What Is A Wok?

What Is A Wok?

Wok cuisine produces many popular dishes. The special taste of stir fry & co. is popular everywhere. But what is a wok actually and what makes it so special? We'll tell you!

The wok - an overview

A wok is a tall, bottom-rounded pan that is widely used, especially in various Asian country cuisines. It is considered one of the most important cooking utensils in Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine and is versatile. For example, it can be used as a classic pan, pot, deep fryer or even as a steamer.

Origin of the wok

The classic wok originated in China, in the province of Guandong, and found its name in the language spoken there, Cantonese. There are different names for the wok in different countries. In Malaysia it is called kuali, in Indonesia wadjan and in the Philippines there are even two names. One is "Kawaii", which means "small wok", and the other is "Kawa", which means "big wok".

Shape and differences

Traditional woks

Characteristic features of the traditional wok are its curved shape and the high edges. The bottom is not flat but curved. As a rule, woks have two side handles, but there are also woks that only have a single handle. Unfortunately, you can usually only use traditional woks on a gas cooker because of their spherical shape. However, you also have the option of using the wok on a special burner.

Western woks

Due to adaptations to Western kitchen standards, there are also newer woks that have a much flatter base and are therefore also suitable for electric cookers or ceramic hobs. They therefore usually also have a significantly smaller diameter. Such woks are often also called wok pans. In addition to these two variants, there are also models that combine elements of a wok and wok pan. Not only are they curved on the inside like a classic wok, but they also form a straight surface with a thick base on the underside to also fit on an electric cooker or ceramic hob.

Wok materials

First beginnings

The first wok models at the time were made of iron or carbon steel, and some woks are still made of these materials. There is also the rarer variant made of wrought iron. These are lighter in weight and rather thin walled. Unfortunately, this means that they give off the heat somewhat unevenly. Over time, more and more materials have been used to make woks, such as cast iron, stainless steel or carbon steel.

Cast iron woks

Cast iron woks have the advantage that they are more heat-resistant and retain heat equally well. However, due to the thicker walls, the heating process takes a little longer. The cast iron wok is perfect for the preparation method "stir-frying". Seasoned cast iron woks have a non-stick layer.

Stainless steel wok

Stainless steel woks are very robust and heat-resistant. They can therefore transfer the heat better to the ingredients in the wok. Deformation does not occur due to the thicker walls. The advantage over cast-iron pans is the weight, because they are much lighter. They do not deform as quickly because of the heat resistance. Stainless steel pans are not coated. The ingredients in the wok could therefore burn more quickly if too little oil is used. On the other hand, these woks are very robust and durable.

Carbon steel

Carbon steel woks are mainly used in restaurants. The carbon steel wok usually has a long handle and is light in weight, making it perfect for swirling when preparing delicious dishes. Another benefit is that it heats up extremely well and quickly due to its rather thin walls.

Advantages of the wok

1. No spilling

The rounded shape of the wok pan makes it easy to scoop or mix the individual ingredients in the wok. The high walls and large capacity allow you to stir your ingredients easily without losing your favourite vegetables.

2. Quick preparation

The easy handling and high heat shortens the cooking time. You can prepare your favourite dishes even faster.

3. Crisp taste experience

Shorter cooking times preserve important vitamins and nutrients of the ingredients in the wok. Ingredients such as vegetables also remain deliciously crunchy. You only need a little oil, preferably peanut oil, or another fat source to fry in the wok. The advantage here is that you can prepare your food with less fat and have a crunchy taste experience.

4. Practical edge

You can simply push the prepared ingredients to the side in the wok and keep them warm. You can use the full space right up to the edge to fry more ingredients in peace. Since the oil remains in the middle, the already cooked ingredients do not soften.

Accessories for the wok

Popular accessories for the wok include a lid, an insert for steaming, a draining rack or a steamer basket as well as different spoons.

  • Steaming inserts such as the steamer basket are available in stainless steel or the classic bamboo. With the classic bamboo insert, food is steamed gently.
  • If you want to cook with the help of a drainer, you can keep the cooked food warm without it being cooked further. If you also want to braise your food, you need the wok lid to go with it.
  • Different spoons are also helpful for preparing dishes in the wok. If you like to stir-fry in the classic way, the Chan, or more precisely the Chinese cooking scoop, is your perfect companion. Classic spoons such as a ladle or a sieve spoon can also be used to remove vegetables from the wok or to lift fried food out of the wok.