Chinese food is another example of an aristocratically driven cuisine and has been that way for a very longtime. The condiments used in wok cuisine throughout China are often the same with some variation of spice. They use sesame oil, stocks, potato starch, black, red or white vinegar, rice wine, fish sauce, salt, garlic, lard, ham, ginger, sugar, etc. The enormous variety of Chinese dishes stems from the imperial court, which governed China for more than 1,000 years. The same thing occurred with Moghul rulers in northern India and with the kings of Thailand.
The wok and most ingredients have been used in Chinese cuisine for over 2,000 years. It’s all about achieving wok hei (pronounced “hay”), the intense deep/rich flavors that are the defining qualities of wok cooking.
In other posts on wok cuisine you can see how the intense temperatures are and how instantly by the flame’s power, the water is burned off as steam. This takes tremendous energy delivered from a professional wok and the power is tremendous.
When it comes to stir frying, most of the foods stir fried release heaps of water as they begin to cook. The water quenches the heat of the wok, lowering the temperature to the boiling point until it has evaporated away and it depends if a chef is cleaning their wok or getting ready to cook. The chef has both hot and cold water at his station to choose from. If he cleans he often uses cold water and this cools the wok’s steel, or if there’s a call to continue cooking, he will use hot water to maintain the wok’s temperature.
The basis for cooking Chinese wok cuisine is based on dry and wet foods, and oil and water. The heat intensity is controlled by the chef’s knee and he cab have 100% control without leaves his wok position, and while keeping his hands busy.
The wok is ingenious despite the use of very intense heat and quick maillard reactions on food surfaces. This combined with the partial breakdown of cooking oil it produces this potent combination of flavor compounds that you cannot achieve in most cuisines.