I used to have a wok years ago but probably sold it in a garage sale years ago. Besides, I'm a much better cook now and probably didn't do that old wok justice anyway. So I recently bought a new, carbon steel wok. I seasoned it properly using peanut oil and a nice handful of chives. Then I got a few basic ingredients that are used in a lot of Chinese cuisine. To start out, I bought peanut oil, sesame oil, light and dark soy sauce, Chinese Five Spice and some rice vinegar. Those are considered staples in Chinese cooking. It can be pricey to start out but once you have those items, you won't have to buy them for awhile. Because I'm on a tight budget (living on disability will do that to a person), each week I allow myself another item. Before long I will have a nicely stocked pantry and will be able to make a wide variety of dishes.
Along with my wok, I bought a Chinese cookbook that featured many of the take-out favorites I love. I watch a lot of cooking shows on the weekend and I'm always learning new techniques and tips. I love watching Ching He Huang on The Cooking Channel. She makes wok cooking look so easy so I chose her cookbook, CHING'S EVERYDAY EASY CHINESE. It contains over 100 quick and easy Chinese favorites.
There are beautiful pictures to accompany the recipes and though it doesn't have a spiral binding, the book is not so large that it is clumsy in the kitchen. There is only one thing about this cookbook that disappointed me. and maybe it affects me more because of my low vision, but the font type of the introduction to the book and the recipes is so fair and light that I struggle to read them. I like reading about the dishes before each recipe but it has really been a problem for me to see. The font for the actual recipes is black and not the same thin font, so luckily I can see them much easier. It may sound a bit nit-picky but for me, its an issue.
I have enjoyed going through the book and marking the dishes I want to try. I know that for anyone who feels comfortable in a kitchen, you really don't need a recipe to create some great stir-fry, but its nice to have a guide, especially when you want to make something as classic as General Tso's Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork or Kung Pao Chicken, which are all included in this book.
Unfortunately, most people believe that if you're trying to eat healthy you have to stay away from Chinese food and that just isn't true. Yes, most take out food from anywhere is bad for you but if you can get in the habit of cooking at home with fresh ingredients and stay away from the prepared foods with all the salt and additives, it will make a big difference to your body. And it isn't limited to Chinese cooking. I quit buying prepared foods awhile ago and try very hard to make all of my meals using fresh ingredients along with staying away from pasta. Once I got away from all those processed, packaged foods, I started feeling less sluggish and generally just felt better. Personally, I get irritated when people say to me, 'Oh, I don't have time to cook'. That's ranks right up there with 'I don't have to time to read.' - But don't get me started on that one! Cooking a healthy meal, especially a Chinese meal doesn't take hours. It takes just a little planning and prep work. Once you turn that wok on, you must have your ingredients ready because it goes very quickly. Most times, my meal is ready in under 12 minutes.
I have really enjoyed my new wok and the quick and healthy meals I've made. My wok cooking technique is getting better with each try. The most important ingredient in cooking is your imagination. Start with what you like and let your imagination help create dishes that are not only good, but good for you!
Be sure to stop by Beth Fish Reads for more Weekend Cooking posts every Saturday!
CHING'S EVERYDAY EASY CHINESE (Hardback)
Author: Ching He Huang
Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks
Published: October 2011
Length: 240 pp