This is one of the earliest recipes I ever documented & posted. I worked on the dish in July 2015 & posted it – later – in August for the β-version of my food blog. Now – after some re-working & re-engineering of the food blog – I’ll re-start with an adapted version of my earlier posts (only 3!).
I love wok dishes: they are great if you have to prepare something delicious – for 2 people & quick. If it is 3-4 people: well – it works, however, a wok cannot take in unlimited vegetables & meat/fish. On the other hand you can show live home-cooking to our guests.
A wok dinner with more than 4 people is not recommended: you’ll need to stay at the cooker for a long time because you’ll have to prepare several loads of wok servings – it shortens your leisure time with your guests & therefore your fun.
My 1st wok entered my kitchen in the 80s: it was a solid big steel wok, very heavy & with some metallic smell (needed oiling!) – in short: a very basic affair, but direct importing from China! During the next years there were lots of experiments with Chinese dishes – in short: we loved Chinese cooking.
Later – when the new millennium started – I thought it was time for another wok: this time I bought a designer model made by an established cookware company out of shiny stainless steel: a little smaller, not so heavy, but with a copper bottom. The wok is brilliant for 2-people-meals & even is big enough for 4-people-meals. It works since then in my kitchen.
How to start wok cooking?
Be sure you can use a wok on an electric kitchen stove as well as on a gas stove – I don’t know anything about induction cooktop. My experience is based on electric stoves only: so start with the highest heating level on your electric hot plate – which will also be true for all other kinds of stoves (I think).
Fill enough oil into the wok so that the bottom is about 1mm covered & wait until the oil is hot – however, take care it doesn’t start to smoke!
This is now the moment to pitch in some vegetables & start stirring. Some minutes later add meat or fish or seafood. Continue stirring. Vigorously stirring. Add some fluid like wine, soy sauce (or any other Asian sauce), water or whatever your recipe says. Continue vigorously stirring. Add more vegetables. Continue stirring – yep: vigorously. Finally finish off with some sesame oil (my personal recommendation!).
You get it? Once you heated the wok, everything proceeds at high speed – therefore you need to prepare all ingredients beforehand i. e. clean the vegetables & cut them into the size required, cut the meat or fish into the size required, line up all spices & fluids required: only then start activating the stove.
Keep in mind:
- You’ll need an oil which fits for very high temperature.
I’ll use peanut oil.
- In addition I use a flavored peanut oil called “Asia Oil” combining lemongrass, chili, cilantro, ginger, pepper aromas – spicy, but not “hot & spicy”.
(I buy this Asia oil ready to use, but you always can add these spices fresh from scratch to your wok dish.
… and – of course – I also tried to produce it by myself to be stored for wok cooking & failed!)
Keep also in mind:
- When doing wok cooking my way I always start in the wok & end up in the wok & nothing leaves the wok in between: it’s a classic one-pot-adventure.
…and there is another crucial point in wok cooking my way:
- I don’t like thicken the sauce (using flour, corn starch or whatever)!
My wok dishes don’t resemble the standard Chinese take-away with smooth, viscid sauce sticking & coating every piece of meat etc. – what might be delicious…
How do I proceed? I use fluids like wine, water, soy sauce etc. – sometimes lots of them – which will be reduced very fast in the wok during cooking. When stirring the dish you’ll have to watch the sauce level: when it is almost near the bottom the wok dish is ready & the remaining sauce will be soaked by the steamed rice on your plate.
Now we should discuss the main challenge of wok dishes:
What to do if you don’t have a wok?
If you own a deep pan (about 6-7 cm high) this may be a solution for 2-people-wok-dishes – take are of the amount of oil you’ll use! …and vigorous stirring may result in scattering vegetables & meat/fish all over your stove (nasty cleaning business – so be careful!). Also have in mind that the bottom of a pan is a lot larger than the wok bottom; therefore the “very hot surface” hits a lot more vegetables & meat/fish/seafood.
So: a deep pan is a replacement, but… better try to lay your hands on a wok if you like Chines cooking & you’ll like it frequently!
Now finally: here comes today’s wok dish!
There are 2 main ingredients:
- Pak Choi
(also: Bok Choy, Bok Choi, Pak Choy – did I get all spellings?)
(this is my general term for all kinds of shrimps, crabs, prawns, tiger prawns, giant prawns, king prawns & whatever).
I used deep-frozen shrimps which should be defrosted slowly. When defrosted dry them with some paper towels: then – important! – examine if the shrimps are appropriately cleaned. If not done appropriately, meaning the gut wasn’t cleared, you need to do it – a nasty time-consuming affair – (attention: the more expensive the shrimps the more likely it’s done appropriately (my experience!)).
Well: I rather seldom use fresh shrimps mainly because peeling of the shells is required – not so many of my friends really like to do this!
Split the pak choi into small parts: afterwards (!) do the washing. You need not dry it. In any case remove the lower part of the stems.
What else remains to do?
- garlic (take as much as you like!),
- spring onions &
All has to be cut into very small pieces. (I refer to this further on as “spices”!)
Now we can start the wok cooking:
- a bowl with the “spices”
(YES: on the photo there is chili… whoever likes it more hot & spicy may add dry or fresh chili to be mixed together with the “spices”!)
- a bowl with shrimps
- a bowl with pak choi in pieces and
- a bowl with cooked rice…
(concerning “how to prepare rice” I’ll give you my experience in this food blog soon!).
We start with heating the oil in the wok. One after another all ends up in the wok & will be mixed & stirred & stirred… & vigorously stirred… The base is the Asia oil mentioned above – you can also use peanut oil & add some lemon grass, cilantro, chili, ginger & pepper…
…and don’t forget to heat the cooked rice in the microwave when working the wok.
Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator & used on & off: just cut off the dry part. Fresh garlic feels also very well stored in the kitchen. Therefore you can equip your pantry with all the necessary “spices” for use in various wok dishes.
Did you notice the fork? Surprised? YES: of course you can use chopsticks. In this case you should rely on little bowls & sticky rice. You cannot serve the dish on plates, but anybody has to manage loading his bowl several times.
The Businesswoman with too many office hours thinks
I’m enthralled – I can image to do this wok cooking affair for the 2 of us in the evening – although the Chinese take-out ordered by phone seems easier – always a back-up! Especially the rather small number of equipment used means that I won’t get a messy kitchen!