Celebrity Chef Martin Yan takes us on a “woking tour”

Celebrity Chef Martin Yan Takes ACF Convention Attendees on a “Woking Tour”

By Kenya McCullum

ACF’s virtual convention “Around the World in 80 Plates,” which was held on August 3-5, gave attendees an opportunity to take a culinary trip to diverse regions across the globe as they earned continuing education credits and connected with other professionals in the field. One stop on this trip was the “Spotlight on Asia; Martin Yan’s Cuisines of China” session, where the celebrity chef and host of the popular “Yan Can Cook” show took attendees on a “woking tour” that highlighted the versatility of this cookery.

The tour began with a look at the different kinds of woks, which Chef Yan classified in a familial hierarchy by size:

  • the grandfather wok, which is 20 inches
  • the father wok, 12 inches
  • the son wok, 10 inches
  • the grandson wok, 2.5 inches

Chef Yan explained that the largest in the family, the grandfather wok, is generally what can be found in restaurants, while the next two generations, the father and son woks, are the most popular for use at home. The grandson wok, according to Chef Yan, is also for the home kitchen and is commonly used for baby food. He also pointed out that in addition to size, woks can differ by the types of material they are made from—including iron, aluminum, stainless steel, and copper—as well as the number of handles they have, which can be one or two, and in some cases, woks can be made with no handles at all.

After discussing the wok itself, Chef Yan illustrated what should be part of a wok kitchen. For utensils, he explained that the best to use for wok cooking include a quality knife, chopsticks, and a functional spatula that matches the curvature of the wok. In terms of ingredients, Yan said the basics that should be kept on hand for wok cooking include naturally fermented soy sauce, rice wine, aged vinegar, corn starch, chili sauce, and an oil that can be used in high temperatures—like tea seed oil, which can withstand up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fusion Recipes in a Wok

“Wok cooking is not just restricted to Chinese or Asian cuisine,” said Chef Yan as he went on to demonstrate how a wok can be used to make a variety of fusion dishes, including paella and pizza recipes. Another dish he featured was a steamed whole fish recipe.

“A wok can be a perfect steamer because it is quick and efficient,” he said. “Steaming is a very healthy way to prepare meat and vegetables, and it is my favorite way to cook seafood at home.”

The recipe included a whole fish that was steamed with green onions, tangerine peels, ginger, and shitake mushrooms. After putting the ingredients in a glass dish, he placed it in the wok on top of a steam rack, which Chef Yan said people can substitute with chopsticks configured into a pound sign. When the fish was done steaming, he poured some heated oil on top along with a soy sauce dressing made with fish sauce, rice wine, sesame seed oil, and sugar. Chef Yan also offered some advice on how to most effectively make a steamed dish in a wok.

“The key to good steaming is the lid has to be very tight so you do not lose the moisture, the flavor and aroma, and also the steam power,” he explained

Another recipe that Chef Yan showcased was a healthy stir fry, which he said is an ideal dish to make in a wok.

“In my opinion, the wok was invented for stir fry for sure,” he said. “There is a temperature consideration; good stir frying requires high temperature and these woks are designed to withstand high heat.”

Chef Yan’s stir fry demonstration included chicken, a basic soy sauce marinade, peppers, mushrooms, and pistachio nuts. Some tips that Yan offered for stir frying were to marinate the meat being used, cut food into bite-sized pieces, and most importantly, toss the ingredients continuously.

“Remember it’s called stir fry, not stare fry—it means you keep tossing it, you don’t stand there and just stare at it,” Yan said. 

For more examples of recipes that can be made in a wok, Yan suggested that attendees log on to www.yancancook.com. To view this and other recorded videos from the virtual convention, click here to enter your login information, and then select “On Demand Videos.”