Sometimes I wonder how I ever lived without a cast iron wok. If it wasn’t for a friend, I would still be stir frying with some pricey tri-ply stainless steel nonsense. After one test drive of the ol’ cast iron wok, my own mother was hooked. She was actually envious of my cookware!
If you like to stir-fry, you must have a cast iron wok. No ifs, ands or buts about it. There is no other material that can hold heat the way cast iron can. When it’s well seasoned, the food will not stick. And with proper care, it only gets better with age. Of course it’s heavy as a mo’fo’, and you may have to store it in the oven when not in use because it’s too big for any conventional cabinets. It’ll be a bitch to clean, not because anything sticks to it but because it probably won’t fit in your sink. Oh, but the magic you can make with it...
Chicken with roasted chili paste:
- 2 tbs oyster sauce
- ¼ cup coconut milk (lite is fine)
- 1-2 tsp palm sugar (brown sugar if fine)
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbs roasted chilli paste (explained below)
- 1/2 lbs chicken in small cubes or ground (I like skinless, boneless thigh meat)
- 2 cups of your favorite vegetable, cut for stir-frying
- 1 bunch Thai basil leaves
- fish sauce, to taste
Instead of making my own roasted chilli paste, I use store bought, which is what I grew up on. The name of this paste is naam Prik Pao. One day, when I have the time (and after I use up my store bought paste), I will try making some from scratch. Thai people use prik pao as a dipping “sauce’ for grilled meats, fried eggs and sticky rice. My mother adds it to her hot and sour shrimp soup. My nephew spreads it on toasted bread and sprinkles dried shredded pork on top (talk about east meets west, huh?). It’s sweet, spicy and savory all in one.
Start by mixing the prik pao, oyster sauce, sugar and coconut milk in a small bowl until well combined. Heat your wok over high heat. Once your wok is blazing hot, add about 1-2 tbs oil (peanut or vegetable, and make sure you coat the sides of the wok) and fry the garlic and chicken together. Avoid over stirring because you want the meat to get a good sear. When it's just about cooked through, remove it to a bowl and throw the vegetables into the wok. Stir-fry until crisp tender. Add the meat and juices back in and add about 2/3 of the fish sauce mixture. If your wok is sufficiently hot, you will see the coconut milk bubble on the sides. If the stir fry is too dry, add more of the coconut mixture or a couple of tablespoons water. Turn the meat and vegetables in the sauce until nice and caramelized. Adjust seasonings with fish sauce, if necessary. It's done when the meat is cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the basil leaves.
Great with steamed jasmine rice.