Ken Morris, Cooking for Comfort: Easy wok cookery for the Year of the Tiger – Napa Valley Register

KEN MORRIS

Sure, I should have had this ready on February 1 to kick off the Chinese Lunar New Year but, at least I turned it in the first month of the Year of the Tiger, so that’s good luck, right?

I have several Chinese cookbooks and I’ve taken some introductory cooking classes, but I feel uncomfortable trying to teach someone else Chinese cooking when I don’t really have a grasp of it myself. But, throwing together a quick weeknight dinner using my wok is something I’ve done enough that I can pass along a few easy recipes that anyone can make.

Support local news coverage and the people who report it by subscribing to the Napa Valley Register. 

It all begins with a good wok. Yes, you can use a large nonstick pan or lots of people use their old cast iron skillet, but a wok is not a huge investment and with care, it will last forever. My current one I’ve had more than 20 years and you can see the nice patina that has built up as a naturally nonstick surface.

A brochure I picked up at The Wok Shop in San Francisco shares the aphorism: “Woks, like friendship, improve with age and care.” If you don’t have a wok, you can buy it online but there is an array of iron, carbon steel and even nonstick electric (but please, leave that one on the shelf.)

People are also reading…

…….

npressfetimg-1925.png

Sure, I should have had this ready on February 1 to kick off the Chinese Lunar New Year but, at least I turned it in the first month of the Year of the Tiger, so that’s good luck, right?

I have several Chinese cookbooks and I’ve taken some introductory cooking classes, but I feel uncomfortable trying to teach someone else Chinese cooking when I don’t really have a grasp of it myself. But, throwing together a quick weeknight dinner using my wok is something I’ve done enough that I can pass along a few easy recipes that anyone can make.

Support local news coverage and the people who report it by subscribing to the Napa Valley Register. 

It all begins with a good wok. Yes, you can use a large nonstick pan or lots of people use their old cast iron skillet, but a wok is not a huge investment and with care, it will last forever. My current one I’ve had more than 20 years and you can see the nice patina that has built up as a naturally nonstick surface.

A brochure I picked up at The Wok Shop in San Francisco shares the aphorism: “Woks, like friendship, improve with age and care.” If you don’t have a wok, you can buy it online but there is an array of iron, carbon steel and even nonstick electric (but please, leave that one on the shelf.)

People are also reading…

If you’re in the market for a wok or other wok-related cooking gear, it’s worth a trip to Chinatown and have someone talk you through what kind of stove you have (gas/electric/induction) and the type of cooking you want to do. Again, I’d recommend The Wok Shop, 718 Grant Ave. San Francisco.

Food writer Grace Young interviewed the owner, Tane Chan, for tips in her work “The Breath of a Wok.” Visit their wokshop.com for store hours, a map to the store and ideas on what to buy. If nothing else, visit the website for video directions on how to season your wok, depending on the type of stove you have, and how to maintain it.

Why not just use a large, nonstick pan? The wok is an amazing instrument that originally sat in a hole on a small stove, concentrating the heat to the round bottom and leaving the sloping sides cooler, so the cook can move the food to the hot section or push it up into the cooler sides.

The design also allows the cook to burn a small amount of wood to heat the stove with only a tiny amount of oil to cook dinner, important features in ancient China. To use a traditional wok on a modern stove, usually you’ll need a wok ring to support the sloping sides or buy a flat bottom wok that allows it rest on the cooking grate without support.

The first mistake many cooks make is they heat the wok and start adding the first ingredients, then try to measure something or cut up the protein or vegetables while the garlic and ginger are starting to burn. Stir-frying is about using high heat and ingredients cut in small portions so the cooking process is very quick: You must have everything measured and cut up, next to the wok and ready to add.

If you want to learn more, read Grace Young’s comprehensive book on the history, selection and using a wok, “The Breath of a Wok.” And, look for a new book that is scheduled to release this March, “The Wok: Recipes and Techniques” by J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats food and drink website (a great source of information on equipment and a wonderful guide to recipes, ingredients…well, just about anything food related.)

Scallion and Ginger Lo Mein

Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal

Adapted from “The Breath of a Wok” by Grace Young

I know, I’ve endorsed this book already, but I’ve found it a great introduction and inspiration to using my wok. This is a classic Hong Kong-style dish but Ms. Young says, even though it clearly says lo mein and you’d assume you’d use lo mein noodles (often available in an Asian market or you may find dried or frozen ones in a supermarket) she says to use won ton noodles, which are thin like vermicelli, or use dried angel hair pasta.

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

12 ounces fresh won ton noodles (see note about alternatives)

1 ½ quarter boiling water

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 scallions, finely shredded

3 tablespoons finely shredded ginger

In a shallow serving bowl combine the oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of salt and the white pepper. In a large pot bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high heat.

When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the noodles. Return to a rolling boil and boil according to the package instructions or 15 sections, just to al dente. Carefully pour out the hot water and add several changes of cold water, swishing the noodles to remove surface starch. Drain thoroughly in a colander. Pour the 1 ½ quarts of boiling water over the noodles and again drain thoroughly. Transfer to the serving bowl containing the oyster sauce mixture and combine.

Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the vegetable oil (this means swirling the container as you add the oil so it covers the sides of the wok.)

Add the scallions and ginger and stir-fry 30 to 40 seconds or until the scallions are just wilted but still bright green. Spoon wok mixture over the noodles and pour in any remaining oil from the wok. Toss thoroughly to combine, then serve immediately.

Kung Pao Chicken

Adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt, Serious Eats 

Serves 4 with other dishes

This classic dish originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns. The neighboring province of Guizhou, has a variant of Kung Pao chicken using ciba fermented chili paste instead of Sichuan peppercorns for its heat.

Lots of books and Internet sites offer a King Pao Chicken but leave out the Sichuan peppercorns, thinking their audience would never use them. If you have a wok, it’s worth buying Sichuan peppercorns at an Asian grocery or on line. I admit I often replace the roasted unsalted peanuts with cashews because I like cashews more (that’s the beauty of cooking for yourself.)

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces

2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, divided (or dry sherry, if unavailable)

1 tablespoon cornstarch, divided

1 to 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns toasted in a hot skillet for 30 seconds until fragrant, divided (see note)

3 scallions, whites finely minced, and greens finely sliced, reserved separately

1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or distilled white vinegar if unavailable)

1 tablespoon Sichuan fermented chili-bean paste (or generic Asian chili-garlic sauce if unavailable)

12 hot Chinese dry chili peppers, seeded (you may want to reduce if you’re not a fan of really spicy food)

2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1/2 cup total)

Combine chicken, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Allow to marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.

Grind half of Sichuan peppercorns in mortar and pestle. Combine with scallion greens and reserve. Combine scallion whites, garlic, and ginger in small bowl.

Combine remaining soy sauce, remaining Shaoxing wine, remaining corn starch, black vinegar, chili-bean paste, and sugar in small bowl and mix until cornstarch is fully dissolved.

Set fine-meshed strainer over a small heat-proof bowl. Heat peanut oil in a wok over high heat until shimmering. Add remaining Sichuan peppercorns and dried chiles and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Drain in strainer. Pick out chiles and reserve the oil to use in the next steps. Discard peppercorns.

Return wok to high heat until smoking. Add 1/4 of the oil and immediately add half of the marinated chicken. Spread in even layer with spatula. Cook without moving for 1 minute, then cook, stirring and tossing constantly until barely cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a medium metal bowl.

Wipe out wok with paper towel, add another 1/4 of the oil, and repeat with remaining chicken.

Wipe out wok with paper towel, add another 1/4 cup of the oil, and cook leeks until charred in spots but still slightly crisp, about 1 minute. Add peanuts, reserved chiles, reserved chicken, and remaining oil to wok and push to side to make space in the center of the wok.

Add garlic/ginger mixture and cook, stirring mixture constantly until aromatic, about 15 seconds. Toss entire contents of wok together and add sauce. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until chicken is coated in glossy layer of sauce. Stir in scallion greens and ground Sichuan pepper. Transfer to serving plate and serve immediately with steamed white rice.

Spicy Cumin Lamb

Adapted from “Xi’an Famous Foods” cookbook by Jason Wang with Jessica K. Chou

Serves 2 but easy to scale up

This is from the cookbook from a small chain of Chinese restaurants in New York City. Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi Province in northwest China and famous as the starting point for the Silk Road, or really routes, between China and Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and Europe.

And, it was the hometown of David Shi, who moved his family to America (first Michigan and then New York City) for more opportunities. He eventually started a tiny restaurant selling the food of his hometown, which became celebrated locally enough that Anthony Bourdain and his film crew visited and made them nationally famous. The owners served him this dish and guests began to ask for the dish that Bourdain loved. I was introduced to the book when it was chosen to be our next Cooks & Books cookbook (thanks, Betty Teller!) where each member of our group picks a recipe and makes it for the group. Yes, a book club that tastes as good as it sounds.

10 ounces boneless lamb leg (partially frozen to make it easy to slice thin)

1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 green onion, trimmed and chopped

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced

1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoon Red Chili Powder (This is a homemade blend of 1 pound of dried Tianjin red chile peppers, cleaned and roasted in the oven in vegetable oil, then ground. Not up to that? Try red chili powder which is not authentic, but you may get your dinner on the table before midnight.)

½ medium red onion, sliced

1 longhorn pepper diagonally sliced (These are 6- to 9- inch fresh green chilies that are much larger than comparable varieties and have an unusual “curl” at the tip-so, the name “longhorn.” I’ve read that they are similar to red Italian long hots.)

Carefully slice the lamb into 1/8-inch thick pieces (easier to cut if partially frozen). Place the sliced lamb into a large bowl along with the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil. Mix together with your hands. In a wok heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add the green onions, ginger, and garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

When the meat turns an even brown color, turn the heat down to low, add the cumin, salt, and chili powder and stir to combine. Add the onions and longhorn pepper, stir to combine and serve.

At the restaurant, this is served mixed with Biang-Biang Noodles, which are handmade, and hand-ripped fresh wheat noodles, wide, thick, and chewy, which you can learn to make from the cookbook also. However, I did read on a food blog: “I have lived in China since 1996. I don’t know anyone who makes their own noodles, either fresh or dried. So much easier (and cheaper) to buy them.” I did find some wide, flat Asian noodles online or try Pappardelle: the large, broad, flat noodles used in Italian cooking

Napa’s famed Silverado Resort and Spa has a new owner.

David La Rochelle is rebuilding his Silverado home that burned down during the 2017 Atlas Fire, and he’s determined the new home won’t share a…

The Napa County Office of Education’s decision on the school charter is expected March 15.

Four finalists  have been chosen to submit conceptual designs for a public art piece set to be installed near the three roundabouts that separ…

Transportation officials are finding ways to resolve Swainson’s hawk issues to keep the $64 million Soscol Junction traffic relief project alo…

As the COVID pandemic drags on, Napa thrift stores continue to bend and twist every which way to keep customers, and their donations, coming i…

Napa photographer Bob McClenahan is hoping to restart his career after fighting cancer for much of 2021. 

Station owner Wine Down Media turned the AM station into Napa County’s first all-Spanish-language radio outlet starting Jan. 3.

A luxury bed and breakfast inn, which the owner intends to call the Hotel California, is one step closer to coming to Napa.

The city of Napa has two major milestones this year — the 175th anniversary of its founding and 150th anniversary of its incorporation.

Check out the week in cartoons

Lisa Benson cartoon




Clay Bennett cartoon




Jack Ohman, editorial cartoon

Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee




Clay Bennett cartoon




Lisa Benson cartoon




Clay Bennett cartoon




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Jack Ohman, editorial cartoon

Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee




Clay Bennett cartoon




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Tim Campbell cartoon

Jack Ohman, editorial cartoon

Clay Bennett cartoon




Jack Ohman, editorial cartoon

Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Jeff Danziger cartoon




Tim Campbell cartoon

Jeff Danziger cartoon




Lisa Benson cartoon




Jack Ohman editorial cartoon




The Most Popular Super Bowl Snacks, , According to Instacart. The Most Popular Super Bowl Snacks, , According to Instacart. Just in time for Super Bowl LVI, Instacart has released its second annual Snacktime Report. . The report uses Instacart’s purchase history and Harris Poll survey data from over 2,000 American adults. . Fox News reports that besides revealing the most popular chips, dips and drinks in the U.S., the report also reveals some other interesting data. . 99% of Americans plan on eating chips while tuning in for the big game. . 99% of Americans plan on eating chips while tuning in for the big game. . Tortilla chips came out with a slight edge over potato chips, 76% to 70%, respectively. . Tortilla chips came out with a slight edge over potato chips, 76% to 70%, respectively. . When it comes to ordering wings, Maryland led the top 5 ahead of Mississippi, Connecticut, Georgia and New Jersey. 65% of those surveyed somewhat or strongly agreed that boneless wings are little more than glorified chicken nuggets. . According to the data, the great dip debate continues to divide the U.S. Guacamole was the number one dip in 17 states, while 19 other states were divided between cheese dips (9 states) and salsa (10 states). . Guacamole was the number one dip in 17 states, while 19 other states were divided between cheese dips (9 states) and salsa (10 states). . Guacamole was the number one dip in 17 states, while 19 other states were divided between cheese dips (9 states) and salsa (10 states). . As for beverages, the report only looked at the alcoholic variety, though according to Fox, the non- alcoholic category has exploded in recent years. . As for beverages, the report only looked at the alcoholic variety, though according to Fox, the non- alcoholic category has exploded in recent years. . According to the report, beer showed its superiority by taking eight out of the top 10 spots. . Fox reports that a number of hard seltzers and canned cocktails rounded out the list.


Ken Morris has been cooking for comfort for more than 30 years and learning in kitchens from Alaska to Thailand to Italy. He now cooks and writes from his kitchen in Napa. Email [email protected]

Great canned tuna is the perfect product to stock your cupboard: It keeps forever, and you can pull it and the can opener out and plate an appetizer or simple meal in a moment.



Putting together a quick weekend dinner with a wok might be easier than you’d imagine.



The Year of the Tiger began on Feb. 1. f

Source: https://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/columnists/ken-morris/ken-morris-cooking-for-comfort-easy-wok-cookery-for-the-year-of-the-tiger/article_8ccff6e0-fb31-556e-9077-5c40e905bbec.html