Asian cooking has always been out of scarcity. For over 2000 years, lay asians have had to work to provide the best foods for their respective emperors (especially in China). One device to counteract the lack of ingredients they had was the Wok, which back then, revolutionized cooking. It also set a precedent for today’s asian cuisine.
Asians have always had minimalistic recipes. Foods mentioned before, like Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls, are for the most part very easy to make. That does not, however, take away from their scrumptiousness. In the same way, preparing different foods with Woks also enhances their flavor. This is made possible by the Wok’s two main advantages:
Convenience: The Wok was originally meant to cook smaller rations of food for a hefty amount of people. That is precisely the reason why food cooked on Woks is minuscule (rice, beef, shrimp, chicken). To effectively feed all the mouths, asians had to mix as many ingredients as possible. In a pinch, they could always prepare their favorite foods like fried rice or diced chicken. In lands where food was also scarce, they had to cook it very quickly to avoid burning or ruining it. The semispherical curve of the Wok permitted maximum cooking surface on little fuel contact, efficiently distributing heat and food to people that craved it. Even though the personnel may not always be asian (save for later post), Asians still use the Wok today to cook fast-food due to the convenience and speed factor.
Flexibility: If the ability of the Wok to distribute heat efficiently didn’t make it popular, it was its extreme versatility. Asians also figured, at the time when resources were scarce, that seasoning had to be used down to the very spec. Tapping into the asian thrift gene, they learned that the Wok was in fact the ultimate tool of kitchen expediency. According to legend, when an young asian child accidentally spilled water into the Wok, asians became blessed with the ability to boil food. It also opened the door to a smorgasbord of cooking methods, including: sauteeing, stir-frying, deep-frying, and steaming. When villagers tried to see his father in order to ask for the new discovery, they were greeted by a crazy asian man waving a large pan at them. Among them was a westerner, who brought the volatile weapon (asians did invent gun powder) and cooking device (skillet) ideas back to his country. Hence, the Wok is responsible for the start of the great Balkan Wars and almost every popular asian dish today, save for the fortune cookie.
Two thousand years ago, asians used the Wok to prepare a limited pallet of ingredients. Today, asians use the Wok for a whole new slew of reasons. Italian dishes, which were inspired by asian inventions (like wheat noodles), are mixed on large skillets. Wolfgang Puck’s masterpieces are often mixed in Woks because its use in the preparation of food makes for a remarkable economy of equipment. Additionally, the Wok adds unexpected nutrients because, like its western dopplegangers (the cast-iron skillets), Iron-Woks contribute a good amount of iron into the consumer’s diet.
The multi-faceted Wok lives on today in restaurants and fast food parlors, where abundance is stressed. Ironically, it would never have even come about without the scarcity of food over 2000 years ago. It’s quick. It’s Easy. It’s economical. For those reasons and more, asians absolutely adore the Wok.
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