Some of my earliest childhood memories come from the House of Chung restaurant in Reedley, CA where I watched the chefs shaking the heavy woks and tossing the ingredients, cooking them quickly. The oils in the wok would sometimes vaporize and with the tossing, the oils would ignite in a dazzling display. Wok cooking is hard work. Any chef that has spent years behind a Chinese stove probably has burn scars on their arms to show for it.
That said, I grew up listening to elders wax longingly about the nature of wok hay an how this nuance to the dish is only possible with intense heat cooking in a wok and with an experienced cook who knows how to time the addition of ingredients and the length of cooking. There is little margin for error and when done right, it is incredible. The most humble of ingredients can be wonderful.
San Francisco native, Grace Young has written extensively on this subject and published several cookbooks.
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