What is it with woks: Maybe you’re a closet wok owner with an old rusty one stuffed somewhere in the back of the cupboard. Or perhaps, you’ve been told all sorts of confusing tips about “how to season” a wok and you’ve given up using it. Or maybe, you are cooking your stir-frys in your favourite non-stick frying pan and thinking, hmmm it’s not bad, but something is missing.

The first thing to know about a wok is something called Wok Hei. It means The Breath of the Wok and it is vital. You have to feel the life force of this cooking vessle. And that means Listening  to it: whisper, talk, shout and roar at you. I’m serious, listen to the different sounds it makes as you use it. Here’s a typical conversation I might have with my wok when I’m cooking a plate of green veg.


  1. First you have to wake up a cold wok by heating it till its hot. (don’t do anything till she’s awake and quite hot)
  2. Then you need to add a little oil. Drizzle it around the sides of the hot wok and it will fall down to the base. This is important. You must have a little oil on the sides of the wok as well as the base. Thats why its shaped like it is and you are going to spread your food and use all of that space. By this time she (what is the term for humanising a piece of equipment) should be starting to talk to you. Just sweet talking; promises of things to come.
  3. Then add ginger or garlic or other aromatics to the hot oil and she will start to chatter. Let her chatter/natter for a little while.
  4. Next I add the vegetables and shes gonna start shouting. (yeh, shouting is good and it gets better). Let her shout while you toss those vegies up and over and up the sides too. Let her shout, Make her shout for a min or two.
  5. Next add some water. Yes cold water to hot wok means she will roar! Yeh!
  6. Lid goes on to capture that Wok Hei and once she’s done that, she calms right down. She’ll go back to her talking)
  7. And finally, when those veg are bright green, crisp but cooked (as opposed to crisp and raw) or soft and succulent as in the case of spinach, and it might be 1-2 mins, you are ready to serve and eat.
  8. Remember, as you plate up those veg, they will be full of Wok Hei, and as such, must be eaten immediatley.



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