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.
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.
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).
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…
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. :)