CHEF SAMBRANO Food Articles Video Recipes




Friday, July 19, 2013


The wok you see to the left is a finished seasoned and oiled wok, brand new from my friend Pete on Oahu. I needed some good Chinese style woks I could utilize on a flat top electric stove or on a gas stove burner. I went to some places on Maui couldn't find it. I went to the Macy's in Queen K Shopping Center nope! Weak! I need those hand hammered carbon steel woks that conducts heat fast! I called Pete.

"Hey Pete how's everything?"
"I'm okay Ron what's up?"
Okay Pete as in Peter Pao, master of setting up restaurants around the country, I call him brother Pete. Pete's like an older brother I never had, we played hoops with our buds back in the day at the 505 courts in Lahaina, those were the days. And Pete, well he's just a foodie, knows everything about it. He's an awesome cook too, one time long ago he made us fantastic Japanese fare, his tempuras were flaky and very juicy on the inside, and I am talking large shrimp, or midget lobsters.

"Hey Pete I need to get some good woks, I was thinking maybe go get those Macy's woks they got on sale."

"Wo Ron hold on, don't get those ________ pieces  of _______ !!!!"
"Okay Pete, hey maybe you can go look for me in China Town?"
"Yeah man, no worries what kind?"
"Well flat bottoms for sure because it'll be for me cooking in people's homes and stuff, so maybe a 12" wok and a 14" wok, and I'll pay you back."
"Okay let me go look and I'll text you or email you back."
"Roger dat Pete thanks man."
"Anytime man, talk to you soon."

Well Pete is a cool bro, when he says he'll do something he'll do it, and fast. This one time I needed a fish filet knife, I got it in the mail in 2 days! What a friend, what a bro! And this time, he calls me back the next day.

"Hey Ron I got it, but I think the 14 is slightly larger more like a 15, and your 12 is more like a 13, and it is flat, but not perfectly flat because it's hammered, but it does sit pretty evenly and you'll be able to use it on a flat top electric and for a gas burner no problem, these are very good Chinese woks the pros use, nothing flashy, just remember to season it and oil it up before you use it, never use soap when cleaning it, and always give it a light coating of oil before you store it to prevent rusting."

"You da man Pete."
Long story short, I gave Pete my address so he could mail it to me, and from Oahu it would take a day maybe 2. However two days later he calls me and says that he's on Maui for business for a day and that we should hook up and I can take my two babies with me, I meant the woks. Well I had to work, so I arranged a drop of point for the woks, sort of like a drug deal, "Go to Sara at the train depot, drop it off and she'll have an envelope for you." Well I got my woks that evening, and the next day went to my sister's house to use her flat top electric to season my two woks.

Here's a myth with wok cooking that I had to dispel. First and foremost if you have these Chinese woks from China Town, carbon steel hammered, they are thin enough to conduct heat quickly on an electric or gas burner. I had to season these woks on my sister's flat to electric and it had enough heat to smoke out her house, we had to call the fire department.

So as far as home cooking with a wok, these carbon steel woks works brilliantly, and you won't need a high BTU gas burner, not for these smaller size woks, maybe those big ass 30 inch woks for large ass parties, but home cooking, nah. So what did I use to season my two babies? Here is what I used and it worked out just fine. 

1. I got some soy sauce and vegetable oil mixture and heated it up until it was smoking, and continued to swirl it all over the slope of the wok. Then I emptied the oil and soy sauce, then I added some sesame oil, more soy sauce, some mirin and heated it up. Then I drained that out, and then got some fish sauce, oil and more soy sauce and just cooked it up, swirling it all over the sloped sides. Then I drained that.

2. Then I rinsed the wok under cold water with nothing more than a soft plastic scouring sponge. (Never use soap, you want that oil on the wok).

3. Then I got some cooking oil with a paper towel and wiped the insides of the woks down, and then stored it in the cupboard. Now it is ready from my stir fry gigs, "Watch out here comes Ron to a home near you to stir fry!"

So here's some myths.

- You need a gazzillion BTUs to do wok cooking.
(Yes and No. Yes if you are cooking with a very large wok like in a Cantonese restaurant, or for a fund raiser and you are cooking out doors)

- Your stir fries need to be finished in 2 minutes or less.
(True if you're again working in a Cantonese restaurant or doing large parties. But, for home cooking, because of stoves not having high BTUs, you can cook your stir fries in batches.

- Hand hammered carbon steel flat bottom woks wont work on home stoves.
(False I just did it, these woks are not perfectly flat, however because of the thickness of the carbon steel, and how fast it conducts heat, these not so perfect flat bottoms are great!)

What's BTUs? A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree F. This is the standard measurement used to state the amount of energy that a fuel has as well as the amount of output of any heat generating device.

You might be able to imagine it this way. Take a gallon (8 pounds) of water and put it on your stove. If the water is 60 degrees F. and you want to bring it to a boil (212 degrees F.) then you will need about 1,200 BTUs to do this.

All combustible materials have a BTU rating. For instance, propane has about 15,000 BTUs per pound. Charcoal has about 9,000 BTUs per pound and wood (dry) has about 7,000 BTUs per pound. This gives you an idea of how much fuel you'd need to, say, cookng something.

When it comes to gas grills they all have maximum BTU rating per hour. If you see a 35,000 BTU gas grill that means that the grill puts out 35,000 BTUs from all of its main burners combined in one hour, or uses a little more than 2 pounds of propane an hour. While the BTU rating on a gas grill doesn't necessarily tell you how much heat it will produce, it does give you a general idea of its heat output, and it tells you how much fuel you'll be burning. 

The What's BTUs is an article from About .Com and is their copyrighted information, I want to thank About .Com for having this information online, the actual link is right above.

Also Mahalo to my friend and brother Peter Pao of Pao and Associates, if you are going to open up a restaurant, call Pao and Associates and get expert help before delving into your business of creating your awesome dishes.

2895 Ualena St.
Honolulu, HI 96819

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