I recently took a trip to Thailand (food photos, forthcoming…) and took a Thai cooking class that has reinvigorated my dedication to cooking more often. The class also opened my eyes to the wonders of a wok–quickly transferred heat and plenty of cooking surface with sloping sides that permit temporary segregation of ingredients to facilitate one pot cooking.
As soon as I returned stateside, I bought a carbon steel wok (flat bottom because my gas stovetop grates would not accommodate a round bottom wok) and wok spatula, and Hurricane Irene’s lockdown gave me the perfect opportunity to season the wok. I researched various wok seasoning methods the same way I research recipes for dishes I’ve never made–via an exhaustive Google search, of course.
There are a lot of different theories to wok seasoning, all of which claim they are the best and only proper way to go. Some involve baking, some involve scrubbing, various forms of abrasives. But the common denominators of all methods boiled down to two objectives:
- Remove the manufacturer’s industrial coating which prevents the wok from rusting before use.
- Create a natural “seasoned” non-stick patina its place that also prevents rust.
In the end, the same way it cobble together different parts of different recipes, I cobbled together different methods of wok seasoning–scrubbing, coarse salt, high heat oil, and tofu + green onions:
1. Scrubbed the inside of the wok with a stainless steel scrubber and detergent (a la about.com’s method).
2. Rinsed the wok and dried it over a high heat flame.
3. Covered the bottom of the wok with a pile of coarse salt (a la the “Cooking Cute” method).
4. Move the salt around the wok’s surface continuously for 20 minutes.
5. Dump the salt out and rinse wok with water. Dry wok over high heat flame.
6. Add a generous amount of vegetable oil to the wok. Add one block of tofu cut into 1″ cubes (a la the Cantonese/hunger hunger blog method), chopped green onion, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Stir contents over entire surface of the wok for about 20 minutes.
7. Dump wok contents and rinse with water. Dry wok over high heat flame.
8. When dry, turn off flame and coat wok with a small amount of vegetable oil using a silicone brush.
Voila! Since seasoning the wok, I’ve successfully created several wok wonders — Chinese fried sticky rice (nuomi fan), stir-fried squash with tofu, and even my first homemade pad thai!