I have acheived wok hay!

chiefneilJanuary 13, 2008

This dish looked so great, I had to share a photo. The cooking forum folks turned me on to getting better results from the wok, and it's been working really well. Wok hay is the "breath of a wok", the seared, smoky taste you get from really good wok dishes. Achieving it is part of the reason some people obsess about btu's in their pro-style gas ranges.

This dish is ma-po tofu (tofu with ground pork) on one side, and on the other side is my wok hay success - snap peas with orange bell peppers (the bell peppers are seared until carmelized, while the peas are nicely crunchy). All over a bed of pan-fried egg noodles. It was so delicious I actually polished off the entire plate as shown - normally I eat about half the portion shown!

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hey chief! I love the pic and I bet is was wonderful. I have posted lots of pics of my DH and his wok. We got the Caldera and have enjoyed the ability to get that smoky taste everytime. We also have a Lodge Logic grill pan and have achieved the flavor on steaks and fish . My DS is a chef and he swore recently that we had to have fixed the salmon steaks outside!! I will say that during our remodel w/o a kitchen we used the wok on our charcoal grill outside. You can not imagine the heat and intensity of flavor that you get from the charcoal. It is exactly like the Chinese are able to achieve. I hope you will give it a try next time you have your grill lit. Also no cleanup !! Caroline

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 12:37PM
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Oh my gosh, that looks just delicious. I know that taste you're talking about and I've never gotten it--I admit, I'm scared. What btu burner did you use, set to what, and what CFM did you have your hood set to?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 3:16PM
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Hi trailrunner - using the grill to wok sounds like a great idea!

Flyleft, it's surprisingly simple. My range puts out 15k btu, which works really well. I use it on high to warm up the wok and for the first couple minutes, then gradually dial it back to medium. My hood is 600 CFM - it's actually mounted too high, so capture most but not all of the smell/smoke. If it was mounted at ventahood's recommended height, I'm sure it would a lot better. I actually used to use an expensive Calphalon wok. Switching to a cheapo $15 wok works way better.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 6:35PM
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Wow, I actually have all that firepower (and CFM power) -- guess I should stop being scared and learn to love the stove :) Last question: Was there a lot of spattering or was it contained in the wok?

You've made me want Chinese food tonight, btw :)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 1:58PM
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There is some spattering, but I've found the best way to minimize it is to prep the food in advance. After cutting, I spread the veggies out on a paper towel for about an hour to let them air dry. Then there's very little spattering, although you'll always have some when frying.

I don't use much oil, just a teaspoon or two of avocado oil, so it's a pretty healthy dish (not so much with the noodles, which are full of carbs, but if you ate less noodles and more veggies it would be even healthier).

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 3:24PM
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We have a steel wok ( not stainless) that was given to us 37 yrs ago...it has great patina. We use peanut oil , that is what the Chinese use, since it doesn't burn. We have the big wok burner in the center of the Caldera...18K and a 1400 cfm Tradewind mounted at 33". No smell ever and very little splatter as the wok is 16". DH puts the oil in and turns it to high and waits til it is smoking. Then he adds the food in stages...removes it as it is done rather than placing it high up on the sides...he never lowers the temp while cooking. Only when he is going to add everyting back and simmer it to finish a sauce etc. Great to see others interested in good Chinese food. c

Fly and Chief, really you have not tasted heaven til you have used your charcoal to get that sucker HOT.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 9:17PM
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Now see trailrunner, those kinds of numbers are what make me throw up my hands in despair. And I just checked--we have two 12,5K burners (along with two smaller ones) (old range--and yes, I feel *completely* noble that I've learned to repair it rather than replace it, which I really wanted to do, when we remodeled :) -- I have truly earned a good new one down the road) but a 650 cfm hood...we may not have enough btus inside, actually...

Although out on the big nice new Weber charcoal grill, DH has gotten it to 625-650--would that be enough?

I'm just dying to try it all out now!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 9:33PM
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I am not sure what the 625-650 on the Weber is referring to. If you are using charcoal...not a gas grill then the ability to get it red hot is easy. Just make your fire and when the coals are glowing set the wok in the nest of coals and have everthing ready . You do not use the grill rack but set the wok in the charcoal. You need to have everything chopped and lined up in bowls very nearby. Also have a good longhandled tool to stirfry with and a pair of heavy duty mitts for removing the wok from the fire. Actually this makes it sound hard but it is a total of a couple minutes to achieve nirvana. We then placed the grill on top of the coals and went ahead and cooked some other stuff rather than waste the fire. Since we were w/o a kitchen at that time it was easy to cook ahead. Does this make sense?

As far as the cfm's we have the deepfat fryer as well adjacent to the Caldera and do a lot of Lodge Logic grill pan stuff and fry eggrolls and cannoli and french fries etc. I hate food smells and this sucker traps every single drop of grease and odor and steam etc. I have waxed poetic before on this forum and appliance and noone cares...they get there other brands and have problems with capture and cleaning and noise...I just think...hmm..to myself and love every minute of using my Tradewind. I always enjoy your posts fly and chief too...let me know what you end up doing...I wanna see pics !! c

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 10:47AM
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Thanks, trailrunner...the 625-650 is how hot DH has gotten the temperature in the grill, but I don't know if it's down in the coals or up on the grid. I'll forward your instructions to him :)

And RIGHT now I remember! *You're* the person with the built-in deep-fat fryer! I'd have a monster exhaust fan if I had one of those, too :) I'm not having problems with our fan (Zephyr), at least that I know of--we always like to see the steam getting sucked directly into the little holes :)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 12:53PM
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You are talking degrees...don't know how he measured that ? Would love to be able to tell how hot it is. Yeh I'm the one with the deep fat fryer. We love it. My DS who is a prof chef said that no matter what else I did in the kitchen I had to have one. It is really amazing. Works just like his at the restaurant. It holds the temp as you add cold food and the gauge is really accurate. Also we store the oil in it and it stays for weeks and weeks just fine . So let me know how the wok thing does. We have sleet today and are to have 19 degrees w/ 20 mph winds by Saturday...sounds like winter somewhere other than central Alabama !! LOL. c

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 1:32PM
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Fly - you can do fine with 12.5k btus. Just be sure to get the pan really hot first before adding the oil, and cook small portions. My error previously was not getting the wok hot enough initially, then throwing too much food in at once (that cools off the wok too much, especially for lower btu burners).

Trailrunner's charcoal grill sounds pretty cool. I'm more a low-maintenance guy, though, so I use gas. My grill has an infrared burner which gets insanely hot, so I could probably wok on that. 1400cfms sounds pretty nice. I would've gotten a 900cfm hood, but just to go from 600 to 900 my builder wanted another $2,000. Thanks, but I'll just open a window instead!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 3:57PM
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trailrunnner-- have you got any fairly simple recipes you could share? Wish we weren't having pizza tonight! But then I'd also have to wish for a great cooktop and fan too. Oh, and someone to do the prep would be nice.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 9:57PM
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I don't do anything but what DH tells me too LOL. Don't tell him I said that ! He has a fave book...The Good Food of Schezwan by Robert Delfts. If you only ever have one Chinese cookbook it needs to be this one. I believe it is out of print but try checking around. Also you can Google chinese recipes. There is nothing like a dish such as Chief made...it is simply too good to believe but not hard at all once you get the techniques down. Start with a one ingrediant dish and simple sauce or no sauce and get used to the stirfry. After that try a little more. I am sure you can do it !! c

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 10:13PM
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Thanks, trailrunner. I'll look into finding the book.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 3:17PM
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Thanks for the encouragement, chief--I bet putting too much food in at once has been my problem too. I'll keep your recommendations in mind.

And thanks for the book rec, trailrunner!

three words that will live in my memory: "seared until caramelized" Ahhhhhh.......

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 1:08AM
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author's name misspelled...no "t"

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 8:37AM
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Wow, your description and photo are great!

A friend of mine told me something interesting about chinese food. I probably won't get the details right, but it's along these lines: China ran short of firewood a long time ago, and fuel was hard to come by. So families learned to economize what little wood they had by making fast, small fires. Cutting the food into small pieces ensured that it cooked quickly while the fire lasted. Hence, the stir-fry style of the food. I thought that was interesting.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 10:37PM
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