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Wok Hay

judge dee | | Nov 19, 2006 11:19 AM

Among Cantonese chowhounds, a term used to assess (usually) a stir-fried dish is whether it has "wok hay", or, does it have enough "wok hay".

Wok refers to the round bottomed cooking vessel that we are all familiar with. Hay is better known in its Mandarin transliteration, qi or ch'i (life energy). The term then alludes to whether a dish has wok energy, or, a lively quality.

I think of institutional food as having the opposite quality of "wok hay" whereas a pasta dish or a slice of pizza in a small Italian cafe, a freshly assembled taco from a taco truck may have "wok hay".

Is there another food term that describes this quality - "sizzle" comes to mind? Can someone better articulate "wok hay"?