My Wok Down Memory Lane
True enough you have to crawl before you can wok. I was reminiscing with my daughter about some of her toddler escapades and through the myriad of cobwebs of the memory banks crawled the story of my first wok. That and the glass bottle of sesame oil she found. The wok is a remarkably versatile piece of kitchen equipment and now I use it with an above novice status. But before I could Wok on the wild side, both my daughter and I had to crawl.
My kitchen has always been a sort of laboratory for me. It’s where I have created many culinary delights that bordered on creations born of divine intervention. Frankenstein’s monster was created in a lab. Thousand of real creations came out of labs a well, like Edison’s lab, Curies lab, Pastures lab, and Hoffman’s lab. Okay Hoffman created LSD and maybe shouldn’t be in with the other labs, but it was still a creation. Actually many creations when I think back on some hallucinations, but that’s for a different blog entirely. But back to my lab. So I love to experiment and I encourage anyone who loves to cook or bake to widen their horizons and always be willing to try new equipment, techniques, and food products. So back in the 80’s when the western world was finally figuring out what those huge metal cooking bowls in Chinese restaurants were, woks became all the rage.
I did what I always do when experimenting. The very first thing I did was intensive research so I would understand what a wok is, and how I could best put it to use. The wok is a cooking vessel from China and has way more uses than I had thought. Not just stir frying, but one can pan fry, deep fry, boil, poach, stew, and sear. The gifted eastern chef can also braise, roast, and even smoke food in a wok. But my intended use was to stir fry like a “real” Asian cook. I bought all the proper utensils, and various oils and seasoned my wok for one week before even attempting to make anything. Then I began to stir fry and I turned into a stir fry maniac. I stir fried everything, everyday for about a month. I went into my wokking with my trademark well informed reckless abandon. It was ideal for me as I had a gas stove and could regulate the heat pretty well. It was also very efficient, using the sole vessel to create entire entrees worthy of an aspiring chef. I was going to cooking school at the time and was the envy of my classmates. I lived off campus because I had a wife and a two year old at the time.
I had a special place where I kept all my wok experience enhancing accoutrements. In a cabinet along the floor I had my bottle of sesame oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, soy sauce, tamari sauce, fish sauce (that took some getting used to) oyster sauce, hoisen sauce and a slew of flavor agents like Sirachi sauce. Yep, thats right. I used Sirachi BEFORE it was a thing! I was having the time of my life preparing all sorts of dishes. I was also an involved father so my daughter spent much of her time with me in the kitchen. Crawling around, pulling on my leg, attempting to engage me in the never ending game of peek a boo, climbing in and out of the cabinetts, and all the usual practices of a toddler times two. Time two because she is a true Gemini and as fast and adventurous an two kids. On one particular day her attempts to make me chase after her were on the extreme side. I was making some spicy shrimp stir fry which cooks exceptionally fast. It became eerily quiet which unless its nap time is very rarely a good thing. Thinking she had snuck out into the living room I tuned off the stove and went in search of my rebel baby. Not under the table, not behind the couch. I listened carefully to ee if her constant state of energy would betray her hiding spot. The silence ended its frightening reign with impunity and evolved into an even more frightening stage. The loud crash and sound of breaking glass followed by a shriek. That shriek was the familiar cry of my little girl calling DDDaaaadddddy!!!! Into the kitchen at lightning bolt speed. I turned the corner into the kitchen the sight made me question my parenting skills. My baby girl on her hands and knees surrounded by broken glass and some dark brown liquid. With my rapid surefire detection skills I ascertained immediately that it wasn’t blood. But what the Hell is it? My keen detective skills immediately focused on the olfactory glands for confirmation. Sesame! My baby girl was kneeling in a puddle of viscous dark brown sesame oil.
Of course I quickly scooped her up to avoid the broken glass and held her tight as some of the strong scented oil jogged own her legs and jumped onto my jeans leaving a noticeable stain. I changed my sweet little explorer and then turned my attention to the mess in my kitchen. I was able to remove the glass and most of the oil but a very faint remnant of oil had settled in the tile floor and created an almost invisible community that would give off its treasured sesame smell for weeks to come. That sweet stench of a community thrived and serve as a reminder to me for the rest of my parenting while cooking regime. My wife commented daily that our kitchen smelled like a Chinese restaurant and I secretly smiled a smile of pride because my food had also taken on the status of being compared to restaurant food.
To this day my daughter calls me whenever the smell of sesame make an appearance near her and it’s a story we laugh about constantly. I have since become very prolific in wok cooking, both Asian an American style dishes and although as durable as a wok is, its not the same wok. I highly recommend cooking and experimenting with woks, I use it as a deep fryer, making sides like rissole potatoes, and lately sauté veggies and chicken or appropriate protein, a sauce of my choosing and pasta. Let me tell you, stir-fried or sautéed angel hair pasta from the wok is a tasty and versatile entrée. Explore, try new things, break rules, and constantly challenge yourself. Do yourself a favor and if you don‘t own one, go out and buy one. Then you too can Take a wok on the wild side…………PEACE
My Wok Down Memory Lane