There are a few different bits stuffed in here. Mostly to do with cooking and patio kitchens, a bit to do with biology and fuels.
First up, Gail Combs got me to buy a wok. I’ve had an electric wok for years and hardly used it. I made excuses about it being due to the “fuss” of pre-planning and chopping ingredients in advance. Yet, thinking about it, partly it was due to the large counter space it took to set up the electric wok (on my tiny counters that are usually ‘busy’). Partly it was that the thing is teflon. How the heck can you do 400 F+ to 500 F hot fast cooking when teflon breaks down then? (It was a wedding present…) Partly it was that I looked at it as just a funny shaped ‘electric skillet’. (Though the couple of times I’d used it, it did fine). Partly it was just not wanting to scratch the teflon and not having “implements” for it that were not metal (so making do with square spatulas). It was also clear that there are several things I do that take hours of “prep”. From making bread, to doing “freeze ahead lunches” (aka DIY TV Dinners). “I’d have to plan ahead” was clearly a self deception on my part. In short, it wasn’t so much the need to prepare, nor the ‘using a wok’, so much as it was THAT wok…
So while out running errands today I stopped into Wally World. (For something else entirely…) There was a perfectly sized 14 inch Wok for $15. Sigh. I also picked up a Mexican Comal that’s an exact match in diameter. It can be used as a kind of a lid (with about a 1 mm gap around the edges due to the handle rivets) or as a griddle for making quesadillas and fajitas. (Two foods that are as Californian as Hamburgers, Kung Pao Chicken, and Sushi… Hey, it’s that kind of place… though I like to order mine as “Gun Powder Chicken” ;-)
Now I have two very appropriate steel pans for my Butterfly Stove and I’m set for doing a variety of Mexican, Spanish, Asian, Californian / Tex-Mex, and ABC dishes. (ABC is “American Born Chinese”… yes, we have “jargon” for our various ancestries… Learned that one from a Chinese friend who was born in Hong Kong, but spent most of his working life as a Californian… he told me his kids were ABC…)
I figured since the stove has a burner clearly designed for woks (both flat bottomed and, via the outer “legs” poking up, round bottomed) and since Gail was advocating it, and since I’d always really secretly wanted to try that Really Big Pan over flames… well, why not? The Comal was all of $11, and the Wok $15.
You can see that they are both a ‘nice fit’ to this stove…
I also stopped by the local “ethnic” market. Marina. I like going there just for the cultural immersion. It’s an odd eclectic mix of several kinds of Asian, with a load of Mexican and the odd bit of Central and South American foods. Oh, and some stray Indonesian and Thai bits too. I find things I can’t get anywhere else, and remember from my youth, like pickled pigs feet and beef heart and lambs kidneys. Then there are the amazingly odd bits that someone ELSE is pining for, like the “cooked pigs blood” and ox tripe and … well, you get the idea. If it was part of an animal, they likely sell it. Fresh too.
I picked up “Chinese Broccoli” (that’s mostly stems and leaves) and some kind of “Choy” (that are kind of like a strange kale or cabbage leaf but genetically many are turnips). Added an Italian squash and some Japanese soy sauce along with Mexican Onions (that are like a giant green onion with a bulb like a big radish). Yes, I’m making an “Asian Dish”, but in that peculiar California way ;-) At home I had some carrots and a cup worth of celery that got sliced. And a very large ‘leg quarter’ chicken from Marina. OK, debone the chicken (and wonder where my Cleaver I’ve not used in 2 decades has gone now that I want to play Chinese Chef…) and chop everything up. Wash the wok and rub with oil. Out to the Butteryfly stove and fire it up. Oil into the Wok and onto the fire. Back into the house to get the soy sauce, some white pepper, and the Chinese 5 Spice. Start the rice in the rice cooker and back to the patio.
As I remember it, from 20 years ago when I first wanted to try it, Wok cooking is supposed to be done very hot and fast with oil in the pan. So that’s what I did. A “sear’ on the chicken, then set aside. In with the onions, carrot wafers, and celery. Once they were about 3/4 done, added the squash chunks and then a bit later, the chicken to finish cooking. As a “part” gets mostly done, you shove it up the sides of the wok, and add the new stuff in the very bottom / hot spot. Once the chicken was clearly cooked through, I added seasonings, including a soy sauce drizzle, and dumped on the “leafys” The choy and Chinese Broccoli. Everything gets stirred around and fried on the bottom, steamed on the top. Once it all looks more or less cooked (and sampled bits are “cooked but oddly crunchy” as the outer edges are cooked but the middle only warmed / hot…) you take off the heat, and pile it next to a bed of rice.
One Small Problem. I’d made “tubs” of each ingredient, and ended up making rather more than I’d expected in total… Not to worry, a pint or two of “leftovers” keep in the fridge…
About 3/4 done. Yum!
There was one tense moment when I was madly sprinkling “Chinese 5 Spice” over the chicken and harder vegetables (prior to the leafys) and realized it was actually white pepper… A bit more pepper than I’d planned, but it was still way less hot than Hunan or Szechuan. I liked it rather a lot, the spouse thought it was near the upper bound of acceptable heat ;-)
At the end of it all, there were fewer leftovers than I’d expected, so something must have been good about it! ;-)
Using a wok on the patio on a large fire appliance is much more satisfying than using a funny shaped electric skillet while worrying that you might ding the teflon…
As the wok and comal are steel sheet, you treat them like cast iron. Wipe off and oil is about it. Tend to last for decades.
The Wick View
So the question came up from Ralph B about what does the wick area look like and how would you keep “fumes” in. (Frankly, I think they stay in fine all buy themselves, but for someone with a Vulcan Nose… (Vulcans are reputed to have exceptional sense of smell. A running joke in our house is that the spouse has a Vulcan Nose, as she is sensitive to things the rest of us can not detect at all, and I’ve got a pretty good nose! So I know you folks with Vulcan Noses are out there…)
Here is what it looks like from above, with the burner out of the way. You can see the ‘outer wick tubes’ in a ring around the outside. The holes in the middle are for air to enter the middle of the burner area. Down in the bottom somewhere are the inner wick tubes with the wicks. The Red Knob via a gear and toothed link, raise a rack that holds the wicks up into this outer wick tube set. IMHO, to “close it off”, one need only pick up the burner assembly, remove it (as when preparing to light the stove) and set a plate or pan on top of this wick tube assembly.
In this picture, the wicks are down the holes. When lighting, they poke up about 1/4 inch / 8 mm.
Here is a view from nearly ‘head on’ so you can see that the top of the assembly is higher than the wick tubes and anything set on it will cover them. To the left is the inside of the burner head. Kerosene evaporating from the wicks is mixed with very hot air that comes through the perforated metal screens. The center area gets air from below the wick holder top. This very hot kerosene and very hot air then burn with a very blue flame. Elegant in a way…
So you can see that it’s all pretty much just bits of sheet metal. Some painted. Some made into bowls. Some perforated. Some welded into tubes. Only “moving parts” (other than gauges and lids) are a knob shaft with gear, the toothed shaft that raises and lowers, and the ‘inner wick assembly’ it lifts up and down inside the outer wick assembly.
Ralph: Let me know if that is enough. I can also take pictures of the underside / inside wick assembly by opening the fuel pan area, if needed. It mostly just looks like the top part, only with slightly smaller diameter tubes going into the outer tubes, and with the “flat end part” down toward the bottom instead of up toward the top.
Evil Chemical Spill, or Food?
OK so I have these little tiny lamps I bought for something like $4, about 30 years ago. One of them finally had the little gear that lifts and lowers the wick let loose from the shaft. They make a flame about like a candle flame. This one is the one that ‘died’ last summer. I left it just setting in the shade on the patio… A “someday” project to try to fix it, or make it “parts” for the other one…
The teaspoon gives a sense of scale. The wick is 1/8 inch diameter. I really like these little guys for “ambient night light” in places like the bath and kitchen when we’ve had a power failure. Just enough light that it’s not all dark, but without a lot of fuel burn. So you approach a slightly lit area with your “mobile light” and don’t feel like its some kind of Scary Movie scene ;-)
(You “get into” that kind of appreciation of esthetics when you have periodic rolling blackouts due to Democrats controlling the electrical system and generation. We had Gov. Grey “out” Davis ‘for a while’… So prepare now, Obama and the Greens have the same planned for you… Once we elected a RINO – Er, “Republican”, it got better…)
Well, I was playing with strange fuels and wicks ( Isopropanol) and thought I’d salvage the wick from this one and use it. Since the other wick likely had extracted water from the isopropanol… Opening the lamp and lifting the wick was “a surprise” as what had looked like “dirt” on the font turned out to be “Something Living”… Yes, “It’s Alive!”…
Not knowing exactly what it is, I apologized for the intrusion, put it back in the lamp, and put that back in the semi-shade where it had rested for most of a year…
It looks somewhat like a bacterial mat, but I could be convinced it was some kind of algae or mold. One hopes it isn’t some kind of new evolutionary leap or micro-sized space aliens that like to drink kerosene ;-)
At the end of the day, I’m left wondering about all the HazMat teams being called out for kerosene, Jet-A, JP-4, Diesel, etc etc spills. Are they, perhaps, violating the “Endangered Species Act”? After all, I have an existence proof of something living on kerosene. It clearly is not very common (as we do not have it in all our fuel tanks and airplanes). So it must be rare, and likely endangered. How can we allow people to obliterate it’s food supply? The poor dears are wandering the surface of the planet, looking for a bit of spilled petroleum to scrounge a bit of dinner, and here we are exterminating it with chemicals and scrubbing up its food supply. They have to “make do” in the odd lamp left out too long or the forgotten Tiki Torch. Oh, the humanity!
So please, next time you spill a bit of lamp oil, or the car drips some motor oil where the signage admonishes you “No DUMPING! Flows to BAY!!!!” remember that you are doing it “for the children” of these fine little fellows. It’s a tough world out there, and they can use all the help they can get.
Whatever they are…