31 Aug2009

Hot Woks!!!

by Marketman

woks1

For the past few years, I have wanted to acquire a “real” wok. But without a wok compatible burner or stove, that would be a silly exercise. I thought our own “kawali” was a good version of a wok, but with most versions apparently crafted out of thick-ish aluminum, it doesn’t seem to heat up as fast, conduct the heat as well, nor stay as hot as I would like. Several years ago, TV cooking shows such as Blue Ginger with Ming Tsai featured a dedicated wok burner, but they cost hundreds if not over a thousand dollars for just a single unit. I also spied a fancy home version in a friend’s family kitchen, but that too looked rather expensive. So for years, the wok desire has been there, but unfed.

woks6

A few weeks before my 45th birthday, I spotted this La Germania single burner with four rings of flame at an appliance store. It also had a heavy duty cast iron grill designed specifically for holding woks. At PHP2,300 ($45) or so, it was substantially more than a typical two burner counter top stove, but still reasonably priced when compared to other options for higher heat in a home setting. I bought it and hoped that it would provide enough BTU’s to do some reasonably good stir-frying in a wok. In case you were wondering, a typical two burner countertop stove can provide some 5,000-7,000 BTU’s worth of heat. Larger units from La Germania (say the 5 ring stove and oven) can provide as much as 8,000 BTU’s, I am told. Our Viking stove is rated for roughly 15,000 BTU’s, though I suspect it is a little less hot than specified due to the poor quality of local LPG.

woks4

The salesperson that helped me with this purchase had no idea what a BTU (British Thermal Unit) was, nor how many this four ring burner could provide. My gut feel, however, suggests this does a good 18,000+ BTU’s… I could barely hold my hand 8 inches above the flames for more than a second or so… Of course that’s nothing like the 80,000+ BTU’s that some pressurized burners at Chinese restaurants possess… So now I had the burner, but no wok(s).

woks2

A good friend who lives in HK was alerted by Mrs. MM and The Teen, and P personally selected, purchased and hand carried two cast iron woks back to Manila as a birthday present for MM. Yahoo!!! Thank you P!!! It took me less than a day to read up on how to properly season a cast iron wok, but the process required ingredients I could only find at my market suki on Saturday, so the woks had to wait about a week before I could play with them…

woks3

At 17 and 18.5 inches in diameter, these woks are amazingly light, and actually feel delicate. A hard landing on a marble counter could and would probably shatter the thin iron and render them useless. They aren’t at all like their Western cast iron pan cousins in heft, and they arrive straight out of a wok factory, covered in fine iron dust. Oh, in case you are wondering, they cost roughly $10 per wok, a stunning bargain if you ask me! For one Le Creuset or Staub pot I could easily get 15-20 woks! Next step, how to properly “season” the woks. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. millet says:

    those two look just perfect for chili crabs, yang chow fried rice and an oyster omelet!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 11:26 am

     
  2. Gerry says:

    You can buy high pressure burners in restaurant supply places. They’re fairly cheap but you probably can’t use them inside a house since you might burn the place down. Good luck in achieving wok hay.

    Aug 31, 2009 | 12:14 pm

     
  3. bearhug0127 says:

    Happy cooking!!!!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 12:42 pm

     
  4. betty q. says:

    Your burner, MM is also an excellent companion for the REVERSE WOK which is commonly used for Korean BBQ…a long time ago, I had two of those …I think it is called something like genghis kahn grill (it looks like his helmet!). But my Ate made kulit till I gave it to her…

    Aug 31, 2009 | 12:46 pm

     
  5. bagito says:

    Yeah! Looking forward to your wok adventures and resulting yumminess-es!!!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 1:03 pm

     
  6. mila says:

    There’s a post about woks, cast iron vs steel vs aluminum, on Serious Eats, it sounds like in the long run, a good thick guage aluminum wok would be the best (better heat conductivity), and some suggestions to simulate the jet-blast btu’s of a chinese resto is to get a turkey fryer (maybe you could rig something up like the lechonan, MM!).
    I’ve recently ruined a non-stick wok, cooked too many acidic based dishes in it and the non-stick coating literally leached out! Eek!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 1:30 pm

     
  7. Mom-Friday says:

    Nice woks you got there MM! wish someone would give me one too since i do a lot of stir-fry dishes! don’t know about BTU’s either but part of the set of our 5-burner stove has an add-on removable cast iron grill with 4 ‘prongs’ to hold a wok – would that suffice? or should there be a dedicated burner for woks?

    Aug 31, 2009 | 3:31 pm

     
  8. Mom-Friday says:

    off-topic MM – but I just I noticed changing header designs? Mangosteen last entry, then tomatoes, and now i’m seeing chilies! I thought the site was in design transition but i guess that’s how it was even before? nice trick to the eye…now I want something like that on my header too! sorry, gaya-gaya ako :D

    Aug 31, 2009 | 3:38 pm

     
  9. mdg says:

    looking forward for a busy kitchen mm, specifically with the new wok on the new stove…

    Aug 31, 2009 | 3:52 pm

     
  10. sanojmd says:

    i am definitely jealous.. i am planning to dispatch my old wok and get a new one. but haven’t spotted a reasonably price wok in the market.. my old wok was about to retire… i better get it soon before you post your new wok adventures…

    Aug 31, 2009 | 4:43 pm

     
  11. Phil says:

    “Our Viking stove is rated for roughly 15,000 BTU’s, though I suspect it is a little less hot than specified due to the poor quality of local LPG.” So true, MM. I’m based in S.Arabia but often go on vacation. In all these years, I noted the big difference between local LPG and Saudi LPG. Considering same volume of cooking and same gas tank size, the local LPG lasts only about 2 weeks in our household while the Saudi one lasts minimum one month and with noticeably stronger, hotter flames. I also suspect our local gas companies cheat not only on the quality (by adulterating LPG with some cheaper chemicals) but also on the volume (e.g. a tank with indicated contents of 11kg LPG may contain only 10kg). I really feel sorry for us, Pinoy consumers.

    Aug 31, 2009 | 6:07 pm

     
  12. catalina says:

    Nice woks, MM. Suggest you read “The Breath of a Wok, Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore,” co-authored by Grace Young and Alan Richardson. Everything you need to know about woks and cooking in them. Happy wokking!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 7:02 pm

     
  13. Connie C says:

    MM, need special ingredients to season cast iron cookware? I thought painting it with oil and heating on low or in the oven over a period of time is all, plus seasoning it from time to time.

    Mila: as far as I know non stick cookware was never meant for high heat cooking. Manufacturers warn about not using on high heat ( above 450-475 degrees; electric stove tops easily reach 600-700 degrees after the medium knob and easily above that with gas) . The coating deteriorates at higher temperatures, besides leeching of the chemicals used in the non stick coating which, they keep telling us probably has no health consequence. But who knows?

    Aug 31, 2009 | 7:31 pm

     
  14. Connie C says:

    Oh MM, thanks for the wok post. I, too, need a good wok.

    Aug 31, 2009 | 7:36 pm

     
  15. Thel from Florida says:

    Hi MM,
    Looking forward to your posts about cooking by wok. Speaking of cookware, I’m happy to let you know I’m finally buying me (from military exchage on line)a 6 pc Classic Le Creuset for only $400, a real good buy. Or maybe I should just buy two 7 QT as I cook a lot and maybe bigger pots are what I needed.

    Aug 31, 2009 | 8:15 pm

     
  16. corrine says:

    Oh my, I’m also looking for a wok like that. I usually see them in cooking shows. I hope there is a supplier in Manila.

    Aug 31, 2009 | 8:38 pm

     
  17. Bong says:

    Let the wokking begin!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 10:47 pm

     
  18. Chilli-Tamale says:

    Clean your wok with boiling water and a bit of diswashing detergent(do this 2-3x till the woks are cleaned). To temper, season or “christening-the-wok”, half fill w/ water- the wok.
    Bring the water to boil, add a bit of detergent swirl around the water and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes and then
    disperse water. Replace w/ another lot of boiling water to rinse off wok.

    To season….heat up wok on it’s own on medium flame till the wok starts to sizzle….the center of the WOK should begin to discolour and when smoke starts to rise….add 1-2 tablespoons of pork lard (Yes, PORK Lard). Smear it around the inside of your WOK and let the wok really cool off and start again to do the 2nd tempering 3x. Your wok is ready.

    I only do one “tempering”….when my wok is cooled down, I ensure to remove remaining lard and discard. Wiping the wok w/ papertowel and sort of leaving a grease and wrap it well w/ a clean garbage bag to enclose it well for storage for my next use (insects or OK-OK attracts, likes the “lard dripping” smell.

    I will use this wok again cooking “bacon” for breakfast and another time. Doing the same “lard greasing” before storing.
    after 3-4 uses my wok is finally tempered to do any job.

    My grandmother prefer to use adobo or kinapusan lard to grease
    her woks’ I find polyunsaturated oils,and aerosol oil sprays-leaves a ecky-yukky sort of gunk. Coconut oil or pork lard does the job best in keeping the wok in perfect condition. Have FUN tempering your WOKS MM……

    Aug 31, 2009 | 10:48 pm

     
  19. kate says:

    hello MM! I would like to know where your friend got the wok? =) More good eats to come! I really love your new babies!

    Aug 31, 2009 | 11:35 pm

     
  20. joyce says:

    after seeing your post, i asked 2 local chinese friends here where i can get one. i said i wanted the traditional, handmade cast iron woks. they looked at me like i was nuts haha. they said they dont even use that in their own homes, “they don’t make that in shanghai!” and added that i may have to go to central china to get one. nonsense! ;P found an address listed in the classifieds after. will check it out sometime this month.

    Aug 31, 2009 | 11:59 pm

     
  21. marilen says:

    Looking forward to your adventures with the wok!

    Sep 1, 2009 | 12:09 am

     
  22. ted says:

    Mila is right, the burner that comes with the turkey fryer would be a good substitute for a wok burner, i use mine more for boiling my hams during xmas, it does have a strong pressure, and could get 4gallons of water boiling in less than 30min.

    Sep 1, 2009 | 3:05 am

     
  23. betty q, says:

    Ted and Mila: you are sooooo right about the burner for turkey frying. Best suited for high heat wokking! Why? because your clothes, curtains will smell of the smoky oil. We have an open floor plan and hubby at once smells what I made for dinner as soon as he opens that door! So, in the summer it is outdoor wokking if I can help it!

    Sep 1, 2009 | 9:27 am

     
  24. Ariel says:

    That’s a good wok and idea of having a burner. Some of the fancier California homes have a wok room or dirty kitchen. So when you cook fish it won’t permeate around the whole house plus it’s they have a big fan to suck out the smell.

    Sep 1, 2009 | 11:22 am

     
  25. fmed says:

    Just a quick note about the BTU ratings. These ratings are “input” ratings rather than “output” ratings. A 5000 BTU rated burner does not mean it will put out 5000 BTUs it just means it will consume the equivalent of 5000 BTUs worth of fuel. (I learned this the hard way when I upgraded my kitchen appliances recently. My new stove is rated much higher than my old stove on paper, yet my old stove kicks its ass when cooking Asian food.

    Here in North America, we can get burners often called “Turkey Fryers” (for Southern Deep Fried turkey), or “Mash Boilers” (for beer making) or plain old Propane Burners which are rated between 20k BTU and 120k BTU. These things can literally turn your wok red hot (it will glow red). They are a bit awkward to use as round bottomed woks are not stable on them. I had mine modified by a relative who does custom metalwork. I can only use it outside as this thing flames up like an upside down rocket engine.

    Cheers,
    f

    Sep 1, 2009 | 11:40 am

     
  26. izang says:

    MM, where in HK did your friend buy the woks? I will ask also a friend of mine to hand carry one (or two) when she comes home for the summer. Thanks.

    Feb 11, 2010 | 3:45 pm

     
  27. kristine says:

    Hi Marketman! I just bought a g-wok and I’ve been having problems with it. Yung una walang apoy lahat ng butas ng kalan, kailangan hipan para magkaron din ng apoy sa ibang butas tapos mawawala din. Pero ang nakakatakot is kapag ini-off mo ang g-wok medyo malakas yung sabog? Did you encounter the same problems with yours? Since we bought it just 4 days ago, we had it exchanged for another unit. Now it’s even worse, ni walang apoy kahit konti. Pero may spark ang ignition. :( excited pa naman ako gamitin ang wok ko… :( Nakakatakot kasi kapag LPG eh…

    Aug 8, 2011 | 9:31 pm

     
  28. Marketman says:

    Kristine, no, we have not had the problems you describe. And we purchased 5 more for our commissary and all seem to be working well. Some holes don’t have flame, I think when your gas pressure isn’t strong, but they should all eventually flame up. Secondly, we never have a popping sound when we turn off. You need a LARGER regulator for the gas if you are using this type of stove, so maybe you didn’t do that, or are using a regular sized regulator. Also, we tend to use this with large tanks of gas and piped in gas at the commissary, but at home we have it hooked up to a small LPG tank. But even at home, we have a larger regulator. I wouldn’t use yours if it doesn’t inspire confidence…

    Aug 9, 2011 | 8:24 am

     
  29. kristine says:

    Thanks for replying Marketman… We use a small 11 kg tank… I have no idea about regulators what’s regular size or not.. We bought ours from the authorized dealer of Shellane and they say it is the recommended regulator for shellane LPGs… Where do you buy your regulators Marketman? The large ones? I need to buy that one or else not use it at all
    Thanks again Marketman you’re the only one I could ask about this you’re a life saver!

    Aug 10, 2011 | 11:29 am

     
  30. kristine says:

    Pano po ba malalaman na ito na yung large regulator? Based lang po ba sa size or may special features din po siya? May nakita po ako sa isang local website pero mahirap po kasi bumili ng hindi nakikitang personal so if you could share po sana where you buy your regulators sobrang maappreciate ko po talaga… Salamat po ulit..

    May isa pa po akong nakita, http://tokina.ph/?page=29&pcms=products&cateid=4# iyan po ba yun? Or http://tokina.ph/?page=29&pcms=products&cateid=9# or ito po? http://www.pycor.com/LPG/fisher_main.htm

    Thanks po ulit…

    Aug 10, 2011 | 6:19 pm

     
 

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