Every Wednesday, Matt Lardie and his friends tackle a new recipe from James Beard award winner Grace Young’s wok-cooking book, “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). Since becoming “addicted to [his] wok,” Durham, N.C., resident Lardie has learned that his wok not only stir-fries but can also sear steaks, steam vegetables and smoke turkey.
In discovering the joys of wok cooking, Lardie and more than 235 members of the online Wok Wednesdays group have learned a truth about Asian cooking tools: They are incredibly versatile.
“For a working mom or dad to come home and put a healthy homemade meal on the table in under 30 minutes, that’s an amazing tool,” Lardie says.
Both of the mainstays of Asian cooking — the rice cooker and the wok — are known for their versatility. Yes, you can cook rice in a rice cooker. But you can also make soups and stews. And you can steam vegetables and cook desserts.
A wok can not only stir-fry, it can also deep-fry, steam and act as an indoor smoker.
Another plus is that they are affordable. Woks – which you can buy in the preferred versions of cast-iron and carbon-steel varieties – can run from as low as $25 to as high as $300 depending on material and brand name.
Rice cookers, too, come in the same price ranges, and are usually designed to cook from three to 10 cups of rice at a time. In recent years, technologically advanced rice cookers (with adjustable heat, moisture and rice-type features) have become popular as well.
Eleanor Hoh, known as the “Wok Star,” teaches wok cooking classes in the Miami area. Her goal? To teach attendees that cooking with a wok doesn’t require memorizing recipes and following strict rules.
“When you cook with recipes you are following ingredient lists and rules. That’s not very fun,” Hoh says. “I want people to focus on having fun. That’s what you can do with a wok. Once you learn the basic techniques, you can focus on being creative and making healthy, delicious dishes.”