cover image The Wok: Recipes and Techniques

The Wok: Recipes and Techniques

J. Kenji López-Alt. Norton, $50 (672p) ISBN 978-0-393-54121-2

The intricacies of wok culture are brilliantly explored in this definitive offering from chef and New York Times cooking columnist López-Alt (The Food Lab). While the more than 200 recipes are nothing to scoff at, what makes this a stunner is the extensive coverage of cooking techniques and culinary history. López-Alt dispenses advice on purchasing the right supplies (“Get yourself a 14-inch, flat-bottomed, carbon steel wok”); offers an array of useful tips, such as how to stir-fry on an electric burner; and even parses the effects of condensation on food when it is tossed in steamy air. Thus armed, the home cook can whip up dishes like moo shu mushrooms or slippery egg with beef. Subsequent chapters dig into rice bowls (among them gyudon, with its toppings of shaved beef rib and poached egg); serve up noodles hot, cold, and stir-fried; and provide scores of fried and braised options. Along the way, q&a’s and sidebars help answer common questions—including whether or not MSG is bad (in moderation, it’s fine)—and step-by-step photos make easy work of more complicated tasks, such as making ultrathin Mandarin pancakes two at a time. López-Alt’s conversational prose never fails to entertain, even when detailing how the alkaline properties of baking soda are “the secret to plumper, snappier shrimp.” Readers will be cooking with gas thanks to this fiery and insightful work. (Mar.)