Hi, I’m Grace Young, cookbook author and stir-fry guru. The wok is one of the most incredible cooking instruments, yet it’s sadly overlooked. I was delighted to create modern recipes that demonstrate the versatility of the wok for the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens.
With a wok you can pan-fry, braise, steam, boil, poach, deep-fry and even smoke foods. But the easiest way to fall in love with this iconic pan is to stir-fry. Seasonal ingredients are the key to a great stir-fry. The high heat and fast cooking accentuates the natural flavor and texture of ingredients, especially vegetables.
My favorite place to shop for produce is the farmer’s market. This spring as I wandered around the Union Square farmer’s market in New York City I couldn’t resist the young garlic, baby lettuce, and picture-perfect radishes. On the way home I stopped to buy shrimp, and by the time I was in my kitchen, I had the inspiration to create the Seared Shrimp Salad with Wok Dressing. I wanted a simple dressing, fragrant with sesame oil, but with a little kick from sriracha sauce, garlic, and a hint of honey.
I wrapped the just-cleaned shrimp with plenty of paper towels until they were dry to the touch. Excess moisture causes spattering and takes down the temperature of the pan, preventing the shrimp from searing. After a quick stir-fry the garlic, ginger, and coconut-infused shrimp is intensely flavored and laced with wok aroma. Served with young lettuce, radishes, avocado, and the warm dressing, this dish captures the fresh taste of springtime.
The beauty of a stir-fry is once you understand the basics you can improvise and vary the vegetables as the seasons evolve. From now until the end of autumn, stir-fries are at their best, when farmer’s markets are abundant with just harvested vegetables that come alive in your wok. I encourage you to explore your local farmer’s markets and buy what’s in season. If you’ve never cooked with a wok now’s the time to start your culinary love affair. Get the recipe here!