First, the bad news: Most Western stoves aren’t really set up to use a wok. Here, we cook on a flat surface that puts out a relatively low number of BTUs, instead of an Asian-style stove with a fierce heat-hole that a wok fits into.
Some people get around that by using a flat-bottomed wok or a cast iron skillet to stir-fry. Pro woks, tatsu explains, are huge and have short handles, never made of wood that would burn off quickly in a busy Chinese restaurant kitchen. Pros also have a long, shovellike spatula to flip ingredients rapidly. “For home, everything is a trade-off,” says tatsu. “Wood handle is acceptable and perhaps desirable. A flat-bottom may transfer more BTUs, but the trade-off is food getting trapped in that corner it forms. Thicker sides and reinforced bottoms may retain more heat, but it’s slower to react when you take it off heat.”
The place to head to, should you be in a wok-buying mood, is Chinatown. galleygirl recommends Sun Sun Company: “I got both a wok with short handles and the best spatula I’ve found (good hand-feel, and a nice sharp shovel edge).” opinionatedchef adds that the shop owner’s son, Wilson, speaks fluent English, and is incidentally a very sharp dresser.
One more thing: If you do buy a wok, here’s how to take care of it.
Sun Sun Company [Chinatown]
18 Oxford Street, Boston
Discuss: Where to buy a wok in Boston?