The wok is the most important piece of cooking equipment in SouthEast Asia and China. If you plan to do much of this region’s cooking you should invest in a good wok. A cast iron fry pan will serve in a pinch, but the rounded bottom of the wok provides a range of cooking temperatures in one pan, which can be important in stir frying.
There are many type of woks available – round- bottomed and flat-bottomed, on- handled and two-handled, mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and teflon coated. The most traditional is hand beaten of mild steel with a round bottom and two handles. Mild steel is preferred for its heat transfer properties; thin stamped stainless steel or aluminum just don’t hold enough heat, and cast aluminum takes to long to heat upand cool down. The traditional round bottom is designed to sit in theround hole of a charcoal burner. In a modern kitchen equipped with agas stove, the round bottomed wok might fit the burners, depending onthe design of the stove. If the wok does not fit the burners, it may be placed on a wok ring. In an electic kitchen, a flat bottomed wok is best, both for stability and for heat transfer. A properly conditioned iron wok is at least as non-stick as any teflon coating ever made.
A new wok must be seasoned before use. Scrub it well with soap and water to remove any coating applied to protect it during shipping, rinse well, and dry. Place the wok over low heat, wipe lightly with vegetable oil and let stand on the heat for 10 minutes. Cool and wipe with paper towels to remove the dark film. Repeat the oiling, heating, cooling and wiping procedure until the paper towels come away clean. Once a wok has been seasoned, it should be cleaned with plain water only using a wok brush, never with soap or abrasive cleaners, then dried and oiled before storing. If the metal ever rusts, clean with steel wool or fine sand paper and re-season.
The most important wok tool is the long handled shovel-shaved scoop used to stir fry. Other wok tools include; a ladle, used to transfer liquids to and from the wok; a strainer with a brass or steel basket to remove foods from hot oil; a strainer with a bamboo basket fo rremoving foods from boiling water or stock; a bamboo whisk brush for cleaning; a rack which sits on the side of the wok for draining fried foods.
Large dedicated steamers with multiple stacking are available instainless steel or aluminum, but more common are the stackable bamboo steamers. These are designed to be used in a wok over boiling water, and are often used as serving dishes.
Clay pots – “hot pots”, glazed on the inside but unglazed on the outside are used for baking or stewing. They are available in a range of sizes,and like woks, with either one handle or two.
The oriental cleaver is a very verstile instrument – it performs all the functions of the various knives of western kitchens. Light cleavers are used for general chopping, slicing and carving; heavier, thicker cleavers are used for chopping bones. A good set of kitchen knives can be substituted.
If you are cooking rice often, a rice cooker is worth the investment . Place rice and water in the cooker, plug it in and press the button. Perfect rice very time.
Hand Held Blender or Small Food Processor
Most South East Asian dishes require considerable fine chopping – a hand held blender with a mincer/chopper attachment or a small food processor will cut your preparation time in half.