A high-maintenance wok OR listen to the lady in Chinatown

So I accidentally bought myself a high-maintenance wok.

I was in Chinatown on the lookout for a wok because my old non-stick one seemed to look ‘off’. I saw a wok, it looked about right and I bought it. That would have been the end of the story except the nice Chinese lady at the counter pointed to the instructions and told me to read it before I bought this.

I’m not good at instructions. I read the first line, something about scrubbing off the wok and I stopped reading it. Of course, I was going to wash the wok. Duh. Really sweet of the lady though. So I smiled and said, “yeah, I know. Don’t worry.”

She gave me a dubious look and said, “You need to season it okay? Read the instructions.”

I go home, promptly discard the instructions, scrub the wok and make a vegetable stir-fry. Then I wash it and leave it to dry … and I wake up to a RUSTY wok.

What??!!! I start to panic. What the hell? I just bought this. Why is there rust?


I google this. And I stumble across a whole new world of wok seasoning. A world where a wok is treated as a family member, a world where you need to take time to get to know your wok and introduce various elements to it, a world where the wok grows with you and the food you cook in it with time. There’s even a book (which I actually secretly want) called the breath of a wok.

WHOA!! I SHOULD HAVE READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!! (I can feel the wise Chinese lady nodding her head in agreement.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 13.34.49
Shot of me new wok. Rust all gone.

But I’m secretly pleased. I’m not a fan of the disposable culture where your iPhone is only meant to last you two years or your clothes even less. I like the idea of developing and growing with the things around you. My wooden dining table and beige couch are slowly acquiring stains. At first, this really bothered me but now I like it. It’s like the stains have become markers of my life. (Note to all my friends – nope, this is not a free pass to spill on the couch to see Shoba’s funny reaction).

I haven’t come to the stage where I’m having actual conversations with my wok but it does feel like I’m introducing a new boyfriend to my family – yes, they have no sense of private space, no, they are not angry, that’s just how we talk to each other. 

And I’m excited. Today, I’m going to do another vegetable stir-fry with lots of spring onions and ginger. Apparently, when the wok is hot, the pores open up and it absorbs the flavours of the ingredients. Like a wok facial 🙂

If you want to find out more, check out the links below. I found these to be very useful and educating. Like what you read? Follow me on twitter @shobaharidas or subscribe to my blog via email. 

The Kitchn

Grace Young Seasoning Wok video

The Breath of a Wok (book)


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Shantini says:

    “yes, they have no sense of private space, no, they are not angry, that’s just how we talk to each other” – OMG, I laughed out loud when I read this! 🙂

    “It’s like the stains have become markers of my life” – haha, yes our beige couch which we lovingly took care of for three years is now covered in baby throw up, crumbs, water stains and god knows what else.

    BTW, we have an electric non-stick wok. Best thing ever!


    1. shobaharidas says:

      I remember the beige couch 🙂

      Well, I’ve been reading about non-stick not being good at high temperatures. Btw, do you know my mum still has a thosai kallu from aatha that she never washes with soap. She just rinses it and oils it.


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