The mention of the word ‘wok’ immediately conjures up images of Chinese cuisines. It is a common knowledge that a wok is usually used to prepare Chinese dishes. Despite its widespread use in Chinese cuisines, it is believed that it did not origin in China. The word ‘wok’ itself is Cantonese. Wok was invented between 10th and 13th century. By then, many Southeast Asian countries already used vessels in the shape of frying pans. Hence it is believed that the Chinese adopted a modified version of these pans, which we call it as ‘wok’. A wok is a round-bottomed pan. Due to the curve of the pan, all the sides get evenly heated and hence consume minimum fuel. Since there is uniform heat, the food gets cooked quickly. Its size and shape are such that a complete meal can be cooked in it. For example, food can be sautéed and then pushed to one side of the pan while sauce can be prepared in the centre. This way, the sautéed food also remains warm till it is served with the sauce. Wok enables healthy cooking by reducing the amount of oil or cooking spray while stir-frying food. Since all the food pieces cook at the same rate in a wok, lesser oil is required.
Most of the chefs around the world would agree that they have better control on their cooking with a wok. While a flat frying pan would keep the food spread out, the round deep concave shape of the wok keeps the ingredients together and mixes them well.
For amateurs and housewives, wok offers a very practical advantage. It prevents the food from spilling out while stir-frying. While deep-frying, the tall side of the wok allow more food to be fried. It provided multiple functionalities such as- stirfrying, deep-frying, braising, and smoking. Woks are available in varied sizes, shapes, metals and handle arrangements. Traditional woks were hand hammered. However with the rise of industrialization, there are stamped and spun woks available in the market, which have the advantages of hand hammered wok besides those unique to them. A frying pan is a slightly flat pan compared to round wok. Modern cook tops were a little less accommodating to round bottomed woks. Flat frying pans, fits properly on the heat source and hence get heated more quickly. Just like woks, frying pans also have a handle and an ear to hold the vessel while it is hot. There are several options available in anodized or non-stick coating. For cooking rice and noodles or for stir frying bulky vegetables, make use of a wok. Moving them in a frying pan would not be possible. For any other form of cooking, frying pans can be used effectively.
By: Grant Sheridan