Yakisoba street food
Wok Hei: The Indefinable Quality Of A Perfect
Wok Aroma
By Haldan Kirsch
The elusive wok hei, or "breath of a wok," is the result of skillful wok cooking. Using a wok on high heat can take years to master, but it’s what creates that smoky, caramelized, and umami flavor that you get from many Asian restaurants.
Woks have a bowl shape with steep rising sides, which lets the pan become scorching hot and allows well-trained chefs to flip the frying foods into the air. This process of circulating from intense heat into steam and evaporating oil molecules causes wok hei, and this leads to complex flavors — all while keeping vegetables crunchy, and noodles chewy.
Professional kitchens have specific burners for woks that concentrate the soft flames of a kitchen stove top into a single pillar of fire, but a stovetop accessory called the WokMon can help you cook over a proper flame. Some safer options are to take your wok or other nonstick pans outdoors to the grill or use a blow torch to achieve high temperatures and a nice, charred coating to your foods.