Nicola Graimes, cookery writer and author of I Love MY Wok shows how the wok is much more versatile than most people think. A wok is perfect for stir-frying but did you know that it’s also useful for steaming, blanching, braising, deep-frying and even smoking food? The wok may be a traditional piece of Asian kitchen equipment but it fits beautifully in the modern western kitchen. Here are ten meals you never knew you could make with a wok...
Home-smoked salmon, chicken or tofu: You don’t need any specialist smoking equipment to make your own smoked foods just a wok with a lid, some foil, tea leaves and white rice. Line your wok first with foil to protect it then mix together 2 large handfuls of white rice, 1 handful of black tea and a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar and place it in the base of the wok. Heat the wok until the mixture starts to smoke, place whatever you’re smoking on a grilled rack in the wok, top with a lid and seal the edges with foil. You’re now ready to smoke… the only must-do is open a window!
Salads: a wok is perfect for making warm salads. Simply stir-fry your choice of veg then when cooked – but still crisp – dress in your favourite dressing or vinaigrette. Alternatively, stir-fry chicken, squid or prawns then place on top of your choice of salad leaves, noodles or veg and spoon over a dressing.
Curries: a wok isn’t just for stir-fries, it’s also great for cooking curries in; just think of an Indian balti pan, which has a similar shape.
Paella: this may sound unusual but it works! If you want to ring the changes, why not make an oriental-style paella instead of a Spanish one using prawns, ginger, turmeric, Chinese 5-spice, Chinese rice wine and paella rice?
Risotto: sticking to the rice theme… a wok is surprisingly good for making risottos as its shape lends itself to easy stirring. I Love My Wok includes a recipe for Chinese Mushroom Risotto, which always goes down well.
Poached chicken, fish or vegetables: this is such a healthy way of cooking and easy to do in a wok. You need a broth of stock and possibly wine with your choice of flavourings, say ginger, garlic and spices. Place the chicken, fish and/or veg in the broth and cook gently until ready. No fat needed…
Fluffy buns: make your own Vietnamese bao buns in a wok. The soft white buns are steamed, rather than baked, until risen and fluffy. There are two ways to steam in a wok, first in a bamboo steamer or on a plate and/or rack, both of which sit above simmering water in the base of the wok. This is also a healthy low-fat way to cook seafood, vegetables and chicken.
Fish & chips: the shape of the wok makes it perfect for deep-frying and its bowl shape means you don’t need quite so much oil as you would in a normal straight-sided pan. Take care when deep-frying and it’s sensible to use a wok stand to keep the wok stable on the hob.
Omelette: you need a good non-stick wok to make an omelette, but if yours fits the bill they are great for making thin omelettes ready for filling or rolling.
And woks aren’t just for savoury food… Why not use a wok to make a dessert? Stir-fried thick slices of banana (not too ripe) in coconut oil with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of sesame seeds is both quick and tasty.