01 Sep2009

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According to Grace Young, the author of “The Breath of a Wok,” a superb book/cookbook, there is much tradition and lore involved with seasoning a wok properly. While she tries to get to the possible scientific explanation for the customary manner in which woks are “seasoned,” she settles with a conclusion that one must accept that tradition is equally important as the science. Unlike western cast iron pots and pans, a Chinese cast iron wok is far thinner and lighter, and arrives seemingly straight from the foundry, coated in fine iron dust and looking a bit industrial in nature. AFter reading Ms. Young’s book, I decided to pursue a traditional and classic manner of seasoning a wok, taking her suggestions and melding them with others who are experts on the matter…

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The first step in seasoning the wok entailed finding a whole lot of chinese chives, or gao choy in Cantonese, which aren’t too common in local groceries. So I waited until a Saturday and hit my suki for Chinese greens at the FTI Taguig market and sure enough, he had lots of chinese chives, and I bought a kilo or more to ensure I had more than enough for my woks.

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The woks were first rinsed with warm water and just a little bit of dishwashing liquid and scrubbed with a soft sponge to remove remnants of iron dust and other gunk. The use of dishwashing liquid is a bit controversial for the most conservative of chinese cooks, but I decided to do this anyway. Several chinese cooks based in the west concur with the use of a milk or diluted washing liquid. The woks were then dried with paper towels, which turned a bit grey. Next, I took a bunch of chinese chives and smushed them into the inside of the wok, pressing out some of the chive juices to coat the entire inside surface of the pan. Chives contain sulphide which Ms. Young suggests might be part of the science of this methodology… Once completely coated in chive juice, I left the chives all over the inside of the pan and let it sit for 20-30 minutes.

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The woks were again rinsed, this time with just warm water, then dried again with paper towels, which were a lot less grey at this stage.

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The woks were then place over medium heat to remove any moisture and then allowed to “smoke” for a few minutes over medium high heat until a drop of water put into the walk would instantly vaporize. Curiously, a large drop of water put into the pan in this last photo “danced” around the bottom of the pan for several seconds, hopping on the incredibly hot surface, instead of instantly evaporating! Next up, Part II of the seasoning process…
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“How to Season a Wok, Part II”

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Ariel says:

    In good hole in the wall chinese restaurants, the secret is the steel wool they clean the wok with. I don’t think they ever wash those woks with soap.

    Sep 1, 2009 | 1:12 am

     
  2. Chichiro says:

    Oh incredible..! waiting for the next post MM..

    Sep 1, 2009 | 2:03 am

     
  3. betty q, says:

    Those are also called Garlic Chives. They belong to the same family as Garlic..Allium family. So if anyone doesn`t have access to galic chives but have young garlic greens growing, you can use the greens as a sub for garlic chives. They both contain the sulfur compounds. That s why have you guys wondered why your garlic bulb turns sometimes green when you cook them ….sulfur compounds!

    Sep 1, 2009 | 2:44 am

     
  4. Lurker says:

    The last picture … best picture ever. :p

    Sep 1, 2009 | 2:58 am

     
  5. ted says:

    @Ariel, i dont think they even use steel wool, i think they just have this small walis tingting type contraption that they use to remove the food residue while swishing them with warm water.

    Sep 1, 2009 | 3:11 am

     
  6. marcial bonifacio says:

    ..a walis ting-ting type of brush, indeed..”

    Sep 1, 2009 | 3:18 am

     
  7. Marketman says:

    bettyq, I think these differ from the flowering garlic chives with the little buds at the end. Or at least I was made to believe they were different when I looked at them side by side. Once it is seasoned, most Chinese restaurants DO NOT wash with soap or detergent. Do not use steel wool I am advised, just a softish sponge after you have boiled water in the used wok to loosen any bits. ted, the bamboo brush is used in large restaurants, again less recommended for home use since if it is used improperly, you could actually take off the developing patina of your wok. Anyone serious about maintaining a wok needs to get the book “The Breath of a Wok” or similar guide to maintaining one’s prized cooking vessel. :)

    Sep 1, 2009 | 7:21 am

     
  8. Bubut says:

    i remember my mom, when she buys a caldero that she needs for cooking rice, she would first cook paksiw na bangus or any type of fish, it is to baptize the caldero with the vinegar. after few cooking of paksiw thats that only time she will cook rice in it. If she didnt do these, any rice that will be cooked in this caldero will have a rancid smell/ taste (panis) after the rice is cooked and cooled for few hours.

    Sep 1, 2009 | 7:59 am

     
  9. betty q, says:

    Yup, MM…the flowering garlic chives have a more rounded stem than flat blades. There is a site…www. practicallyedible.com…they are all related to one another…called NIra in Japanese,Gau choy in chinese. But since we are talking the sulphur compounds which is necessary to the wokking seasoning, maybe the garlic greens when the chives are not available will work as well. I am no botanist…Maybe Kurzhaar can shed some light.

    Say for instance, celery…there is also the Chinese celery (kinchay) which is not readily available here. However, if I want the kinchay taste in Pancit, I usually use the celery heart with the young leaves. I know, my logic is weird!….hahahaha

    Sep 1, 2009 | 9:58 am

     
  10. terrey says:

    in bangkok too they used walis ting-ting to clean the woks after cooking.

    Sep 1, 2009 | 10:24 am

     
  11. Hershey says:

    Oh, that book is really nice! I also have a copy of that and I had difficulty finding one. Good work in seasoning MM. I also have my own cast iron and sadly, the wok I have at home is just from quiapo and it was darker and full of grease, obviously it was a mass production type of wok :D

    Sep 1, 2009 | 3:05 pm

     
  12. Marketfan says:

    MM,is that a newly purchased book? Because I saw you browsing over at Fully Booked in Rockwell yesterday ha ha. Didn’t say hello because you looked very much engrossed.
    MF

    Sep 1, 2009 | 8:58 pm

     
  13. Marketman says:

    Marketfan, hahaha, you should have said hello. No, I have had this book for over a year I think. But I did find a real bargain yesterday. For roughly PHP370 ($7-8) with my discount card, I got an Escoffier cookbook with 2,000 basic recipes designed for the home cook. No photos, just printed recipes, and many of them things I wouldn’t necessarily do, but for the price of a modest meal, it’s nice to have so many basic french recipes in one little book! :) The Teen was getting a couple of books, that’s why we were there… :)

    Sep 1, 2009 | 9:10 pm

     
  14. Eleanor Hoh (WokStar) says:

    Your beautiful website, your logic and your sense of humor is great. It’s lovely how you share your love of food with all your friends. Fabulous you found lightweight, cast iron woks and “seasoned” with your unique style.

    I had a Google alert for cast iron wok and that’s how I found your site.

    Because there are so many misconceptions about woks and the technique of stir frying, I started teaching wok cooking in Florida, America and also market a Wok Star Kit. I “preseason” the woks so people don’t have to go through what you did. Many sites and books say it’s so easy until you have to spend a good few hours doing it. You experienced the unpleasant “smells” which they don’t tell you about. Many I know have ruined their woks or never got round to doing it at all. By “preseasoning” woks, people can focus on just having fun cooking.

    I hope you’ll use your wok for cooking everything and not just Asian stir frys, this will build up the patina faster. It’s the perfect, adjustable size “pan” for cooking a lot or little. Your daughter will inherit your beautiful wok like I did from my mother. Even my American husband is a Wok Star, he makes “breakfasts” in it. You might find some useful wok tips in my blog. I will take a look more at your wonderful site.

    Sep 3, 2009 | 4:27 am

     
 

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