By Steve Collins, DOM, Apr 5 2017 03:42PM
Many years ago, while I was a paramedic in Las Vegas, I was given a hand-hammered Chinese wok as a gift. I had no idea how to use the thing, and in the mid-eighties I couldn't look up tutorials on YouTube.
The little bit that I could learn about wok cooking was pretty much limited to the card that was attached to the handle of the lid. I went out and got some chicken and veggies and proceeded in hopes of creating my first stir-fry. The instructions said, “Heat oil over hottest possible heat”. While I was dutifully chopping an onion, I allowed about three tablespoons of oil to heat up over high heat. As I was dissecting the onion I heard a soft “whoosh” behind me. I turned to see that the oil had burst into flames.
Now, at the time, I was living in a tiny studio apartment. The kitchen wasn't much bigger than a matchbox. I grabbed the wok and my first thought was to pour the burning oil down the sink. Luckily I realized that probably wasn't a good idea, so I set it on the floor while I tried to figure out what to do. I had enough sense to know that pouring water on burning oil also would not be a good thing. And the flames were rising... Finally I had a stroke of genius and I grabbed the lid and covered the flames. Success! The fire was extinguished. Then I removed the lid to bask in my genius. That's when the smoke came out. Within seconds, my little studio was filled with dirty, oily smoke. The smoke detecter went off. Oh yes, Las Vegas FD showed with an engine and a pumper due to reports of “smoke showing”. It didn't help matters that as a medic, I knew many of the guys who responded. I explained that the situation was under control, and after a few lectures from the Captain, they headed back home.
The next day, I had a wonderful time explaining to my landlord why the Las Vegas Fire Department responded to my apartment. I left out the part about the linoleum floor in my kitchen having brand new bubbles and burn marks. Some things don't need to be said.
Since that day, my wok has traveled with me to every place I have ever lived. It has become a close and trusted friend. But I never leave it alone with the stove...
Dr. Steve's Hunan Chicken
2 chicken breasts
marinade: 1 egg white
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 Tbsp oil (do not use olive oil!)
1 small onion, cut into slices
1/3 can bamboo shoots, drained
1 red pepper, julienned
1 Tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp of dried red pepper or to taste
1 tsp freshly chopped ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped (powdered is an abomination!)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Slice up the chicken breasts and place them in the marinade before you prep anything else. This happens very fast once you start... heat the wok over high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the marinated chicken and stir-fry about a minute or so until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add oil if necessary and allow it to heat up. Add the ginger and hot pepper. They should release their oils immediately. Add the onion and red pepper. Cook for about two minutes until the onions turn translucent. Add the bean sprouts and the soy sauce. Cook another minute before adding the peanut butter. Mix the food until the peanut butter is incorporated. Turn off the wok and add the garlic. Mix well, allowing the hot food to cook the garlic without it becoming bitter.
Serve immediately over rice.