup quite liked them, but they were too sweet for my taste.

                                                                                                                                                But, January's cooking made me feel emboldened to actually try cooking something again from this book that I have had for, probably 18 years.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: clamscasino

                                                                                                                                                  Oh, too bad you didn't love the first recipe you tried from the Big Yellow Chinese Book. I hope subsequent efforts work out better! I'd be interesting in reading about your future endeavors.

                                                                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                    I think I missed something... just What is "the Big Yellow Chinese Book"?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                        Yes, it is actually: An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking, by Wonona W. and Irving Chang and Helene W. and Austin H. Kutscher. My edition is from 1970. (Crown Publishing)

                                                                                                                                                        An astonishing compendium of Chines cooking, but dificult to navigate because the names of the dishes are evidently "pidgin."

                                                                                                                                            2. Gio had a question about Grace Young's first book ("The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen") but I've forgotten the specific issue - perhaps she could remind me?
                                                                                                                                              I started rereading the book yesterday. It is very interesting as a discussion of the meaning of food in Chinese-American homes (her own in particular), one of the best I've seen (Ken Hom's also comes to mind).
                                                                                                                                              Won't comment on the recipes untl I can do so on a more settled stomach.

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                The question was regarding that ribs recipe (the sweet and sour one, I think) that appears on Leite's and is attributed to BOAW. We're wondering if it's actually in Wisdom instead...

                                                                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                              2. Weight Watchers has posted a new Grace Young recipe specifically for their program: "Lemon Pork Piccata Stir-Fry". We cooked it last night and it's quite tasty, in a comfort food kind of way. The recipe is on the WW web site:

                                                                                                                                                http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rc...

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                  Sounds great Gio, thanks for the link!!