Wok Wednesdays

When it comes to cooking, I tend to get fascinated with one particular method and play with it for awhile. Some flings last longer than others. My affair with the Weber kettle grill has been going strong for over seven years now, so I guess we're married. But I've found time to flirt with other things like the WSM for smoking, or the WFO for pizza, or the wok for healthy fun stir-fry. And not necessarily in that order. 

I've been ignoring the wok lately, so I was excited to find out about this Wok Wednesdays project where we'll cook our way through Grace Young's Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge book, slowly. I'm not big on responsibility, but I think I can commit to two recipes per month.

When I first decided to purchase a wok a few years ago, things didn't go so well -- the wok and my new stovetop were simultaneously destroyed. Then I talked to Tane Chan at The Wok Shop in San Francisco and she got me on the right track. She's the best. I now have a 14" flat-bottom carbon steel wok for stir-frying & deep-frying and a stainless steel wok for boiling & steaming. And the two best pieces of advice she gave me were:
  1. Buy a Wok Stove so I could cook with a gas flame instead of an electric stove top. 
  2. Buy Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.

Now what's left of my stovetop is safe while I use the wok outside.

And the book is great! Many of the wok meals on my Rob's Grill page were recipes from this book. But it's much more than just a cookbook -- it is a User's Manual for your wok. It is a priceless resource. And on the rare occasion when I've had a question that wasn't covered in the book (mostly due to the fact that here in the middle of Kentucky I sometimes have difficulty finding certain ingredients), Grace has been most gracious and willing to answer my questions. 

So, a big thanks to Tane Chan and Grace Young for pointing me in the right direction. I can't imagine living without a wok now -- my family eats healthier when we use it, and it's fun. I think it'll be even more fun as summer rolls on and more local fresh produce is available at the Farmers Markets. Wok on!

Wok Wednesdays Index
  1. 05/16/12 - Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach
  2. 05/30/12 - Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken
  3. 06/13/12 - Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Rum Shrimp
  4. 06/27/12 - Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms
  5. 07/11/12 - Yin Yang Beans
  6. 07/25/12 - Kung Pao Chicken
  7. 08/08/12 - Classic Dry-Fried Pepper and Salt Shrimp
  8. 08/22/12 - Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice
  9. 09/05/12 - Summer Pepper Corn & Stir-Fried Ginger Beef
  10. 09/19/12 - Stir-Fried Cucumber & Pork with Golden Garlic
  11. 10/03/12 - Stir-Fried Eggs with Tomatoes
  12. 10/17/12 - Spicy Orange Chicken
  13. 10/31/12 - Tea-Smoked Shrimp Salad w/ Mango and Steamed Mahi Mahi & Veggies
  14. 11/14/12 - Stir-Fried Garlic Eggplant with Pork
  15. 11/28/12 - Stir-Fried Mussels with Ginger & Scallions
  16. 12/12/12 - Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli
  17. 12/26/12 - Wok-Popped Popcorn
  18. 01/09/13 - Stir-Fried Curried Beef
  19. 01/23/13 - Hoisin Explosion Chicken
  20. 02/06/13 - Chicken Lo Mein w/ Ginger Mushrooms
  21. 02/20/13 - Minced Pork in Lettuce Cups
  22. 03/06/13 - Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy
  23. 03/20/13 - Stir-Fried Chicken with Carrots & Mushrooms
  24. 04/03/13 - Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage & Egg
  25. 04/17/13 - Wok Portraits
  26. 05/01/13 - Velvet Chicken w/ Asparagus
  27. 05/15/13 (Year II) - Wok-Seared Vegetables
  28. 05/29/13 (Year II) - Hot Pepper Beef
  29. 06/12/13 (Year II) - Hong Kong-Style Mango Ginger Chicken
  30. 06/26/13 (Year II) - Chinese Indian Vegetarian Fried Rice
  31. 07/10/13 (Year II) - Macanese Chicken
  32. 07/24/13 (Year II) - Cilantro Chili Noodles
  33. 07/31/13 (Year II) - Cajun Shrimp & Pepper Stir-Fry
  34. 08/14/13 (Year II) - Hot Pepper Beef
  35. 08/28/13 (Year II) - Vegetarian Five Spice Tofu
  36. 09/11/13 (Year II) - Chicken w/ Pineapples & Peppers
  37. 09/25/13 (Year II) - Spicy Long Beans w/ Sausage & Mushrooms
  38. 10/09/13 (Year II) - Stir-Fried Cumin-Scented Beef w/ Vegetables
  39. 10/23/13 (Year II) - Dry-Fried Sichuan Beans
  40. 11/06/13 (Year II) - Stir-Fried Lotus Root w/ Bacon & Vegetables
  41. 11/20/13 (Year II) - Choose Your Own Wok Adventure
  42. 12/04/13 (Year II) - Chinese American Shrimp w/ Lobster Sauce
  43. 12/18/13 (Year II) - Choose Your Own Wok Adventure
  44. 01/01/14 (Year II) - Rogue Wok Adventure
  45. 01/08/14 (Year II) - Chinese Trinidadian Chicken w/ Mango Chutney
  46. 01/22/14 (Year II) - Velvet Orange Scallops
  47. 02/05/14 (Year II) - Sichuan Pork w/ Peppers & Peanuts
  48. 02/19/14 (Year II) - Chinese Cuban Fried Rice
  49. 03/05/14 (Year II) - Stir-Fried Yau Choi w/ Oyster Sauce
  50. 03/19/14 (Year II) - Barbecued Pork Lo Mein
  51. 04/02/14 (Year II) - Five-Spice Chicken w/ Sugar Snaps
  52. 04/16/14 (Year II) - Stir-Fried Mongolian Lamb w/ Scallions
  53. 04/30/14 (Year II) - Choose Your Own Wok Adventure

Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach (5/16/12)

This was a great recipe choice to start the Wok Wednesdays project, and the recipe can be found on Matt's post at Green Eats Blog. Also, thanks to Matt for setting up the WW blog and getting this project started.

According to the book, this is known as a "clean stir fry" because we're working with a solitary ingredient and using minimal seasoning to bring out the peak essence of this particular vegetable. Best of all, it is simple! I tried to get some fresh local spinach at the Farmers Market a few days ago, but I slept in and missed all the spinach and strawberries. I was surprised at how good this turned out using bagged spinach from the grocery.

Mise en Place:  Spinach, Peanut Oil, Garlic, Salt, & Suger.

I'm guessing Grace would say my wok is in the adolescent stage, and I look forward to watching its patina develop as we wok our way through this book.

Two minutes & done.

Grilled Chicken & Stir-Fried Garlic Spinach.


Yes, this is the first time I've eaten grilled chicken with chopsticks.

The left-over oil & water in the wok was a great dipping sauce for the chicken. Is that legal?


Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken (5/30/12)

This recipe is more fun than last week's because it involves more ingredients, more prep, and more stir-fry action. I love this choice because it is already a family favorite at our house. The recipe can be found here along with some nice pictures at Cathy's My Culinary Mission blog, and this week is supercool for me because my friend Robin from Big Red Kitchen decided to join us for Wok Wednesdays! She immediately added a personal touch or two -- I'll definitely be using her Mason Jar prep idea in the future. I think she just made stir-fries faster.

When we first met.

This is a stir-fry recipe that doesn't use familiar stir-fry staples such as soy sauce or rice wine. The first time we tried it, we thought it seemed like a Southwest stir-fry. We enjoy making Texas-style chili in the fall around here, and we use the grill year round. When we grill chicken we usually use chili powder and cumin, or a chili seasoning such as Zillions that incorporates both, and we often grill peppers & onions or zucchini & squash along with it. So the flavors in this dish were familiar to us, and the wok action with fish sauce really added a new dimension.

If you've never worked with fish sauce, know that it is supposed to smell that way. It adds something special to your stir-fry -- something special that doesn't taste the way it smells. Use it with confidence, and wash your hands afterwards!

I did get some from the Farmers Market this time.

Mise en Place.

It was downright windy today, so I had to run around the corner and cook at an alternate location. I don't mind stir-frying outside when it's 90 degrees, but a good breeze does dampen the wok stove's power.

Ten minutes rather than seven, due to the conditions.

Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken.


We eat the Chinese Burmese Chili Chicken with steamed rice and no soy sauce. It makes great left overs...


Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Rum Shrimp (6/13/12)

Before I talk about this recipe, which I love, I would like to make a Public Service Announcement for my fellow Wednesday Wokers...

WARNING:  Do not preheat your oven to 450 degrees with your wok inside. It's bad for the handles.

I got away with it this time, but I'm not sure it will survive the next mishap. And unfortunately, I'm pretty sure there will be a next mishap. Anyway, that's why my wok looks different this week. The long handle actually looks great now, but the smaller handle looks like it caught fire.

This week's recipe can be found here at Big Red Kitchen. I like it so much that I sorta made it three times in the last two weeks. It sounds like everybody was wrestling with the same question -- do you really need to leave the shells on the shrimp? The answer is yes... Yes, you do.

I knew it would be messy, so the first time I made it just for myself. I bought large shrimp (16/20 count), left the shells on, and followed the recipe to a T. I paired it with Robin Sue's Fried Riced Cauliflower idea. It was awesome. My wife doesn't eat shrimp, but she thought the riced cauliflower was the coolest thing to come out of our kitchen all year.

Take I.
Shrimp in shell.

One of the things I liked about this stir-fry was that it included tomatoes. I've been on a tomato kick lately, mostly using them on the grill this spring, and I was happy to throw some in the wok. It took me awhile to figure out why I liked this recipe so much, but eventually I realized that it reminded me of fajitas.

So, I did the same recipe with strips of chicken & steak to make fajitas for a quick lunch one day. The recipe works better with shrimp, but this was a great lunch! And while it takes me over an hour to prepare fajitas on the grill, this only took five minutes. With that in mind, I'm sure we'll do it again and often.

Take II.
Stir-Fried Chicken & Steak Fajitas.

For the third attempt I used big shrimp again, but I removed the shells and the tails. By this point I was so familiar with the recipe that I didn't have to open the book or use a cheat sheet. That was a first! It was good, but not as good as the first try. Yeah, it's messy dealing with the shells, but the shrimp cooks better and tastes better. And who doesn't like eating with their fingers and making a mess? That's half the reason we love hot wings and ribs around here!

Pepper, Onion, & Tomato from the Farmers Market.
Cilantro stolen from neighbor's garden in the dark of night.

Mise en Place.

Five minutes.

Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Rum Shrimp.


I think this dish tastes as good as it looks, and the shrimp was better the first time with the shells on.

Redneck Outdoor Kitchen. On wheels.
Other people call it a workbench and put tools in there and stuff.
I call it a Wokbench [thanks, Robin Sue] and use it for pizza prep and outdoor woking.

Fork Chops.

Does anybody else use Fork Chops? They could come in handy for removing the tail from the shrimp if you don't want to get your hands dirty. But that was actually a trick question because I refuse to use them. I'm boycotting until they start selling Spork Chops, at which time I will buy ten pairs and throw away all my other silverware. Especially if there is a Titanium option.

Anyway... I planned on serving this dish with my version of Mexican rice, but I still had some tortillas available and I couldn't resist. Yum. Home run.

Take III.
Stir-Fried Rum Shrimp Fajita.

Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms (6/27/12)

To be honest, I wasn't really excited about this recipe because I didn't see any meat involved. And that's why I love this Wok Wednesdays group -- this isn't a recipe I would have otherwise tried, but I'm so glad I did! We'll be using this often as a side dish when we have folks over for dinner from now on. In fact, I made this for a late lunch today, but our neighbors are coming over in about twenty minutes for an impromptu burger/brat night and I've got enough ingredients to do this stir-fry again. I'm sure it'll be a big hit.

[UPDATE:  It was a big hit.]

The contrast between the fresh crunchy peas and the soft salty savory mushrooms is great. This is a super easy stir-fry that is even more fun to eat than it is to cook. And I addressed that meat problem by grilling a strip steak while I cooked the stir-fry. Win-win.

Mise en Place.

Strip Steak & Stir-Fry.
Four minutes (for the Stir-Fry).

Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas w/ Shiitake Mushrooms.


I was truly surprised how much I enjoyed this dish by itself, and those mushrooms do go great with a grilled steak...


Yin Yang Beans (7/11/12)

The pickled ginger caught me off guard this week, but that's OK. I know where to get pickled ginger -- my favorite Sushi spot! I don't know if it's cool to pair Japanese Sushi with Chinese Stir-Fry, but it worked for us. I followed the recipe to a T, except that I doubled the amount of ground pork and I salted the pork instead of the boiling water.

Kentucky Roll from Yuki.


Blanching the Beans.

Mise en Place.

Three minutes, when done right.

The observant reader might notice that the shadows moved too fast in the photos above. That's because the wok stove ran out of fuel when I added the ground pork. Doh!

Yin Yang Beans.


Once again, I was surprised by how flavorful this dish was on its own. So were my guests and test subjects. The pork has a great taste, but even when you bite into a bean without any attached meat the flavor is intense. We're happy that it is so easy to create such a dish at home -- if I had tried this at a restaurant, I would return to that restaurant to have it again.

Yin Yang Beans & Yuki Kentucky Roll.


Kung Pao Chicken (7/25/12)

I think this was my favorite recipe so far, partly because we hadn't tried it before and it really came out better than I expected. It required the most work and it was also the most fun.

Living in the middle of Kentucky, the first challenge was finding Sichuan peppercorns. I thought I still had some on hand and I was wrong. We do have a couple Asian/International grocery stores here, but strangely neither one carries these peppercorns so I ordered some off Amazon again (thanks to Grace for giving me that tip last year). They arrived today -- good timing!

Sichuan Peppercorns.

These things are neat-o. The book says they are actually berries, which makes sense because the fruity aroma is more noticeable than the peppery kick. And they produce a tingly feeling on your tongue like Pop Rocks, which is why I think they're fun -- I recommend keeping some on hand to entertain your kids or your guests. My wife does not recommend doing that, and perhaps that's why I couldn't find my stash last week?

Before we use them in a stir-fry, they need to be lightly toasted in the wok and then ground up.

This recipe has more ingredients than the others we've tried...

[The basil is not used here. It's used for pizzas.]

Mise en Place.
Thanks to the Farmers Market, we now have enough mason jars to do this BRK-style!

I already used the carbon steel wok to toast the peppercorns, so why not use a different wok for the stir-fry?

One of my two favorite companies, Weber, introduced the Weber Gourmet BBQ System a year or two ago. The concept is simple -- your grill grate is replaced by a new one with a hole in the center. Four different attachments can occupy that space:  a regular grill grate, a cast iron searing grate, a cast iron griddle, or a cast iron wok!

Weber Gourmet BBQ System at work:
- Searing Grate (Lamb Chops)
- Griddle (Breakfast)
- Wok (Habanero Hellfire Chili)
- Grate (Atomic Buffalo Turds)

I've only used the wok to make chili, so it's time to try a stir-fry. This is fun precisely because there is no good reason to do it. It is certainly easier to stir-fry on the kitchen stove or on the wok stove. Woking over charcoal or wood doesn't allow for much control over the heat level -- the wok may be too hot or not hot enough (especially the first time or two that you try using it), but once you start the stir-fry you are locked in. And it doesn't really provide a grilled or smoked flavor because we're cooking fast with the lid off. The only reason to do it is because we like cooking with fire. And we do like cooking with fire.

I used 25 briquettes in a single layer and pre-heated the wok with the lid closed for ten minutes before adding a chunk of hickory to provide a small flame while stir-frying.  It was a great temp for the stir-fry and I'll try the same method next time. It was 100 degrees outside and humid, so more fuel may be necessary in different weather conditions.

Four minutes.

Kung Pao Chicken.


The Weber wok worked well. I was a bit nervous because when I've used it to make chili in the past, it was definitely too hot. This time I think it was at the perfect temp, it cooked in a nice non-stick fashion, and it cleaned up easy.

We put this one on noodles. I think it would have been better on rice, but it was awesome. Perhaps our new favorite recipe from the book?


Classic Dry-Fried Pepper & Salt Shrimp (8/8/12)

I have done a lot of stir-frying over the last two weeks, and I have learned a lot. Mostly I learned that I was wrong in the last post when I said there was no good reason to stir-fry on the grill. Grace reminded me that there's a great reason -- the heat! I also read this article from The Food Lab that made a lot of sense and confirmed what she was saying. Grace suggested I buy a traditional Chinese cast iron wok, so I did. It arrived today. Great timing!

On the last two Saturdays we've prepared stir-fried meals for dinner guests. Both times I did three stir-fries, and both times I tried this shrimp recipe. On the first Saturday I was cooking on the electric stove in the kitchen and I don't think the wok was hot enough to get the shrimp right. It had a delicious flavor, but not the desired sear and texture. On the second Saturday I cooked outside on the wok Stove and made a conscience effort to keep the wok hot as possible for the shrimp stir-fry. Much better. Today I tried it in my new cast iron wok on the grill and it was perfect. Like the Kung Pao Chicken I did on the grill, there was just something special about this one. Is that the 'wok hee' that Grace talks about? I can honestly say it was the best shrimp I've ever prepared, and maybe the best I've ever tasted.

Although we've agreed to not share recipes from the book on Wok Wednesdays posts, this recipe is easily found online. In fact, it's all over the place. You can get it from Grace, or Martha, or GMA, or several other places. It's popular because it's awesome. Try it... try it with a hot wok.

WOK WORKOUT I:  Stir-Fried Rice, Classic Dry-Fried Pepper & Salt Shrimp, and Stir-Fried Cilantro w/ Bean Sprouts & Chicken.

WOK WORKOUT II:  Classic Dry-Fried Pepper & Salt Shrimp, Hot Pepper Beef, and Kung Pao Chicken.
Mason Jars made it possible!

17" Cast Iron Wok from The Wokshop

The Weber wok on the left is smaller, but much thicker. It's like a cast iron pan and it weighs over nine pounds, compared to three pounds for the traditional 17" wok on the right. The new wok is quite thin -- it flexes when you grab the handles and Grace warns me that it can shatter if you drop it. The big Weber wok takes awhile to heat up, but this new one heats up fast!

I followed Tane Chan's instructions to season the wok -- first baking it in the oven and then stir-frying onions & ginger.

Mise en Place.

This is a really simple recipe. Dry-frying means that there are no liquids added to the stir-fry -- it's just oil, aromatics, and shrimp.

Blurry Stir-Fry, cooked with a headlamp.
Four minutes.

Classic Dry-Fried Pepper & Salt Shrimp.


I really can't describe how good this was, so I won't try. But I will say an accident might have helped. I didn't realize it until the end, but I only cooked about 2/3 of the shrimp -- the others stayed in the mason jar for some reason. That means there was more salt, sugar, and peppercorns per shrimp than the recipe calls for. So when I make it in the future, I'll up the amount salt, sugar, and Sichuan peppercorn... and I'll try to cook all the shrimp. I should also mention that these were big 16/20 count Tiger Shrimp. The first time I tried it with smaller shrimp, but I won't do that again.

I'm so pleased with this new wok that I'm giving my carbon steel wok and my wok stove to my mom. She'll be joining us for Wok Wednesdays now! Sweet...


Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice (8/22/12)

This is a fun recipe that looks a bit intimidating at first because there are a lot of ingredients, but most of those ingredients are used to make the jerk marinade.  If you prepare the marinade and cook the rice the day beforehand, the stir-fry is really quite simple and quick.  BONUS:  the recipe makes more marinade than is needed here, and it makes for some mean grilled chicken!


The rice should be cooked the day before, and the marinade can be made at the same time.

Instead of roasting the marinated chicken in the oven, I did it on the grill with a couple chunks of hickory to add some smoke flavor.  Like bacon and blue cheese, I happen to think hickory smoke makes everything better and this was no exception.


The iGrill is really neat.  I cannot figure out how to pair it with my iPhone, but it's still a great stand-alone tool. An ambient probe can be used to read the grill temp and help you adjust the vents to maintain the proper cooking environment, while a meat probe is used to make sure you pull your product at the perfect time. Alarms can be set for each probe to get your attention if you happen to be doing something other than staring at the grill for an hour.  I bet the iPhone interface is really cool.  Maybe someday I'll figure that out!

Mise en Place.

Three minutes.

I keep forgetting to mention how much I love the curved bottom of these woks.  It's more fun than working with the flat-bottom woks.  Also, I really prefer the cast iron over the carbon steel.  I've only used the cast iron wok twice so far, but I think it's already seasoned better than my carbon steel wok.  Not sure how that works or why it seems to be the case, but I'm definitely getting along better with this one.

Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice.


My wife thought it would have been better with an egg or two mixed in, and I see no reason not to add one next time... and there will most definitely be a next time!

This is a one-dish meal and there's no need to serve it with anything else...

UPDATE:  I had leftovers and I had peppers from the Farmers Market.  I had charcoal.  So it only seemed natural to stuff some peppers with the fried rice and head back to the grill.  Wow.  It might have been the best idea I've had all year.

One pepper wrapped in bacon because why not?  It was the best pepper, of course.

Grilled Peppers stuffed with Chinese Jamaican Jerk Chicken Fried Rice.

Summer Pepper Corn & Stir-Fried Ginger Beef (9/5/12)

This post is late because I was out of town for a few days, but I wasn't about to miss out on these recipes.  We happened to be at my brother's house where my first wok lives, and we did try the Summer Pepper Corn stir-fry at his place.  This was my first wok that I mentioned at the top of this page -- it's an iron/enamel deal that fused with my stove top while I was steaming fish and let the water run out.  When I was finally able to pry it off the stove, it took chunks of glass out of the stove top and left bits of paint behind.  That's when I bought the carbon steel wok & a wok stove and started doing stir-fries outside.  I gave the bad wok to my bro a year ago and I was glad to see he's been using it -- it is well seasoned!  I guess it likes his house better than mine.  That's fine.

My sister-in-law noticed that our Summer Pepper Corn ingredients looked like a popular southern dish they call Fried Corn -- basically just corn and peppers cooked with bacon in the bacon grease and finished with some sugar.  So of course we added bacon!

NOTE:  If you make this dish with bacon, omit the salt.

The bad wok, being good.

Broiled Tilapia & Summer Pepper Corn w/ Bacon.

The bacon was a good addition, and the other folks appreciated the additional aromatics -- I think they'll be adding ginger and jalapeno to their fried corn recipe next time.

Back home I was excited to try the Summer Pepper Corn and Stir-Fried Ginger Beef together.  These are two quick and easy stir-fries that go great together...


Mise en Place I.

Mise en Place II.

Stir-Fry I.
Two minutes.

Summer Pepper Corn.

Stir-Fry II.
Three minutes.

Stir-Fried Ginger Beef.

Stir-Fry III.
Three minutes.

Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken.
My wife doesn't eat beef, so I substituted chicken for a small batch that turned out great.

Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken, Ginger Beef, & Summer Pepper Corn.


I've probably said this before, but this was our favorite stir-fry meal so far.  We thought the Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken was the best -- I'm not sure if it was just cooked better or if these flavors really do work better with chicken than beef, but it was killer.  And we thought the bacon was a great addition to the Summer Pepper Corn.

We love Wok Wednesdays, even when it happens on a Thursday or Sunday...


Stir-Fried Cucumber & Pork with Golden Garlic (9/19/12)

I didn't know what to think about this recipe when I cracked the book open.  On one hand, I knew the Golden Garlic would be great.  On the other hand, I've never used cucumbers in a stir-fry and I didn't know what to expect.  So it was somewhat unexpectedly awesome.


Very few ingredients means this stir-fry is pretty easy.  I used a couple pork shoulder steaks instead of buying a whole Boston Butt.  The third one became BBQ.

Golden Garlic.
It makes everything better.

Mise en Place.
Also, dinner bell.

Four minutes.

Stir-Fried Cucumber & Pork with Golden Garlic.


This was really good.  Much different taste than the previous stir-fries we've tried on this page.  I don't usually think of cucumber as being very flavorful, but the wok and the garlic brought it to life and it complimented the pork quite well.  My assistant and I both liked it.

This one was a no-go for my wife, however, as she eats neither pork or cucumber -- if the recipe included tomatoes, it would be a full fledged nightmare for her!  Eh eh.  I don't get it either, but we have to work around these issues.  So, I made a second stir-fry following the same recipe but with chicken filling in for pork and with broccoli & red bell pepper taking cucumber's place.  It was great!

This book and the WW project have taught me that it's pretty darn easy to improvise when it comes to stir-fries.  We've experimented with different aromatics.  We know how to marinate the meats.  We've learned to make flavorful sauces using a few staple ingredients, and we've learned how to add flavor without using sauce by dry-frying or using flavored oil, as with this recipe.  After awhile, it's pretty easy to combine these different techniques to make impromptu stir-fries with what we have on hand, and so far they've always turned out good!

Golden Garlic Chicken with Broccoli & Peppers.

Both stir-fries w/ white rice.
It's like a buffet up in here.


Stir-Fried Eggs with Tomatoes (10/3/12)

Once again I was out of town on the proper Wednesday, so I made this one a few days late.  And that was cool because it gave me time to see how other Wok Wednesdays bloggers liked the recipe.  Since this is one of the dishes with no picture in the book, I had no idea what it was supposed to look like before I read their posts.  It is a different type of stir-fry than any of the first ten recipes so it was interesting to read their thoughts and Grace's comments.

I didn't get back to town in time to visit my favorite Farmers Market on Saturday, but my favorite CSA Farm let me drop in on Sunday to pick up some fresh eggs & tomatoes -- that sure beats going to the grocery store!  I also grabbed a few peppers and since Judy suggested using basil instead of cilantro, I stole the last of my neighbor's Queen of Sheba basil.  I love cilantro, but there's just something about tomato & basil together.  Also, my neighbor is all out of cilantro.  Eh eh.

All produce from the farmers market, CSA farm, or neighbor's garden.


These peppers are neat.  I don't know their names.  The bulbs on the red ones are sweet while the center tube is spicy.  And those yellow guys might be the hottest peppers I've ever tasted -- similar to a habanero, but with a better flavor.  I added one of each to the other aromatics to spice the dish up a bit.  I also followed Matt's advice to seed the tomatoes before dicing them.

Mise en Place.

Three minutes.

Stir-fried Eggs with Tomatoes.


This was a fun stir-fry, especially once the eggs were added.  I can see why it's important to have a really hot wok at that point.  It was surprisingly tasty for such a simple recipe, and I might add some bell pepper next time for a little crunch.  I followed Cathleen's lead and served it with toast -- grilled garlic bread, in this case.  My peppers didn't add much kick so we also drizzled some Rooster Sauce on top.  That did the trick.  I surprised my wife and asked her to close her eyes for the first bite and she loved it.  I'm starting to question her proclaimed distaste of tomatoes...


UPDATE:  Leftovers made a mean breakfast a couple days later...


Spicy Orange Chicken (10/17/12)

This was a fun simple recipe packed with flavor.  The oranges and tomatoes provide a nice fresh taste.  And I always love the Sichuan peppercorns, but my favorite part of this one was the chili bean sauce.  I'm not 100% I found the right stuff, but it sure was spicy so I think I was at least in the right neighborhood!  A little bit goes a long way...

Oddly enough, the most important ingredient is not pictured!  Whoops.

Mise en Place I.

We're serving the stir-fry with white rice.
I added some Sichuan peppercorns and orange zest while it cooked.

Mise en Place II.

Four minutes.

Spicy Orange Chicken.


As some other Wok Wednesdays bloggers noted, this recipe leaves you with plenty of sauce, so I'm glad we had already decided to serve it with rice.  I like to grill lemon halves because it makes them easier to juice, it makes them a little sweeter, and of course it adds a little grill flavor (the same trick works in a lightly oiled pan).  I'd never done it with oranges before, and this was a good time to do so.

I think this was another great WW recipe pick -- something I would have probably tried eventually, so I'm glad we tried it now.  It was a big hit with the whole family and a neighbor.


Tea-Smoked Shrimp Salad w/ Mango + Steamed Mahi Mahi & Veggies (10/31/12)

So, the 13th Wok Wednesday happens to fall on Halloween, happens to be the third Wednesday in October, and happens to mark the halfway point of our first year wokking through the book together.  Matt thought this would be a good time to hold our first Choose Your Own Adventure week, so we're not doing a specific recipe from the book.  I think this is a great idea and perhaps we should do it every six months?

Unfortunately, we also had Hurricane Sandy moving up the coast this week, so it was probably a good week for some of us to take off.  I'm not sure where all the WW bloggers live, but I know Grace is in NYC and I hope everybody made it through the storm OK.

I decided to do a couple recipes that use the wok for something other than stir-frying, namely steaming & tea smoking.  I've been craving seafood lately and our Farmers Market is going strong with local produce such as broccoli, kale, green beans, green onions, lettuce, and tomatoes available right now.  This made for two nights of fun healthy wok work.

First up is Grace's Tea-Smoked Shrimp Salad w/ Mango recipe -- it's not in the book, but it can be found here at Fine Cooking.

I experimented with tea smoking a few times on the grill and in the wok a couple months ago.  I learned two things:
  1. It works better in the wok than on a charcoal grill because the charcoal can overpower the desired tea smoke flavor.
  2. It's important to use the proper tea leaves.  This recipe calls for Lapsang Souchong, which I was glad to find at our favorite local tea shop, Tea Squares.  It is dark in color -- almost black -- with a rich smokey aroma that probably makes for great tea, but I've just used it for smoking.

Lapsang Souchong.

Tea-Smoked Chicken Wings in the Wok, Take I.
Stainless steel woks are inexpensive and great for smoking and steaming.

Tea-Smoked Chicken Wings in the Wok, Take II.

The smoking process is described in the shrimp salad recipe, using a slightly different technique that doesn't require a wok lid and is probably better for smoking indoors.  My setup uses the round grill grate from the Weber Gourmet BBQ System which fits nicely at the top of a 14" wok.  The wok lid does not create a perfect seal, so some smoke does escape and that's why I do this outdoors.

Rice not visible, but it's back there.

We had an avocado on hand so I added it to the salad, and I couldn't resist adding some Sichuan peppercorns to the shrimp stir-fry.  I also used Mountain Mustard from my Hillbilly Griller friends instead of using Dijon mustard -- it's a tangy & spicy mustard BBQ sauce that I've been using on everything lately, and it worked great for this salad dressing.

Mise en Place.
The smoking agents are in the foil and ready for the wok.

With Sandy's winds blowing every which way, the only place I could use the wok stove was in the garage.  I'm not complaining!  I know she's treating others a lot worse.

And, yeah, I still have the carbon steel wok.  I was supposed to hand it over to my mom, but I just can't seem to part with it.  So I ordered her a new one from The Wok Shop this week.  She'll be joining us for Wok Wednesdays now.  I mean it this time.  For real.

We first cook the shrimp with a simple stir-fry that is similar to the Dry-Fried Pepper & Salt Shrimp we made in August.

Tea Smoking.

Having two woks makes this process a lot faster, as you can go straight from the stir-fry to the smoke.

If I hadn't tried this before, I would have been tempted to leave the shrimp in the smoke for more than the recommended 2-1/2 minutes.  While the chicken can smoke longer, this is plenty of time for the shrimp to absorb some good flavor without becoming too pungent, and the end result was the best shrimp I've had since we last made Dry-Fried Pepper & Salt Shrimp.

Build the salad (lettuce, tomatoes, mango, avocado, dressing).
Top with shrimp.

Tea-Smoked Shrimp Salad w/ Mango & Avocado.


Best salad we've ever made?  Best salad we've ever made!


Next up is the Steamed Mahi Mahi & Veggies.  Tane Chan gave me this simple recipe for steaming fish when I bought my first wok from her.  I can't seem to find it, so I may not have it exactly right, but it goes something like this:
  • Lay fish on a bed of green onions and top with salt, pepper, and ginger slivers.
  • Steam fish for ten minutes or until done.
  • When ready to serve, pour a couple tablespoons of hot oil over the fish (it should sizzle) and add soy sauce to taste.

Mise en Place.

We usually use trout, but I couldn't find any and this technique has always worked with any fish I've tried.  I filled the other bamboo steamer rack with beans and kale from one of our favorite local farms.

Bring water to a boil in the wok.
Heat oil in a smaller pan.

Place steamer racks on wok and wait.

After about ten minutes the fish and veggies are done.  There weren't many pictures to be taken here, mostly because it's such a simple process.  The fun part is pouring the hot oil over the fish right before serving.  SIZZZZLE!  Along with the soy sauce, it adds a little something special.  We just tossed the veggies in some olive oil, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper.

Wok-steamed Mahi Mahi with Kale & Beans.


There's a lot of green on that plate, so it must be healthy.  It's super simple and always a big hit around here... I don't know why we don't do it more often.

Stir-Fried Garlic Eggplant with Pork (11/14/12)

I don't like eggplant.  It's a texture thing, and I haven't eaten it on purpose as an adult because I remember how well we got along when I was a kid.  But I haven't missed a WW recipe yet, and I've come to appreciate a lot of foods I didn't like when I was younger, so I had to try this one.  I'm a little late because I was hoping to use some eggplant from the Farmers Market, but everybody sold out early last Saturday.  So I waited for this Saturday and nobody brought any.  Apparently it's gone for the year.


Our grocery store occasionally carries the Asian variety, but they haven't had any lately so we used standard eggplant.  I did at least get the meat and green onions from a couple of my favorite farmers.  And I decided to use bourbon (+ water) instead of rice wine this time.  Here in Bourbon Country, we use it in a lot of recipes but I hadn't thought to try it in a stir-fry before.

Note that we don't use any salt this time.  A quick look through the pictures above confirms that this is the first such recipe, and I assume that's because we use so much soy sauce?

Mise en Place.

This is an interesting recipe because there aren't many ingredients and the prep time is minimal.  However, the stir-fry itself has more steps than any other recipe we've tried (as illustrated by the picture below).  We need to use the wok lid and modulate the heat throughout the cook, so this was not a good recipe to try on the grill.  I'm sure the lid will work fine on the bigger cast iron wok, but there's no good way to dial down the heat once the fire is going!

35 minutes.
OK, fine... it was right at ten minutes.

Stir-Fried Eggplant with Pork.


That was fun.  The bourbon did add a bit of that familiar smokey sweet flavor, but it was largely overpowered by the soy sauce.  It was worth it just for the awesome aroma when I removed the wok lid the first time, and I'll definitely try it again in other stir-fries.  And I definitely recommend this recipe for those who like eggplant, as it really soaks up the flavors and I'm sure it would be good without the pork as a vegetarian dish.  The stir-fry did give the eggplant a bit of a crunch, which helped with the texture that I don't like.  I'll probably try this again next year when the CSA boxes start rolling in so I can see how the Asian eggplant is different.

My favorite part of this recipe was the pork mixture that was quickly stir-fried at the beginning and added to the eggplant later.  We've been making eggrolls at home this week, experimenting with different recipes and frying them in the Wok.  The pork mixture from this recipe would make a perfect eggroll filling, along with some cabbage and carrots, and it just takes a few minutes to prepare and cook.  Can't wait to try it.

Speaking of eggrolls...

Stir-Fried Garlic Eggplant with Pork + Turkey Avocado Eggrolls with Sweet Chili Sauce.


UPDATE:  We did use the recipe for the pork mixture to make Ginger Pork Eggrolls, and they were great. We scaled the recipe up to use 16oz of pork, and we added some pre-mixed coleslaw to make the filling.  Along with three eggs that was enough to make 16 fairly large eggrolls.  Big hit, and it couldn't be much easier...

Stir-Fried Mussels with Ginger & Scallions (11/28/12)

I've never cooked with mussels, so I was looking forward to this one.  And then I realized that we can't get fresh mussels around here, unless we want to order ten pounds of 'em.  We don't.  So we can either drive an hour to the big city or buy frozen mussels at Walmart.  I went to Walmart.

Nobody else in my house eats mussels, so I cut the recipe in half.  That's cool because a personal-sized stir-fry is a great reason to use this 10" hand-hammered wok from The Wokshop.  When I bought my copy of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge from Tane Chan, she was running a promotion that included this small wok with the book.  I've never really used it before, except to stir-fry some ginger and scallions to season it.

10" Hand-Hammered "Pow" Wok from The Wok Shop.


Mise in Place.

The frozen mussels were already cooked, so I thawed them and reduced the stir-fry to two steps:
  1. Aromatics.
  2. Everything else.

Almost  two minutes.

Stir-Fried Mussels w/ Ginger & Scallions.


I really liked the soy sauce/ginger flavor of this dish and since these pre-cooked mussels were already open, the abbreviated stir-fry allowed them to soak up the flavor without being overcooked.  I look forward to doing this one proper with fresh mussels someday, but I'll remember how quick and easy this method was and I'd be glad to prepare it this way for guests.  I also love Shirley's idea to have some ciabatta bread handy to soak up the sauce.


UPDATE:  I had fun with the little wok and I wanted to try the whole stir-fry proper, so I did the recipe with a pound of bay scallops and mixed some noodles in at the end.  Quick tasty lunch!

Stir-Fried Scallops w/ Ginger & Scallions.

Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli (12/12/12)

"This is like pro-cooked broccoli!"  So said my 12-year-old assistant, after his first bite of our 12/12/12 recipe.  When a pre-teen boy is impressed by broccoli that isn't covered in cheese and bacon, it must be tasty, right?

This was certainly our easiest WW stir-fry so far, and the simplicity is probably why it was the first recipe I tried from the book nearly two years ago.  My assistant didn't eat so much broccoli back then, but my wife loved it then and now.  The stir-fry itself just takes a minute (literally) so it's a great thing to prepare as a side-dish, even if you're preparing something else in the wok first.



Since we did this a day late, I followed Matt's advice to blanch for a shorter period of time, and I used Cathleen's method for extracting ginger juice.  I thought both ideas were good ones...

Mise en Place, post-blanching.

Gotta have something to eat with this broccoli, so...

One minute.

Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli.


I forgot how good this was.  The wok was so hot that I'm not sure the stir-fry even lasted a minute.  I was worried that it was going to burn, and the end result was some very crisp and tasty broccoli.  The remaining ginger soy sauce is great for dipping anything in.  Grilled chicken & shrimp, perhaps?


UPDATE:  I previously mentioned that I was going to give my carbon steel wok to my mom, but I was unable to part with it so I bought her a new one from The Wok Shop as an early Christmas present.

New carbon steel wok along with some little extras from The Wok Shop.

Merry Christmas!

She got it seasoned in time to do this week's recipe with us, along with some Stir-Fried Peruvian Beef.  I'm glad she's on board!  Hopefully I'll be posting more of her pics in the future.  I know the broccoli was a big hit at her house, too.

Newly seasoned wok.

Mom's Stir-Fried Ginger Broccoli.

Wok-Popped Popcorn (12/26/12)

We took a simpler approach to the second Choose Your Own Adventure week than we did a couple months ago with our 10/31/12 meals.  Instead of tea-smoking anything or steaming a whole meal, we're just making popcorn.  And it's a good day for it.  Not only is it cold and dark and snowy outside, but our WKU Hilltoppers are playing in their very first Bowl Game tonight.  So this is game food.  Go Tops!

In the book, Grace talks about how a popcorn session can really help your wok's patina.  She also provides a quick easy recipe.  We don't really measure the amount of oil or popcorn anymore, mostly because I've noticed that different kinds of popcorn kernels produce a different amount of finished product.  It's true that the wok always looks better after doing popcorn, especially if you've done a wok facial first.  Fortunately, I haven't needed to do one of those lately!

Also, Mise en Place.

Sometimes we add melted butter and a bunch of salt, and sometimes we use bacon fat instead of oil to add flavor.  But after all the holiday eating, it's probably best to keep it simple today.  So, we're going with peanut oil and a couple Farmers Market finds -- popcorn from our favorite orchard and some herbal popcorn salt.

Add oil and one popcorn kernel.
Apply medium heat and wait for the kernel to pop.

Sometimes that first kernel stays in the wok, and sometimes it escapes.  Sometimes that's the subject of a good bet.

Add popcorn.
Cover and reduce heat.

I'm not saying it's a good idea, but while the kernels are popping you can lift the one side of the lid just a little to shoot popping corn in the general direction of other people in the room.  Or dogs.  But they're not supposed to eat popcorn.

Wok-Popped Popcorn.

I usually salt the popcorn once while it's in the wok, and then transfer to a big bowl and salt again.  If adding melted butter, I also do that at the same time in two stages.  Then it doesn't take much mixing to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Herb-Salted Wok-Popped Popcorn.


After using a paper towel to quickly remove the remaining salt, she sure does shine.

Game Food.
Go Tops!

Stir-Fried Curried Beef (1/9/13)

Kinda like eggplant, curry is something I've purposely avoided as an adult.  I think I was over-exposed to a particular curried chicken dish as a child, but it was my fault because I found the recipe in my NatGeo Kids magazine (or some such thing).  The color looked cool, so I showed it to mom and apparently she liked the result more than I did at the time!  I don't think I've ever cooked with curry, and I've avoided Indian restaurants on purpose.  Now I think I've been missing out, 'cause this was good.

Real quick, I gotta say I'm pretty excited about Wok Wednesdays in 2013.  Matt & Grace have good ideas lined up, and some cool things have happened over the last few days:
  • Grace shared this blog post, which is awesome.  It cracked me up because 1) I could relate -- she basically explains why I couldn't give my carbon steel wok away, even after I started using other woks more often.  And 2) I never considered that a wok could be a dude.  My woks are pretty ladies, just like my motorcycles -- I'm sure of it!  Grace says that wok gender is a funny thing.  I reckon that's true.
  • I saw two mentions of one of Grace's other books two days in a row.  That must have been a sign that I should purchase a copy of The Breath of a Wok, now in its ninth printing.  So I did.
  • Like my mom, I think my cousin is going to start doing recipes with us when he can.  (Mom is doing this one tomorrow, hopefully.  I'll update with her pics when she does.)
  • The WW Facebook Group is becoming more active with new folks joining and posting pictures & starting conversations.
  • My friend Robin Sue from Big Red Kitchen joined us again for this recipe.
  • Cathy from My Culinary Mission posted the coolest wok storage idea I've ever seen.
  • I learned what SWMBO means.  Thanks, Mitchell!  


In the book Grace says this is a nice recipe because you only need to shop for the beef and tomato.  She's right!  [Of course, a year ago I wouldn't always have staples like ginger, rice wine, dark soy sauce, etc. on hand, but now I always do.]  Tomatoes have been sparse at the farmers market lately, so I was stoked to see some new folks selling tomatoes from a neighboring county last weekend.  I missed out on flank steak but I scored some local flat iron steak.  I can't explain why I had curry powder in the spice drawer -- I don't remember buying it, and it was unopened.  But I'm glad it was there.

Speaking of my farmers market friends, congrats to the BG Community Farmers Market for getting Runner Up in the 2012 Kentucky Farmers Market of the Year Awards this week... in just their second year of operation!  They've taught me that food really is better when you know where it came from, and thanks to these folks we know where most of our meats, produce, and dairy products are grown and processed.

Mise en Place.


Four minutes.

Stir-Fried Curried Beef.


This is really good, and fun largely because of that yellowish-green curry color.  I didn't change anything with the recipe, and if I do anything different next time I might use cherry or grape tomatoes.  I ended up with a lot of sauce, and I'm glad.  Served with rice, the extra sauce is nice to have...

Stir-Fried Curried Beef w/ Rice.

SWMBO's Plate.

That might look like a joke or seem mean, but it was neither.  My wife doesn't eat beef and she still claims to dislike tomatoes, so she had some rice w/ peas & sauce and she loved it.


UPDATE:  Mom joined us again this week and she sent some nice pics...

Stir-fry action.
Her wok is already looking good!

Mom's Stir-Fried Curried Beef.

Hoisin Explosion Chicken (1/23/13)

I missed this one, so here's a picture from when we first met way back in 2011...

Hoisin Explosion Chicken & Hong Kong-Style Ginger Mango Chicken.

Hoisin Explosion Chicken is a family favorite, and I look forward to making it again soon.  This space will be updated when we do.

UPDATE (2/6/13):  "You outdid yourself this time, babe."  That's what we like to hear.  But that wasn't the best.

"More, Dadda!"  That was the best.

That was the first time our 2 1/2-year-old has ever asked for more chicken.  He deals with food texture hypersensitivity issues that have made it impossible for him to eat the same foods that we eat, but he's made a lot of progress over the last three months.  Thanksgiving Day was a big milestone, as he went a whole day without eating any baby food for the first time.  Today he turned 32 months old and this meal will be remembered as the first time he ate rice and bell pepper.  High five, Hoisin Explosion Chicken!


I stole Cooking Cajun's idea and used Water Chestnuts instead of Bamboo Shoots.

This is the first WW recipe we've done that employs the velveting technique, whereby we marinate the chicken in a egg white/cornstarch mixture before briefly blanching it ahead of our stir-fry.  The end result is surprisingly tender and moist chicken, noticeably different than what we get from the previous [or the following] stir-fries where we spend a minute searing the meat in a hot wok.  I also like it because it makes the stir-fry itself go faster.

Velvet Chicken, pre-blanch & post-blanch.

Mise en Place.

About two minutes.

Wok shot of the nearly finished product.

Hoisin Explosion Chicken.

This was something special.  We love the recipe and we've made it three times before, but today it was something special.  When I tried a couple bites fresh off the grill, I immediately thought it tasted like something fresh from a good Chinese restaurant, or maybe even better.  My wife made the same restaurant comparison a few minutes later.  This was our best stir-fry yet, but why?
  1. Magic bottle of Hoisin Sauce?  I reckon that's possible, but I hope that's not the case because it would be hard to replicate in the future.
  2. Velveting?  I'm sure that had something to do with it.
  3. Wok hee?  I hope that's it.
It also occured to me that I like the flavor of this dish because it is similar to good BBQ -- sweet, spicy, and tangy all at once.  Oh, I really liked the water chestnuts, too.  Think we might stick with that...

Mini-Me's Plate (he shared with Momma).

Chicken Lo Mein w/ Ginger Mushrooms (2/6/13)

Noodle fail.  I guess this is really Chicken Ramen because instead of using thick Chinese egg noodles, I used skinny Japanese wheat noodles.  Let's see... what else?  I used bean sprouts instead of Napa cabbage, black pepper instead of white, sliced scallions instead of shredded, and I really upped the amount of crushed red pepper.  On the bright side, I did use the right mushrooms.  I think.


I might disagree with the book when it says this recipe is "extremely simple to make" -- I know some simpler Ramen noodle meals!  Our 12-year-old recently informed me that he plans to make it through college on PB&J and Ramen noodles.  Today I told him that's fine, but he should get his own wok and start learning how to stir-fry now because some Ramen noodle meals are better than others.  After this dinner, he gets my point.

Mise en Place.
The noodles have already been cooked.

About ten minutes, including a half-time break after picture #5.

Chicken Lo Mein w/ Ginger Mushrooms.


Everybody loved this one, especially my wife who prefers stir-fries that include noodles.  When I'm doing all the cooking, I also prefer them because no rice or other sides need to be prepared -- this is a great meal by itself.

We've got a bit of sickness running through the house, so this was the perfect dinner for us at the moment -- somewhat soothing like chicken noodle soup, but way better than chicken noodle soup.  The flavors came together well and there was a little kick but I wouldn't call it spicy.  I really like the texture of the mushrooms & noodles vs. the chicken.

I noticed that this recipe made a lot of food -- more than any of our previous recipes, I'm sure.  It was a main course for three and we only ate half of what I prepared.  Perhaps I cooked too many noodles?  I don't know, but I'll do it the same way next time because I love having leftovers!  Mmmmmm... breakfast.


Minced Pork in Lettuce Cups (2/20/13)

The date is actually March 12th.  I'm only running about three weeks behind, but I'm determined to not miss a WW recipe so today we started catching up.  I have been looking forward to this one, as I knew it was something the whole family would enjoy.  This was fun.


Mise en Place.

The only tricky thing about the ingredients is finding fresh water chestnuts.  I did not find them, and I also did not find either of Grace's suggested substitutes.  [TANGENT:  It's been rough around here lately.  My grocery store recently ran out of garlic.  Yes, garlic.]  So I used the familiar canned variety that Grace recommends not using, and no complaints here -- I like those things.  Other than that, the prep and the stir-fry are pretty pretty simple, even though this is one of those two-step deals where we remove the meat from the wok for a bit before adding it back to finish the dish at the end.

Seven minutes.

Stir-Fried Minced Pork.

Minced Pork w/ Lettuce Cups & Hoisin Sauce.


Just as expected, everybody loved this one.  Even the two-year-old.  The stir-fry itself is tasty enough, and the hoisin sauce really sets it off.  I think of it like a crunchy version of Moo Shu Pork, and there's probably a million ways to eat it.

Minced Pork in Lettuce Cups.

The lettuce cups are the most fun.  [BONUS:  whenever you eat something wrapped in lettuce, it just seems healthy.]  After running out of lettuce we tried soft flour tortillas and hard taco shells.  It worked with everything.  My favorite assembly was a hard taco shell + pork stir-fry + hoisin sauce + shredded lettuce + cilantro -- that's one mean taco!

Lettuce.  Tortilla.

Two Mean Tacos.

Stir-Fried Chili Scallops w/ Baby Bok Choy (3/6/13)

This recipe really made me appreciate why Wok Wednesdays is so cool.  Three things:
  1. This is one of those recipes that I wouldn't have otherwise tried.  Bok Choy?  No idea what that is.
  2. When I did have questions about the bok choy, I jumped on the WW facebook page and both Matt and Grace replied to my query within minutes.  Hey, I've got more than a few cookbooks.  And I'm sure if I tried hard enough, I could get a few of the authors to answer a question eventually.  But how many of those folks would answer a silly question like mine before I even leave for the store?  One.
  3. Bok choy wasn't my only problem.  I couldn't find the Chili Bean Sauce at either of my local Asian grocery stores, so Grace directed me to a place where I could order some.  This is like point #2 on steroids.  Thanks, Grace!


Those big ole scallops came from Rian's Fatted Calf and I tried to cut each one into four uniform pieces.  It didn't make for the best pictures, but it had to be done.

My shipment of chili bean sauce wasn't gonna be here in time, so I used something called Ground Chili in Soya Bean Oil instead.  As it turns out, it's not even in the same ballpark as what I needed, but I love it.  Crazy hot!  Use sparingly, as they say.

Mise en Place.

Check it out.  Bok choy is kinda cool.

Six Minutes.

Cooling off...

The big cast iron wok is my favorite.  It cools down as fast as it heats up, and sometimes it's easier to just pull the wok off the grill than it is to scoop out the contents before the stir-fry is overcooked.  In cold weather like this, the wok cools down so fast that it can be handled without gloves in just a minute or two.

Stir-Fried Chili Scallops w/ Baby Bok Choy.


I liked this meal because it was colorful and somewhat exotic compared to what we're used to eating at home.  It was a little too exotic for my assistant, and that was to be expected.  After getting my hands on the proper chili bean sauce, I understand that whatever I made here is probably not much like what Grace had in mind or what the other WW folks enjoyed, so I look forward to trying this again with the right ingredients.  But I have no regrets about how this one turned out, and with some white rice to sop up the spicy sauce it was one fine lunch...



Stir-Fried Chicken w/ Carrots & Mushrooms (3/20/13)

Carrots.  Mushrooms.  I learned a lot this week.  There was an informative mushroom discussion on the WW facebook page where I learned that I'm doing mushrooms wrong -- instead of using fresh Shiitakes, I need to try buying the dehydrated version and rehydrating them for a more intense flavor.  So next time I shall, but in this case I already had my fresh mushrooms and since they aren't cheap I used them.

Mostly I learned that I love carrots.  I'm surprised I didn't already know that.  I always considered them an after thought -- something to throw in a dish for some texture or color, but I never thought a carrot could be the big star.  Until Sunday.  For St. Patrick's Day I grilled all the veggies, and the grilled carrots stole the show.  Can't believe we never tried that before.  The next day I made this stir-fry that features carrots.  Carrots.  Carrots.  Carrots.

Grilled carrots, and other stuff that isn't meat.

[I should mention that since Thanksgiving I've been wanting to make Grace's Stir-Fried Balsamic Ginger Carrots, but I'm waiting to get some carrots from one of my favorite farmers.  Still haven't got to the market early enough to score some.  Dude sells out early!]

I didn't need all those carrots.

Carrot meets Kinpira Peeler.

The other thing I learned this week is that I should not have waited two and a half years to follow the book's advice and buy a Kinpira Peeler.  This is one of the coolest things ever.  When it comes to knife work and meal prep in general, I'm pretty slow.  Now I'm a bit faster...

Mise en Place.

Beautiful Kentucky day.  Almost.

About five minutes.

Stir-Fried Chicken w/ Carrots & Mushrooms.


This was a fun and simple stir-fry lunch, and I just added a little bit of cilantro instead of making rice or noodles.  This was one of the few recipes in the book that doesn't include a picture, and I'm always interested to see how it looks when I didn't have any particular expectations.  I think it looked pretty good and tasted better.  In retrospect, it probably would have been great in lettuce cups.  Next time...


UPDATE (3/25/13):  As mentioned above, I've been wanting to try Grace's Stir-Fried Balsamic Ginger Carrot recipe for months, but I've been waiting for some good carrots.  Just a few days after making that statement, and even though I got to the market late, Sunny Point Gardens still had some carrots left!  Not many, and I didn't want to take all of them, so I cut this recipe in a third.  It was the perfect amount for a side-dish with lunch.  I also used green onions instead of chives, cooked this one inside for a change, and tried a wooden spatula.  Won't do that again.

All pics except the very last one are Instagram.

Star ingredient.

Post-blanch Mise en Place. 

Stir-Fry took just two minutes.

Stir-Fried Balsamic Ginger Carrots.


I'll be doing this one pretty often from now on.  I've never had carrots quite like this, with a strong ginger flavor and a hint of extra sweetness from the balsamic vinegar.  Delicious.

Stir-Fried Balsamic Ginger Carrots & Chicken Marsala..

Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage & Egg (4/3/13)

We've gone from carrots to cabbage, and this is probably the simplest stir-fry since Week I.  It came at a great time for us... Spring Break!  I figure that if Grace can carry her wok on airplane trips, I should be able to throw mine in the minivan before we head south.  The bag didn't quite zip shut, but I was able to get my wok stove, wok, spatula, favorite cutting board, and favorite knife in there...

Have wok, will travel.

Anna's Spaghetti Carbonara.

Our room had a well-furnished kitchen, but it was full of non-stick pans, so the wok came in handy for making several meals before we got around to the WW stir-fry.

[TANGENT:  As an aside, I gotta say that I love cooking on the road.  Love it.  Of course we like going out to nice restaurants, too, but I spent less money on four days worth of groceries than we spent on one meal at The Melting Pot last year.  Vacation is more relaxing when you don't have to get everybody ready to go out every night.  Something to be said for that...]

I found Nappa cabbage.  I did not find white pepper.

This stir-fry is meant to be a side dish, and there are very few ingredients.  I was worried that the Napa Cabbage might be hard to find, but they had plenty at the Publix store I visited.

Mise en Place.

I always do my stir-fries outdoors, but the scenery isn't usually this nice!

Around three minutes.

Grace has some pretty good advice in the book about how to handle the egg.  We ignored it, and my assistant broke our first egg.  I one-upped him a few minutes later, though, when I broke that big glass bowl.  Whoops.  Wonder if they'll notice?

Hakka-Style Stir-Fried Cabbage & Egg.


Even with the egg mishap, I think we got it right -- the cabbage still had some crunch to it, so it wasn't overcooked.  The egg really ties everything together and the end result is a nice side dish with a good earthy flavor.  We ate it with my all-time favorite hotel room food -- Great Grandmother's Roast Beef.


Wok Portraits (4/17/13)

In honor of the fact that we've been doing this for nearly a year and the WW group is growing, Grace and Matt wanted to do something different this week and have everyone share pictures of their woks. Sounds good to me; I like pictures of woks. 

WW Woks, Year I.

My submission is this collage showing four of the woks I've used this past year (all from The Wok Shop):
  • My favorite -- the cast iron wok I use on a charcoal grill. It has produced our best stir-fries.
  • The trusty old flat-bottom carbon steel wok. This is the only new picture (more below).
  • The small hand-hammered pow wok that's great for cooking small stir-fries for one.
  • The stainless steel wok that we use for steaming.

Even though there wasn't a WW recipe this week, we did do a few stir-fries. Our CSA pick-ups started in April and it provided us with more greens than I know what to do with. It was a challenge to use them up, especially in the first week that was shortened because we picked our box up late -- I've never ate so many veggies in five days of my life.

That's a LOT of green stuff for five days.

The new picture above shows my two-year-old helping finish this improvised stir-fry using chicken, turnip greens, radishes, and a jalapeno. It was a home run and not something I could have put together a year ago (thanks Wok Wednesdays).

Sad to say, the first time this Kentucky boy has cooked with turnip greens!

Before picking up the Week II box, we still had one head of lettuce left so I did the lettuce stir-fry from the book and topped it with wood-grilled peppers & onions.

Stir-Fried Lettuce with Chili Garlic, page 195.


A meatless meal that I enjoyed? Yup. The combination of Chinese stir-fried veggies and good ol' grilled veggies was neat. There will certainly be more such improvisations using our CSA boxes in the near future, and some repeats of previous stir-fries. I hear the Napa cabbage is almost ready and we know what to do with that...

Velvet Chicken w/ Asparagus (5/1/13)

This recipe marks the end of the first year of Wok Wednesdays.  It's been a great year and it's ending well with one of my favorite recipes and some new toys that arrived in the mail after the Wok Portrait Contest. Tane Chan from The Wok Shop was kind enough to send everybody who posted a wok shot some gifts, and Matt & Grace selected me as the winner of some Helen Chen kitchen scissors. I hope they know how much I've enjoyed the stir-fries this year, and I certainly appreciate the effort they put forth to create and maintain WW. As we finish this first year, it really seems to be picking up steam...

Supercool Negri cutter, fat skimmer, and a couple other gadgets from The Wok Shop.  Thanks, Tane!
And thanks to Matt, Grace, and Helen Chen for the scissors.
(Great timing, as I had just thrown my last pair away.)

As mentioned above, this is one of our favorite recipes and one of the first we tried from the book. I was never a big fan of asparagus, but the velveting technique (discussed more above in the Hoisin Explosion Chicken post from 1/23/13) seemed intriguing and we dig it.

When we first met, back in 2011.

This is a simple recipe, and the stir-fry portion doesn't take long after the chicken and asparagus have been blanched. This chicken (River Cottage Farm) and asparagus (Crooked Creek Farms) were both fresh and local from the market.

Well, most of them.

Here's the rest.

Mise en Place, post-blanch.

About two minutes.

Velvet Chicken w/ Asparagus.


Although the Hoisin Explosion Chicken was our best stir-fry to date, I think this one is a better example of the velveting technique. Here the sauce doesn't have such a prominent flavor and the dish is really about the chicken and the asparagus, so it's easier to appreciate the texture of the chicken. And of course the quality of the asparagus plays a big role in how the finished deal turns out. With great fresh asparagus this one turned out quite well. We had it with brown rice from our CSA box.


So, there it is -- one year of woking through Sky's Edge is in the books. I'll start a new page for Year II, and I hope to start several more as Wok Wednesdays continues to grow. Hopefully we'll get through the whole book and Grace will have to write another...



  1. Nice post. And the dish looks beautiful! I never thought of an wok stove for outdoors. Cool.

  2. Great post. Love the the first and last photo!

  3. great pictures, and loved your post on woking wednesday spinach!

  4. Thanks, y'all. I highly recommend buying one of these Wok stoves if you don't have a gas stove. They come in a durable plastic case so they also make great camping stoves (unless you're hiking). The fuel canisters are cheap and they go a long way since each stir-fry only lasts a few minutes.

  5. Your wok looks fantastic - much better than mine! I might invest in a wok stove too. I haven't burnt up my stove, but I have splattered everything within a five-foot radius with oil.

  6. Yes, I truly miss my gas stove (15 yrs now). I think I might try the outdoor stove! Thanks for sharing! Great post too!

  7. Thanks Matt & Debbie. The first Wok I bought had an enamel coating and I accidentally let it run dry while I was steaming some fish. The paint fused to the stovetop and when I finally pried the Wok off it pulled chunks of the glass top along with it. Very impressive! I called Tane Chan the next day and it's been all good since then.

  8. "Use it with confidence, and wash your hands afterwards!"
    Now that right there made me laugh so hard- because it is SO true! Love that last photo and your wok looks like it is an old pro. That burner is pretty cool and since my cooktop doesn't seem to get hot enough I will have to look into one. Thanks for the links too! My hubby got some of the leftovers for lunch and really liked it too- winner!

  9. Where is the Anaheim chili? Oh wait a minute did I use the wrong chili. Mine was red, purchased at the Super H, and very spicy. We loved it. Awesome post, btw, and the pictures Wok.

  10. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! GG, it sounds like yours was a little spicier than most! I liked the Wok breakfast post on your blog and I reckon we'll have to try that soon.

  11. Cool post Rob! Great photo of the Wok Bench and I am with you, must have spork chops. Too funny! Good idea to make these into fajitas too- that is one way to get the kids to eat them. They will eat fajitas, peppers, onions and all, but outside of a tortilla, they won't touch it. Weirdos.

  12. Thanks, Robin Sue. And thanks for hosting the recipe this week. I wish I would have thought of "Wok Bench" -- I might have to edit that in! I also wish I would have seen your post before I cooked because I bet it's better with the yellow peppers...

  13. The charred handle just adds character! With this dish I would remove the shells. Personally I have not really noticed that much of a difference cooking shrimp with/without the shells. Great photos as seems to be the norm with you -absolutely love the black and white header photo! The fajita looks great.

  14. Thanks, Cathleen. I'm glad I tried the shrimp both ways, and I really thought it tasted better when cooked in the shell. But with the shells off, the fajita thing was fun. I consider it a win/win. :)

  15. My mouth is watering looking at your photos. We don't often eat meat, but a good steak with a side of sugar snaps and shiitake sounds very good about now.

  16. Isn't it amazing that something so simple can taste so good!

  17. The grill with attached Wok Station is very cool! How come when guys cook, it is soooo much more awesom than we gals do it? I mean you have the cool Wok Bench, the cool grill, the HOT Wood Oven. Jeez I feel like a whimp around you. I must up my cool factor! This was a good recipe, I agree and with those mushrooms, all the more for me.

  18. Thanks, Robin Sue. That was the last day that didn't hit 100 or 110 here, so we've been cooking inside for the last week. I never thought I'd say it's too hot to make a fire, but it's been too hot to make a fire!

  19. I too have been amazed at how flavorful these dishes are. I love your grillin' plate!

  20. Great photos; the dish looks awesome. I have to admit, if you hadn't pointed out the moving shadows I never would have picked up the discrepancy in timing. Aww, those pesky gas-fueled grills, you never know when they will run out. The beans were awesome.

  21. Totally jealous of your sushi! Great idea!

  22. This too is one of my favorites along with the Burmese Chili Chicken. You are brave to wok over coals!

  23. Neat grill- I had no idea that type existed. Hurray for jars- they really do make it all go so much easier- but I guess any bowl would do, I just like my jars! I haven't tried this recipe, I am a bit behind on WW. I haven't even looked at this week's recipe. With 3 kids at home and a wee book to write I think I am sinking fast.

    1. Thanks, Robin Sue. This is just a regular Weber kettle grill with their Gourmet BBQ System Grate that has a hole in the middle for the various attachments. I gotta say, I think I'd buy the grill just for the opportunity to Wok with it! This one is in it's eighth summer and I've only had to replace the bottom charcoal grate. I guess they last forever...

  24. Your cast iron wok is b e a u t i f u l!!! as well as your shrimp! That's great you gave your other wok to your mom and she will be joining in on the fun. Welcome mom!

    1. Thanks, Cathleen! I don't know how this stuff works, but the Cast Iron seemed easier to season than the Carbon Steel. I forgot to mention this, but it's also neat to work with the round bottom instead of the flat bottom. Of course I'd give Mom this new Wok if she wanted it, but she doesn't have a Weber Grill so that wouldn't make any sense. I'm glad she'll be on board now, though!

  25. The stuffed peppers look and sound wonderful! Great idea! So jealous of your round bottomed wok. :)

    1. Thanks Cathleen. These peppers were pretty sweet and they complimented the jerk chicken flavor very well. I can't wait to do it again. Regarding the Wok, I highly recommend going this route. It's really not very expensive to get setup and it's so much fun. I just did some quick price checking to see how much it would cost to get going from scratch and it looks like you can do it for about $125. BONUS: You have a sweet charcoal grill that will last pretty much forever!

      $75 -- 22.5" Weber Kettle Grill
      $30 -- Weber Gourmet BBQ System Grate
      $20 -- 17" Cast Iron Wok

  26. Love your photos; they make everything look so good.

  27. Those red peppers sound interesting! I'll have to keep my eye open for those. Great work once again!

    1. Thanks, Cathleen! I've bought them a few times this summer/fall and they were just as good earlier in the season when they were bright green. I kinda liked going late with this recipe and seeing what you and Matt and Judy did first. I might just keep doing it this way. Eh eh.

  28. I enjoyed the spicy orange chicken too. I love your idea of adding pepper and orange zest to the rice, and grilling the oranges. yum.

  29. Wow! Rob, you are an amazing wokker!! Love reading your posts. Your friends and family are so lucky to share in your experiments.

    1. Thanks, Cathleen! I'll be the first to say that some experiments go better than others...

  30. The pow wok is beautiful! Great pictures as always.

  31. Great Pictures as usual ...
    Merry Christmas .

    1. Thank you! I enjoy the pics you post on the facebook page. Makes the world seem like a smaller place...

  32. Great post! It seems everywhere I turn I am seeing an article or mention of Grace - where has she been all my life? Yes, you have been missing out ~ love curry! We are lucky to have a fabulous Indian restaurant near by. I was surprised by the addition of curry in this dish. Good thing you had a lot of sauce ~ so good over the rice. Thank you for the link back. :)

  33. SWMBO's plate! That cracked me up that you called Leslie SWMBO. Now I want to frame my wok and hang it on a wall! That was sooooo cool.

    1. She doesn't read this stuff. :) Cathy's wok frame IS the coolest!

  34. Your Chicken Lo Mein looks fabulous! Hope you all are starting to feel better. Thanks for the above comment. And Robin, if you are reading this you should hang your wok!! It puts a smile on my face everytime I walk by it on my way into the kitchen. :)

  35. Interesting you grill your carrots whole. I would have thought you needed to at least halve them. Do they soften up at all? I loved how the carrots came out in the stir-fry. Delicious! With the cool peeler I want to add carrots to everything. Your finished dish looks fabulous.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, the carrots soften up a lot on the grill. Halving them would be a good idea, though. We just brushed them with a balsamic garlic butter and I thought they tasted a lot like sweet potatoes when finished, but nobody else agreed with me on that point. Eh eh.

  36. Great Meals!
    What are you using to cook on in the pictures?