The wok - an age-old kitchen standby in China and much of Asia - is finally catching on among western chefs. And that means there’s a serious hunger for recipes and basic wok know-how!
In this piece, we’ll review four of the best wok recipes you’ll ever make. There’s virtually no limit to what you can accomplish with your trusty wok. But first, let’s delve into some basics.
How Does a Wok Differ From a Normal Pan?
While normal pans have flat bottoms and straight walls, woks are most commonly tapered into a bowl shape with gently sloping sides.
Made In’s Blue Carbon Steel Wok combines both of these traits. Made In’s Wok has a flat bottom, which is perfectly sized for your home’s stovetop, while also featuring sloping sides. This simple difference in shape has a surprisingly significant impact on the way your food cooks. Consider these four key advantages:
- The bottom gathers oil and other liquids. This means you can fry food much more efficiently with minimal waste. (And as we’ll see, the majority of wok recipes are stir-fry based.)
- The rounded shape helps conduct heat to your food very quickly. That’s why woks are used in high-heat recipes like charred proteins and crunchy, flash-fried veggies.
- The sloping walls of the wok help you easily drain oil from fried foods. Just hold your food against the wall of the wok after it’s done cooking and let the oil runoff.
- The wok offers a natural heat gradient, with very high temperatures at the bottom and cooler temperatures at the top. That means you can cook different foods at different rates and time them all to finish simultaneously.
Made In’s Blue Carbon Steel Wok has all of these advantages and more. Carbon steel retains heat extremely well and can get super hot, making it perfect for cooking with a wok. It requires seasoning, which will create a smooth slick surface. This pan is crafted in France, where carbon steel cookware has been perfected for centuries.
What Ingredients Can You Put In a Wok?
When you picture a wok in action, you probably imagine a fiery stir fry. And that’s for good a reason. Woks are ideal for almost any stir fry recipe you can dream up - whether you’re frying a veggie (think broccoli, bok choy, and bell pepper), crisping noodles, making fried rice, or searing protein. When it comes to ingredients, the sky’s the limit.
But stir-frying is just the beginning! You can also braise foods like eggplant for a thick, saucy consistency. Alternately, you can use your wok for steaming - just put your bamboo steamer directly in the wok with a reservoir of water beneath it. Or fill the wok with oil and do some deep-frying. You can even use your wok to smoke foods if you’re patient.
So when it comes to ingredients, the better question is: What shouldn’t you put in a wok? And the answer is a pretty short list. First, don’t use your wok for fragile things like soft tofu or delicate vegetables. Cooking with a wok generally involves tumbling food around, and you don’t want the ingredients to fall apart on you. And second, don’t use your wok for searing big cuts of meat (e.g., an entire flank steak or chicken breast). The bottom won’t give you enough surface area to work with. You also want to avoid cooking with acidic foods in your carbon steel wok, which can strip the seasoning.
What Can I Make With My Wok?
Now it’s time for the fun part. Let’s dig into some of the very best, restaurant-worthy wok recipes so you can take your stir-frying (and deep-frying, and steaming, and braising) game to the next level.
Classic Veggie Stir Fry
This spring vegetable recipe is known for its flexibility, range of flavors and textures, and pure sizzling deliciousness.
- 2 tablespoons high-heat oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- ½ cup sliced red onion
- 1 cup of small broccoli florets
- 1 baby eggplant, cubed
- ½ cup water chestnuts
- 2 cups sliced bok choy
- 1 cup sugar snap peas
- ½ cup teriyaki sauce
- 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
- Sea salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- Pour your high-heat frying oil into the bottom of the wok. Gradually increase the temperature until the oil begins to shimmer.
- Add your bell pepper, garlic, and onion. Note: It’s important to keep stirring continuously. This prevents burning and ensures everything is evenly cooked.
- Add the broccoli, eggplant, and water chestnuts next.
- Now add your bok choy and snap peas.
- Finally, add the teriyaki sauce and mung bean sprouts. Season with salt to taste. Be careful, as teriyaki sauce can be quite salty.
- This whole process should take just 2-3 minutes. The veggies will cook very quickly. They should be tender but still crisp.
- Stir in the sesame oil for flavor and take the wok off the heat.
- Serve immediately with rice.
Rice Noodles & Crispy Tofu
If you’ve never wok-fried a noodle dish before, get ready for a jaw-dropping surprise. The wok is all that stands between you and crispy, spicy, restaurant-caliber fried noodles.
- 8 ounces thin rice noodles
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 12 ounces very firm tofu (drained and cut into 1-inch cubes)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 bunch of fresh green onion (aka scallions)
- 1 large pinch of sea salt
- 1 pinch of sugar
- Begin by soaking the rice noodles in a large bowl of warm water.
- After about 20 minutes, drain the noodles and cut them roughly in half.
- Next, stir together the vegetable broth, sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine in a small mixing bowl.
- Now add two tablespoons of canola oil (peanut oil will also work) to the bottom of your wok and slowly increase the temperature to high.
- When the oil starts to shimmer, turn the heat down slightly and add your tofu. Stir quickly.
- When the tofu starts to brown, add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger.
- Stir until the ginger starts to crisp (10-15 seconds) and add your cleaned bell peppers. They should be cored and julienned into thin slices.
- When the peppers look bright and tender (after about 2 minutes), add the scallions, salt, sugar, and veggie broth. Keep stirring!
- When the broth is mostly absorbed, remove your wok from the heat and serve immediately.
‘One-pan Perfection’ Fried Rice
Feeling a little lazy? The wok is so versatile that it makes one-pan cooking easy - even if you’re building a rich dish with complex flavors, like this fried rice recipe.
- 4 cups cooked white rice, medium grain
- 1 cup napa cabbage
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup sliced onion
- ½ cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- ½ cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
- ½ cup broccoli florets
- ½ cup diced carrots
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup vegetable broth
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Important: Your rice should be precooked and cooled. Cool rice will be much less sticky, allowing the grains to separate and fry well. If you’re using day-old rice, crumble it up with your fingers to ensure it doesn’t clump. We suggest white rice, but brown rice will work if you prefer it.
- Wash and prepare all of the vegetables, so they’re ready to go when you need them.
- Pour a few tablespoons of canola oil into the bottom of the wok and set the flame to high. Wait until it shimmers to proceed.
- Now add your onion, garlic, and ginger, and stir for a few seconds until it begins to crisp.
- Add carrots and mushrooms, as well as your vegetable broth.
- Add the cabbage and broccoli, followed by peas and corn. (Remember, stir-frying takes place at very high temperatures, so all of these vegetables will be added in quick succession.)
- Finally, add the rice, all the remaining spices, and your hoisin sauce (or a similar stir fry sauce).
- Stir fry until everything’s cooked through. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Optional last step: top with toasted sesame seeds.
Seared Sesame Green Beans
This simple Chinese-style dish is perfection on a plate and is the ideal side to accompany your entrée
- 1.5 pounds fresh green beans
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 packed tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Wash and trim the green beans, cutting off the tough tips.
- Cook them in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 3 minutes.
- When the beans are crisp and tender, take them off the heat. Drain them and quickly plunge them into a bowl of ice water. (This stops the cooking process.) After they’re fully cooled, drain the beans again and pat them dry.
- Heat the sesame oil in your wok over a high flame. (As always, wok cooking involves high heat.)
- When the oil begins to shimmer, add your green beans and stir continuously until they’re completely cooked. This should take 2-3 minutes at most.
- Now add your soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and black pepper. Keep stir-frying and make sure the green beans are completely coated in the stir fry sauce.
- After a minute or two, the sauce should be fairly thick and reduced. Add your sesame seeds and toss them in thoroughly,
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately!
The wok is an age-old kitchen staple within China and much of the rest of Asia. The recipes and dishes created have become prominent in today’s cooking culture, which is why knowing how to utilize one is so significant. You could be crafting up anything from traditional Asian cuisine to more out-of-the-box dishes, just know the wok will work reliably for whatever its purpose that night. Here at Made In, we design stainless steel cookware, non stick, and carbon steel pans that are meant to spark inspiration in home chefs. If you're looking for new ways to diversify your nightly dishes, turn to us for some guidance.