Woks are versatile. Their use is not just limited to stir-frying. You can steam, smoke, braise or simmer, deep or shallow fry.
The wok’s shape was originally dictated by the Chinese hob that had an open top surface into which the round-bottomed wok with its flared sides fitted securely. Nowadays a metal collar or ring purchased with the wok adapts it neatly to gas or electric hobs.
Steaming is fashionable at present due to the popularity of Asian dumplings. They’re sold fresh and frozen at your supermarket. Steaming is a healthy practice keeping food moist and tasty. Place a steamer basket or colander over simmering water in the wok, add the food, cover and cook.
Stir-frying is also a healthy cooking method as very little oil is required. The food is easily turned against the steeply sloping sides of the wok and evenly coated in oil as it falls back to the bottom. The smaller the amount of food cooked in the wok the better. Cook in batches, if necessary otherwise the food will stew rather than fry. Don’t be tempted to add more oil during stir-frying. Add a sprinkle of hot water instead.
STEAMED SALMON WITH CHINESE DRESSING
I’ve used lettuce leaves to line the steamer basket rather than the usual baking paper.
2-3 lettuce leaves
2 x 150g salmon fillets, pin bones removed
8 snow peas, trimmed, strings removed
2 spring onions, leaves thinly sliced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon each: Chinese vinegar, sugar
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon finely grated root ginger
Line a Chinese steamer basket with lettuce leaves. Place some water in a wok. Place a rack just above the water line and place the basket on top. Cover the wok and bring the water to the boil. Steam the lettuce leaves until limp.
Place the salmon on the lettuce leaves. Spread the snow peas around the salmon. Season if preferred. Cover and steam for about 8 minutes or until just cooked.
Meanwhile, place the sliced spring onions in icy water to crisp and curl.
Combine the remaining ingredients. Drizzle over the cooked salmon and top with the drained spring onions. Serves 2.
The flavour of these Portobello mushrooms is intense. Serve one or two with grills or chill and serve with cold meats. They can be prepared a day ahead.
6-8 medium Portobello mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup citrus-infused dry tea leaves
6 small sprigs fresh rosemary
pinch chilli flakes
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
Toss the mushrooms in the olive oil.
Line the base of a wok with foil. Sprinkle the dry tea leaves in the center. Place a rack over the leaves. Place a sheet of foil on the rack large enough to just cover. Top with the mushrooms in a single layer. Sprinkle with the combined rosemary, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Cover.
Place the wok on medium heat and smoke the mushrooms for about 15 minutes. Serves 4-6.
DEEP-FRIED NECTARINES & AVOCADOS WITH BEEF
If preferred, use peaches or pawpaw in place of the nectarine.
Seasoning: 1/4 cup beef or chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons tomato-based chilli sauce
2 teaspoons cornflour
Deep-fry: 1/2 firm avocado
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/2 cup canola oil
250g fillet steak, cubed
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red capsicum, seeded and diced
Combine the ingredients for the seasoning and set aside.
Peel and stone the avocado. Cut into cubes. Halve and stone the nectarines. Cut into cubes. Dust the avo and nectarines with the cornflour.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the wok and heat. Stir-fry the fillet steak until medium rare. Remove and set aside.
Sauté the shallot, garlic and red capsicum for about 1 minute. Set aside with the steak.
Heat enough oil in the wok to deep-fry. Shake off any excess cornflour from the avo and nectarines. Deep-fry the avo and nectarine for a few seconds. Remove and drain on paper towels. Discard the oil.
Stir the seasoning mixture well then add to the wok. Bring to the boil. Return the steak, shallot mixture, avocado and nectarine to the wok and heat through briefly. Serves 2.