Category: Sense

Which wok for you?

I’ve been getting many wok-related questions lately so here’s a post to (hopefully) answer all your questions.

The first question is always what kind of wok I use. I use a simple carbon-steel wok I got from Chinatown for just about $15. It’s a simple, hand hammered wok with hollow metal handle. The metal is very thin. It transfers heat well, but doesn’t hold it very long. This is fine if you know how to work with it. I actually prefer using it over Western style pan with thicker metal that retains heat better, but only for stir-frying of course. That steel wok has been serving me just fine for a couple years now.

SteelwokMy best advice is to pop down to a Chinatown near you and find a carbon-steel wok that looks and feels good in your hand – make sure it’s at least 13-14 inch wide, and light enough that you could pick up and shake it with relative ease. That pretty much rules out those absurdly expensive cast iron woks – the purpose of which so far eludes me.

If there’s no good Chinatown nearby, I found two that you can order online. Amazon has one that comes with a lid, though the price is a bit steep at $31 – but the lid is handy to have and with Amazon Prime you could get it with free shipping. If not, I found one cheaper on a site selling Thai Tthaiwok
ingredients, only $15, but with round rather than flat bottom. No idea what their shipping fees are, however. Check with them before you have it shipped to Alaska or don’t come crying to me later.

A wok like these ones work best on a gas stove, especially if it has high BTUs. If you’re not so confident with the power of your stove, or you have electric stove, a wok is not going to work very well. I once had to endure such a disadvantage, not for long mind you, but I suffered just the same. Anyway, let’s not go into my past misery, let me tell you instead about how I worked around the problem.

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Friday Five: Dan Barber’s Five Things to Give Up for Mother Earth


Friday Five series returns today with Dan Barber, chef and proprietor of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills. Stone Barns is only 45 minutes from Manhattan, but it might as well be a whole different universe. A model of self sufficiency and environmental responsibility, Stone Barns is a working farm, ranch, and a three-michelin-star-worthy restaurant. (Note to Michelin: limiting your guide to the five boroughs means you’ve missed out on perhaps the most interesting and unique restaurant in all of New York.)

Dan’s commitment to the environment is well known, but he is hardly a die-hard radical. He is a businessman determined to find a way to be both environmentally and economically sustainable – now that’s the way of the future. When I visited Stone Barns last September for my lovely birthday dinner, I was impressed by not only the beauty of the farm and the produce, but the massive scale of operation it takes to run that place.


Now, if I’ve painted him too much of a businessman for you, let me tell you another story. Before the meal Dan took us on a tour around the property. He insisted on taking us – with me in a lovely dress (read:freezing) and heels (read:@#$%) – way out of the way to show off his pride and joy, the compost pile. Compost field is perhaps a more apt description. Once you approach the vicinity you understand why it has to be so far out of the way. Use your imagination. Explaining the workings of the forklift compost turner and the rotation of the pile and the output that goes back into the field and the difference it’s made in the quality of his produce, all with the delight of a boy with a brand new Lego set, Dan was a man in his element, doing what he loves and fervently believes in. That compost pile is shit to you and me – pardon my French – but it is a whole different thing in the eye of the chef and proprietor of Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Given his pedigree and commitment, I asked him to suggest five things we should all give up out of respect for the earth. It’s a perfect question for my Friday Five series. Read it and think, and, most of all, do it.

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Une Soupe Stalingrad, s’il vous plait

RATP, the Paris transit agency, is running a soup contest in honor of the launch of Ratatouille DVD. They are asking people to submit a soup recipe a soup recipe inspired by one of the names of the Paris metro stops. According to the website the prize is some sort of special night on the town at one of the Michelin multi-star restaurants. If that sounds interesting to you, go and enter a recipe to try your luck.

My friend Max was way ahead of you guys though. He’s got a bunch of recipes ready to enter. He’s agreed to let me share some with you here. Some of these are quite good for a diet too.

Soupe Pasteur

1 lt whey

Heat to 74°C for 15 seconds.

Soupe Stalingrad

1 tsp water

Spill on pavement
Serve in place

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Friday Five: Wynton Marsalis’s Five Things I Love to Eat

Chez Pim presents a new feature, Friday Five, in which I
hoodwink invite fascinating people from all walks of life to tell me five things about food. The first guest -€“ also known as
unsuspecting victim -€“ is Wynton Marsalis.

Everybody knows Wynton as a fabulous musician, composer, and impresario
extraordinaire. That he is also quite a gourmand is not as well
publicized. It’s hardly surprising though, he’s a New Orleans boy,
being a foodie is not a predilection but his birthright.

Get Wynton on the topic of food and he’ll go on sans cesse about
memorable food encounters from his time on tour,€“ which is practically all the time for him. He told me about this little husband and
wife place in Osaka, right by the water. His friend – who happens to be
the president of Sony – took him there. He didn’t know the restaurant’s
name or anything besides it being a simple little place by the bay, but his eyes were all
dreamy as he described how amazing the food was. His eyes turned even dreamier when he talked about the time he spent at his friends’ house in Marciac, in the Gascony region of France, describing all the French country dishes they prepared for him, the home-made pâté and the delicious tortilla española. (Marciac is very close to the Spanish border.)

He also told me about this little place called El Portalon, in Vitoria, in the Basque country of Spain. "The Basque people
have a thing about cooking", he said. (He can say that again!) "This
was very traditional Basque cuisine, but done on a very high level", he
added, "with gambas, squid and all the great seafood they have there."
There was also a little something about a certain Basque beauty, but I’m sorry
I’m going to skip that part because, well, because this is Chez Pim and
not Perez Hilton.

Wynton is working on an exciting little project with something to do with
food. I’ll let him tell you about it himself – all in good time – but for now,
with no further ado, I give you…

Wynton Marsalis -€“ Five things I love to eat

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a simple Mexican breakfast


We had this for breakfast a couple of mornings in Baja. It’s so
simple, taking only a few minutes to prepare, provided you have
leftover beans from dinner the night before.

It’s really so simple I could hardly call it a recipe. We just
cooked some Mexican chorizo until it’s nice and brown and some fat
rendered out. You can pour some of the fat out if you want, but you
needn’t bother. We cracked some eggs and gave them a quick
beating, then added to the pan with the chorizo and scrambled the
whole thing very quickly, until the eggs just set but still moist and
gooey. You might want to add a little salt, though you really should
be careful as chorizo can be quite salty on its own.

Meanwhile, the bean pot leftover from last night’s dinner – Rio Zape beans from Rancho Gordo
was already warming on the stove. We also grabbed some corn tortilla
we picked up from a tortilleria in Todos Santos, and started
warming them on a griddle.

When everything was ready, we each took a warm tortilla, a spoonful of beans
and a big scoop of the delicious egg and chorizo concoction and dove right in. That’s a
simple breakfast which was also substantial enough to sustain the hours we
planned to spend lounging on the beach before we would be inspired to
again, this time in search of lunch.

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