The Wok is Your Friend

The Basics: 

Wok and Stir Fry If you want to have a healthy diet you have to include vegetables.  If you want to cook vegetables one of the healthiest ways to eat them are raw or lighly cooked or steamed.  For those times when you actually want to cook your vegetables a wok is a perfect tool.  Not only can you use the wok to prepare healthy and flavorful vegetables, you can also use your wok to prepare your meats, vegetables and starch all in the same amazing pot.

Although many equate a wok solely with Chinese cooking, the wok can be used to prepare all types of dishes.  It cooks food quickly, helps preserve nutrients, allows for single pot cooking, and best of all it is easy to clean.  After you buy one you may find that it is the most used pot in the kitchen.

What is a Wok?

WokThe wok is a deep, bowl-shaped cooking vessel used to prepare vegetables, meats and rice all in a single pot.  There are two primary methods of cooking in a wok:

Stir Fry - where a little olive oil is used to quickly fry meats and vegetables.  The stir fry method calls for a continual mixing (or stirring) of the food to quickly and evenly cook the contents

Steaming - placing a small amount of water in the wok along with your vegetables, covering the wok with a lid, and allowing your vegetables to steam until done.  Steaming vegetables allows them to retain much of their nutrients, while also retaining their color and bite.

Both methods allow foods to cook very quickly in the wok; usually taking less than 10 minutes. 

What Can I Cook in a Wok?

Sitr Fry MealAlmost any kind of vegetable can be cooked in a wok (broccoli, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, onions, etc.  In addition most meats can be stir fried (as long the meat is sliced thinly).  Examples include pork, chicken, beef, shrimp.  

The simple addition of salt and pepper will guarantee a great flavorful meal, but you can add any combination of spices and sauces to create wonderful variations and variety for your dishes.

Advantages of the Wok

The wok allows you to cook healthy foods in a healthy way.  Both the process of quick stir fry with olive oil or steaming vegetables are some of the healthiest ways of preparing your food.  Vegetables retain their nutrients, while low-fat meats (chicken, pork, lean steak) are are not drenched in oil as in traditional frying.

With a wok you can cook for 1 or cook for 6.  The wok is the biggest cooking vessel in your kitchen and gives you great flexibility when preparing meals.  With a wok you can cook for one or cook for 6, and never worry about uneven cooking or washing multiple frying pans and pots.

No matter what you cook the cooking time is usually 5 - 10 minutes.  Stir frying chicken, steak, pork or any meat is usually a 5 to 10 minute effort.  The same is true for vegetables.  If you want your meal quick, the wok is definitely the way to go.

It is extremely easy to clean.  Unlike scrubbing frying pans after a greasy plate of fried chicken, the wok cleans with a simple swipe of a sponge.  The shape of the wok, the minimal use of oil, and the constant stirring during cooking guarantees that food won't stick so clean up is a breeze.

You may not be able to cook everything in the wok, but as you use it you will find that it is the go to pot in the kitchen for many, if not most, of your meals.  Using the wok will enforce healthier eating and ultimately that may be the biggest advantage that the wok offers.

Note: When buying the wok I recommend buying a non-stick version with the single long handle.  Easier to clean and easier to manuever from stovetop to table.

What you may not know: 

The first metal woks appeared in China between 700 and 1,000 years ago. Their use was driven by the need to conserve fuel in regions where it was hard to come by. Their efficiency and versatility made woks indispensable (source: eHow).

Nobody is saying you have to be a vegetarian, but if you're thinking about it, the wok is an essential tool.  Many African Americans have adopted a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.  Here are 20 black vegetarians you may not know.

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