I wanna wok with you. All night.
Dance you in the sunlight.
Wok the night away.
I have a bunch of Chinese-American style dishes in the Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, the cookbook. I am careful to indicate in each of them that you do not need a wok. You can use a saute pan. And I did not tell a lie. It’s just that I am not as resolved as I once was. And I’m ready to make a case for a wok in your kitchen as an essential kitchen basic.
I wanna wok with you. Is that really so wrong?
And I’m going to suggest that, should you choose to buy and use a wok (assuming you don’t already have one), you buy one that has a flat bottom and is made of carbon steel or lightweight cast iron. If you’re willing to spend a few more bucks, you can buy one that is already seasoned. The brand that I have is Joyce Chen, and I really like it. Since I did not buy it pre-seasoned, I had to season it myself, but it is really lovely now and I use it early and often.
The surface of a seasoned wok acts like non-stick, but with one crucial difference: you can crank up the flame to a high heat. And to use a wok the way it is intended, you have to use it on very high heat. It is meant to work by distributing high heat very efficiently over its surface, and cooking food very quickly using precious little oil. Just remember to use a neutral oil that has a high smoking point, like grapeseed oil. Cooking in a wok is quick, efficient, and a good stir-fry is terribly cost-effective, since it can be a satisfying without calling for too much meat.
This is the wok that I own and use regularly: Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok.
Here I have made a simple pork stir fry, but you could easily substitute chicken or even beef for the pork. Some cooking notes: My husband and I love ginger, but my kids don’t so I often omit it. And the orange juice adds a really nice flavor, but only if it is fresh-squeezed. If you don’t feel like squeezing juice for any reason, just omit it. The dish will still be delightful. And if you don’t have a wok, don’t let that stop you. Use a large saute pan, and some more oil. No biggie.
Pork Stir Fry
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
1 pound lean boneless pork, sliced thinly against the grain
6 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce, divided
4 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup gluten-free chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (optional)
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (optional)
4 to 6 tablespoons cooking oil with a high smoke point (like soybean, peanut, or grapeseed)
Cooked broccoli crowns, brown rice, and sliced scallions for serving
1. In a large plastic zip top bag, place the sliced pork, 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, and the honey. Seal the bag tight, and massage it to combine well. Allow the pork to marinate for an hour at room temperature.
2. While the pork is marinating, make the sauce. In a medium size saucepan, place the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, stock, cornstarch, optional ginger, and optional orange juice. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is fragrant and beings to thicken (about 6 or 7 minutes). Set the saucepan aside.
3. When the pork has finished marinating, heat the cooking oil in your wok (or saute pan) until very hot. Carefully add the pork to the hot pan, and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes in a wok or a few minutes longer in a saute pan, until cooked through. If you sliced it thinly, the pork won’t take long to cook. Remove the cooked pork from the pan and set it aside.
4. If you are serving the stir fry with broccoli or another vegetable, throw it in to the wok as well along with a few tablespoons of the sauce, and stir to coat.
5. Plate the dish by lining a dish with cooked rice, then a mixture of pork and broccoli, and finished off with some sliced scallions, white and green parts.