“Bao-power” – intriguing, it’s all in the power and technique when using a wok, you need to be experienced, or pay the price of getting badly burned.
A wok isn’t hard to use, it requires practice and agility, the ability to control high temperatures while maintaining constant motion. It is like riding a bike and eating an apple at the same time.
Many western chefs over look, or under-estimate the importance of a super charged flame in their kitchen. Many wouldn’t get it because of their lack of knowledge on how heat and energy is transferred or the importance of constant motion in cooking when trying to achieve cooking evenness, color, texture and flavor.
Chinese cooking gets a bad rap because so many bad restaurants use inferior products, add MSG in powder or crystal form, making people sweat or get headaches. These types of restaurants destroy the reputation of those that are wonderful. Cooking good Chinese is the same as cooking good Italian, an Italian restaurant that pre-cooks pasta, leaches the starches and gives rise to bad image of soggy pasta.
In the wok, you have two styles of cooking; Boa and Chao, this is Bao. The Chao is more western styled, the wok gets covered with a hat and the food is sautéed – it works well but I prefer Bao.
Here the chef is cooking Bao styled using a super charged flame, a lever adding more power as needed, his knee manipulates the lever with a quick twist controls it. The wok glows red @ 800 Celsius, he drizzles oil into it, the wok crackles, and the chef adds his ingredients.
The wok’s cooking is about “hei” pronounced, “hay”, the wok is sizzling hot as the water in the vegetable are vaporized instantly. Metaphorically “hei” is the “breath of the wok”, the chef accurately controls the intense heat, the oil breaks down and the flavor compounds are released, steam, and convection all at work, all at the same time. Wok hei renders flavors, tastes, and texture and is the “essence” imparted by a hot wok on food during cooking.
The wok is so hot, the chef is constantly moving it on the flame allowing for the splattering of fine oil particles to catch the flame into the wok. Each ingredient added has its own nuance and timing, the chef waits, lifts, add liquid, flips his wrist and the vegetables and broth fly high.
There aren’t many ways to maintain a crunchy texture and flavor, at the same time instant reactions occur, e.g. the Maillard reaction caramelizes the ingredients while preserving the integrity of the vegetables’ crunchiness.
The flipping rotates the foods and cooks them to perfection, as we know the transfer of heat is enhanced on the transfer of energy. The energy of the wok is the ultimate sophistication based on: conductivity, condensation and convection cooking, all in the same breath.