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Wok this way!(Part 5 of 5)

Wok accessories

While Chinese cuisine basically revolves around the wok, having the right accessories will make your cooking experience much easier, and much more fun. Below is a list of wok accessories to complement your wok. We will start with when we feel are the essential items:

    Wok lid/cover – This item a must have, especially if you are planning on using the wok as your primary cookware in the kitchen. Wok lids come in flat tops or dome tops. There are no advantages to using one, as opposed to the other. It is really just a matter of personal preference. Make sure the lid is of the same diameter as the wok, so it fits inside the rim of the wok. The lids also come in deep or shallow types. As a general rule, the lid should be high enough to fit a whole chicken underneath.

    Bamboo brush – This is another must have item. Its special use is for cleaning your wok (covered in Part 4). It is inexpensive to own, and is the preferred wok cleaning utensil for Chinese restaurant chefs. Other alternatives are plastic or nylon scrubbers.

    Wok spatula - A must-have tool to go with a seasoned wok, especially when stir frying. It is a long-handled utensil used for stirring and shifting the food in the wok. It has a wide, slightly curved metal blade that is specially designed to avoid scratching a seasoned wok. Another option is a wooden spoon or spatula.

    Steaming basket – There are generally 2 types of steaming baskets, one made of bamboo, and the other one metal. They come in various sizes to match and fit your wok. They are also stackable, so you can steam many baskets at the same time. The steamers come with their own lids; therefore you won't need the wok lid when you are steaming. They can also double as serving trays for steamed food such as Chinese buns, dim sums, and Chinese sponge cake. In our opinion, the bamboo steamer is better than the metal steamer because the texture of the bamboo absorbs the moisture, allows the steam to circulate inside it. As the steam circulates, the condensation collecting on the top of the lid is minimized, thus preventing water dripping onto the food, spoiling the taste and appearance of the dish. With a metal steamer, this problem can be curtailed by wrapping the metal steamer lid with a thin towel before covering the steamer.

    Wok ring - A wok ring is used stabilize your round-bottomed wok on the stove. Flat-bottomed woks usually do not need wok rings, as the weight of the wok distributes evenly on the flat bottom. There are two kinds of wok rings: the ones with open sides or closed sides with a series of small venting holes around the ring. The open-sided ones are best suited for use on gas stoves where the gas flames can climb up the sides of the wok, also it allows air circulation to raise the flames, further heating up the wok. The close-sided ones are better suited for electric stoves as it concentrates and conducts heat upwards. Place the narrow side down when using the wok ring, as it gives better balance to the wok and brings it closer to the source of heat. But if you are using an electric stove, make sure the wok is not touching the coil on the stove.

    Wok skimmer– The wok strainer is a wide, wire-mesh strainer with a long bamboo handle (some come with metal handles). It is used for removing noodles, wontons, dumplings, etc., from boiling water, and especially deep-fried foods from hot cooking oil. The wire mesh allows the oil to drip off the food, and the long handle helps protect your hand from the heat radiating from the wok.

Now, on to the rest of the wok accessories:

    Wok ladle – the ladle is most commonly used by Chinese chefs to add water, stock, seasonings while they are cooking. While holding the spatula or the wok in one hand, the chef reaches over with the ladle on the other hand to scoop up whatever he needs and put into the wok. The chefs are so experienced that they can simply eyeball how much of it they are scooping up, instead of using a measuring device. Thus, the wok ladle doesn't really come into use in a household kitchen.

    Wok Rack : This is a semicircular wire rack used to hang from one side of a wok. It serves dual purposes of draining the oil or water while you prepare other dishes, also keeps the food warm, as it is elevated right on top of the cooking oil, or water. In addition, if you are deep frying, the oil drains back into the wok, adding on to the flavor of the dish. This is a great addition if you like to prepare deep fry dishes often.

    Tongs – Tongs come in different materials, styles, and length. They are useful for maneuvering and removing hot food from the wok, and the steamer. Which type of tongs is more suited for you really depends on your personal preference. Many chefs prefer long chopsticks over tongs. But again, it's a personal preference thing.

    Portable gas stove – This is a nice alternative for those whose gas stove or especially electric stove just can't quite produce enough heat for wok cooking. They come in different variety and wide price range, but on average, they are modestly priced. Besides portability and versatility (can be taken outdoors), some of these gas stoves can almost match the heat delivered by the gas jets delivered in Chinese restaurants.

    Clay pot – clay pot dishes are the equivalent of casseroles in western cuisine, but instead of being baked in the oven, the clay pot is heated on top of the stove. It is used to make porridge, and other regional specialty dishes. Clay is a porous material, so it soaks up moisture rather easily. As the pot warms, it releases the moisture as steam. The food inside the clay pot retains its moisture because it is surrounded by steam, resulting in a tender, fragrant dish. The evaporation of the water prevents the food from being burnt, as long as the pot is not allowed to heat until completely dry. Very little or no oil is usually needed for using a clay pot, thus dishes prepared this way are usually lower in fat compared with food prepared by other methods.

We hope you enjoyed reading our article series “Wok this way!” If you should have any questions, or comments, please feel free to contact us at comments@ChineseHomeCooking.Com

Visit our Shop section if you are interested in purchasing any of the items listed above.

 

Don't forget to read our related articles:

Wok this way! (Part 1) Introduction
Wok this way! (Part 2) Selecting a wok
Wok this way! (Part 3) Seasoning your new wok
Wok this way! (Part 4) Cleaning and caring for you wok

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