Wok Like a Man
They say that it takes a big person to admit when he’s wrong, especially after stubbornly holding out against all good reason. This is a fact that I came to terms with recently when I finally gave up on my seven year (futile) attempt to effectively use a wok.
It all started in the early days of post graduate school life, living by myself in an apartment for the first time. I was shopping for items to outfit the apartment in the place that many young individuals shop, IKEA (yes, they do sell something other than those meatballs). When it comes to the kitchen, IKEA is fantastic for storage containers, inexpensive wine glasses and two of my absolute favorite items, my hanging pot-rack and magnetic knife strip. I could have stopped there, but the lure of a $10 wok was just too much to overcome.
Mind you, this isn’t the one they are selling now (for $7.99…gotta love how prices go DOWN at that place!), which has a non-stick coating. This one was made of some sort of metal (still unidentified) that required seasoning. Still, I was so excited to break it out and cook an authentic Asian meal. I have a bit of a fetish for “authenticity.” I guess I just feel that it’s better somehow…more time-tested than the short-cut recipes optimized for today’s kitchen.
I suppose I had heard all the warnings about why a wok isn’t the best choice for the home chef, but why would I ever let that stand in the way of my authentic idealism? I bet you can see where this is going…
I think I can honestly say it never actually worked for me. Not even once. Visions of stir fry and kung pao chicken quickly receded into frustration as everything stuck to the surface. Whatever seasoning there was vanished, and the time I made the mistake of cooking an acidic, tomato-based curry left me with a metallic aftertaste that let me know something was definitely not right.
I kept trotting it out, albeit with less and less frequency, because I was somehow still in love with an idealized image of me whipping up restaurant-quality Chinese dishes on my range, doing things the right way, as if that were somehow more important than just making a meal that tasted good. My slavish devotion eventually got me to abandon any attempt to cook anything from my Asian cookbooks.
I gave up the ghost this past week, and my wok headed to the trash bin. Instead, I prepared a tasty tangerine beef stir fry using my new 10″ nonstick frying pan which sports a nicely sloping side, just like every cookbook tells you to use if you’re going to cook Asian cuisine in a Western kitchen. No muss, no fuss.
If not for my stubbornness and irrational attachment to a $10 bad idea, I could have been enjoying dishes like this all along.
Moral of the story: Embrace the compromises in life and just tuck into a nice chicken and broccoli.