When it comes to stir-frying noodles, vegetables, rice, tofu, and other vegan ingredients, a wok is far superior to a regular shallow frying pan. They’re bigger, so you can fit more food, but their deep-bottomed design is also simply better suited to heating food quickly and efficiently. Plus, you can season them, too, which helps to pack more flavor into your meal. There’s no doubt that woks are a vegan cooking staple. Here’s more about how to cook with them, plus tasty vegan recipe inspiration.

What is a wok?

“If Chinese cooking is an art, then the wok is the easel and paintbrush of the Chinese kitchen,” notes Shef, a chef-run food marketplace. “Watch one in action and you’ll quickly understand: blazing fire heats a shallow pool of oil, the wok’s contents get tossed in a powerful rocking motion, and deep aromatics fill the air as the ingredients release their natural flavors.”

Woks, which are essentially deep-bottomed frying pans, are usually made with carbon steel or cast iron, and they likely came from Asia. As the above indicates, they are most commonly associated with China, but similar cooking utensils were likely used across Southeast Asia and India, too.

On her blog, food historian Rachel Laudan quotes Keralan author Ammini Ramachandran speaking about a Cheena chatti pan, for example. “It is in the exact shape of a Chinese wok,” Ramachandran explains (Cheena chatti translates to “Chinese pot”). “It is an indispensable cooking utensil in every home in [Kerala, India] used to sauté, stir fry, and deep fry foods.”

The deep bottom and walls of woks and other utensils like them help to cook ingredients like noodles, vegetables, and tofu quickly and efficiently. And that’s because when you stir and move the pan, you move the food through different heat zones. “The end result is food that exhibits unique characteristics: seared and hot, but also vibrant, fresh, and evenly cooked,” notes the food website Serious Eats.

VegNews.seasoningawok.pexelsPexels

5 top tips for cooking with a wok

1 Season

One of the best things you can do after purchasing your wok is to season it before you start using it. This helps to create a natural non-stick surface, which also helps to prevent rusting, too. One way to season is to wash the wok with hot, soapy water, before heating it over a low heat, and then rubbing a thin layer of oil (such as vegetable oil) over the surface.

2 Preheat

Before you start cooking, make sure to preheat your wok first. After all, a hot wok allows for quick and even cooking. When it begins to smoke, add the cooking oil (it’s best to choose an oil with a high-smoke point, like canola or vegetable, for example, as they will be able to cope with the high heat without burning).

3 Batch cook

Woks are roomier than shallow frying pans, but it’s still good not to overwhelm the pan with too many ingredients. Instead, in smaller batches to maintain the high heat and avoid steaming the ingredients instead of stir-frying them.

4 Keep everything moving

To help cook everything evenly and stop your ingredients from sticking to the wok, it’s important to keep all of your ingredients constantly moving by tossing the pan and stirring constantly (use a long utensil, like tongs or a spatula, to keep your hands away from the heat).

5 Clean it straight away 

After you’ve cooked, it’s tempting to sit back and leave the dishes until later, but with a wok, it’s important to clean it quickly. It’ll be much easier to wash while the ingredients are still fresh and prevent you from having to scrub too hard. This will help to keep your wok in good condition for your next meal. 

5 of the best woks to buy

VegNews.cookingwithsurlatablewok.surlatableSur La Table

1 Sur La Table Carbon Steel Wok, $44.95

With a sturdy maple handle and a flat bottom, this carbon steel wok from Sur La Table ensures quick, efficient heating, as well as easy maneuverability, and even results. It’s safe for metal utensils, but remember to season and store properly to prevent rust.
Check it out

VegNews.babishwok.babishBabish

2 Babish Carbon Steel Flat Bottom Wok, $49.99

Thanks to the heavy-gauge carbon steel material, which helps to ensure even heat distribution, this 14-inch wok from Babish is a culinary powerhouse. Its riveted wooden handles stay cool to the touch, while the non-stick surface ensures an easy cleanup.
Check it out

VegNews.vegetablesinawok.joycechenJoyce Chen

3 Joyce Chen Carbon Steel Wok, $43.95

Joyce Chen’s carbon steel wok is lightweight, yet incredibly durable and efficient. Plus, it will only get better with age, according to the brand. “While [woks] begin their life in your kitchen shiny and bright, the more you use them, the more they evolve, developing a unique seasoning to the surface,” it notes.
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VegNews.greenpanwok.greenpanGreenPan

4 GreenPan Ceramic Wok Pan, $54.95

GreenPan’s non-toxic Thermolon ceramic coating on this wok pan is metal utensil-safe and diamond-reinforced, making it a durable, safe addition to your kitchen. With a scratch-resistant Hard Anodized Body, it’s also oven-safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and dishwasher-friendly for easy cleanup.
Check it out

VegNews.yosukatawok.yosukata

5 Yosukata Blue Carbon Steel Wok, $85.99

Crafted with premium-grade, hand-hammered carbon steel, this large blue wok from Yosukata will last you for a lifetime. It’s not only durable and versatile (it excels in pan-frying, braising, and deep-frying), but it’s also pre-seasoned, too.
Check it out

7 delicious vegan recipes to cook with a wok

When you’ve found the right wok for you, it’s time to start cooking. There are many delicious dishes you can make in a wok, but below, we’ve gathered just a handful of our favorites to get you started.

VegNews.Recipes.5

1 Vegan Copycat Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken

Vegan Kung Pao Chicken, a plant-based rendition of the Panda Express classic, comes together by stir-frying marinated vegan chicken, zucchini, bell pepper, and peanuts in a wok. Serve over rice or noodles for a flavorful, aromatic, crowd-pleasing meal.
Get the recipe

VegNews.VeganBourbounJackfruitChickenandChowMeinNo Eggs or Ham

2 Vegan Bourbon Jackfruit Chicken With Chow Mein

Indulge in Chinese-American favorites at home, without picking up the takeout menu, with this delicious bourbon jackfruit chicken and vegetable chow mein (which features egg-free noodles). The delicious dish comes together in just 45 minutes.
Get the recipe

VegNews.StirFry

3 Oil-Free Vegan Sweet Chili Tofu Broccoli Mushroom Stir-Fry

A sweet and spicy plant-based stir-fry is an easy, quick, delicious weeknight dinner choice. This oil-free recipe packs in a vibrant medley of vegetables in a flavorful sauce, and is best served over cauliflower or brown rice.
Get the recipe

1280-638584186-lo-mein

4 Vegan Beef and Vegetable Lo-Mein

Using a wok, toss vegan beef, crisp veggies, and egg-free Chinese noodles in a savory sauce for a delightful, umami-rich experience. Serve with takeout classics, like vegan egg rolls and fried rice, for the ultimate fakeaway night.
Get the recipe

VegNews.RainbowNoodlesDan Jones

5 Vegan Five-Minute Rainbow Noodles

This vibrant noodle dish, with red cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, and more, is perfect for a quick, healthy weekday meal. All you need is the ingredients, a wok, and a spare five minutes.
Get the recipe

VegNews.TempuraZucchiniBurgersSara Stevens

6 Tempura Zucchini Burgers on Avocado Buns

There’s no doubt, avocado bun burgers, with a crispy wok-fried tempura zucchini patty, pickled ginger, and nori strips, are a delicious, flavorful, and unique dinner choice, guaranteed to impress your loved ones.
Get the recipe

VegNews.MermaidPastaNazlı Günaydın

7 Vegan Herbed Mermaid Orecchiette

This easy orecchiette pasta dish features a unique mermaid curry sauce and comes together in a wok pan, proving that this cooking utensil really can work for many different cuisines and recipes.
Get the recipe

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