August 13th, 2007

So you wanna be a wok star? (Updated)

Eleanor Hoh

I own a wok. An IKEA wok. And it’s been collecting dust at my parent’s house for about a year. I might have used it once or twice but I can’t say I had much success stir-frying. The secret, says Eleanor Hoh, is to stir-fry vegetables first, then protein, then sauce, each separately. We attended Eleanor’s class at La Cuisine Gourmet in Coral Gables on Saturday and learned quite a bit about wok cooking and Asian food in Miami.

We arrived a little before 11 a.m. and Eleanor’s husband, Ralph, greeted us with a choice of Prosecco or Tiger Beer. Once everyone was settled in, Eleanor began making an appetizer as she introduced each student. She had asked each person to send her a brief description of themselves before the class. Her memory amazed me.

Our appetizer was what she calls Rainbow Lettuce Wraps, pieces of lettuce topped with hoisin sauce and a medley of ground turkey, colorful vegetables and pumpkin seeds. She literally made it in minutes and made it look so easy. That’s because it is. Or at least that’s the very important lesson that she wants people to take away from this class. It’s the central theory around which Eleanor’s method to wok cooking is based. Anyone can be a wok star, she says.

Rainbow Lettuce Wraps

Eleanor doesn’t teach based on recipes. I had recently commented on another blog, which does research on food, that there should be more technique-based cooking classes so you learn the fundamentals you need to create at home. Here, Eleanor was doing just that. Although students don’t cook during the class, except for three students who had their few minutes of “wok-star” fame while they helped Eleanor stir fry, she’s good at explaining her method. She created a flow chart — thank her computer industry background — that shows the three main steps of a stir-fry and the several paths you can take depending on which ingredients you’ll be using. The idea being that once you get this process in your head, you’ll have room to be creative with mixing and matching your ingredients.


wok5.jpg

Eleanor uses a core of four ingredients, which a la Rachael Ray she abbreviates into TSPC (tamari, sherry, pepper and corn starch) to marinade and create sauces, and only ginger and garlic to season the stir-fry. She showed us exactly how to chop the garlic and how to shred the ginger with a knife — another lesson: juice and stir-fry don’t mix, which is why she doesn’t grate the ginger and dries all her ingredients very well.

We tried three other dishes during the class: a vegetable stir-fry served with roasted pork and chicken bought at an Asian market (a nice little bonus from the class is a list provided by Eleanor of Miami markets and shops that sell Asian ingredients.) Next, we had stir-fried shrimp and asparagus with a basic brown sauce over brown jasmine rice, and last we ate tilapia in brown bean sauce with stir-fried vegetables, again over rice. My favorite was the shrimp but only second to the lettuce wraps, which I’m dying to make at home.

shrimp.jpg

In all, the class was better than I expected. I had fun, met new people and learned a few things about stir-frying. Now the question is, can I do it at home? If it’s as easy as Eleanor makes it look, dinners at home may become a lot less complicated, but I’ll have to put what I learned to the test first.

See a schedule of Eleanor’s upcoming classes.

Update: I forgot to mention that if you don’t already own a wok, Eleanor sells a “wok-star” cooking kit with everything you need to get you started.

[tags] Eleanor Hoh, wok, stir fry, La Cuisine Gourmet, Asian food, cooking classes [/tags]

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17 Responses to “So you wanna be a wok star? (Updated)”

  1. I would like to know what is in the list of markets selling Asian ingredients? Would you reveal that please?

  2. nice blog Paula. you captured our event in a wonderful way! i made the shrimp and asparagus dish last night. it was good eating. the ultimate test: my 14 year old son helped me devour the shrimp in record time. and he even ate a few carrot sticks. it was a pleasure meeting you.

  3. The class was phenomenal. Eleanor has a very structured manner of presenting her approach to wok frying (replete with flowchart) and has a good mix of theory and practical tips.

  4. My wok is my #1 favorite item to use in the kitchen. I use it for everything and dont limit it to Asian dishes.

    As far as Asian markets are concerned, the only one I know of (and I really enjoy it) is Lucky’s on Bird Rd. (cross street is around 92nd I think?). People there are really nice and they have a good selection of everyday supplies and some more adventurous ones too!

  5. This was a great post. I’ve seen the signs for the Wok Star class, but you’ve totally convinced me. It sounds like Eleanor Hoh can successfully teach, as well as cook. Fun!

  6. She’s right. That’s the way my mom taught me to cook – veggies, then protein, then sauce and then mix them all together :)

  7. Sorry I didn’t respond immediately to this wonderful writeup, Paula. Busy prepping for another class. You really captured the essence of my approach to wok cooking. I’m sure you’ll all agree our best memories are gatherings where there’s food and people we enjoy. Also good for anyone looking for alternatives to a “diet”.

    Thanks to all who came to class and your positive comments. Anyone can be a Wok Star if you have the right tools!

  8. Great write-up about Eleanor’s cooking class! It brings back memories of Miami and trying Eleanor’s lettuce wraps several years ago. You made me hungry!!!

  9. […] Hoh will give a cooking demonstration at the Dragon Boat Festival on Haulover Beach. Paula of mangoandlime praised Eleanor’s down-to-earth teaching style after Paula attended a “Wok Star” class. […]

  10. Thanks for mentioning Dragon Boat Festival. It’s a lovely way to spend the day with family, friends and a picnic. There are shady areas with tables, benches and breeze. Raffle prizes include a trip to Hong Kong and my cooking class for two. Lots of students emailed to say they’re coming, it will be nice to see people I’ve not seen in a while and catch up.

    All parents – help spread word to adoptive parents of Asian kids about my free cooking classes.

  11. […] Miami Dragon Boat Festival is this Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Haulover Park. Eleanor Hoh will be doing a wok-star cooking demonstration Sunday at 2 p.m. Haulover Park, 10800 Collins Ave, […]

  12. […] & lime attended an Eleanor Hoh class at La Cuisine. You can read what she thought about it here. The class costs $ 65. Drinks are provided and students can sample the dishes. For more info, […]

  13. […] Get them a cooking class! Even better, get them one where they’ll eat four courses and drink free-flowing prosecco while learning stir-frying techniques. http://www.eleanorhoh.com/classinfo.htm […]

  14. Paula, just to let your readers know this month I have two classes to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage month as well as Mother’s Day. Spaces are going fast but still available for May 21 at Gibson showroom in Design District and May 28 at Arclinea, an Italian Kitchen design showroom in the Gables, both 7pm-10pm.

    Keep up the good work, I know it’s a LOT of work posting blogs. I’m juggling so many different things, I’ve let my blog slide but hope to pick it up soon.

  15. […] this Ikea wok that I have, I stumbled across a post about a great stir fry class over in Miami:  http://mangoandlime.net/2007/08/13/so-you-wanna-be-a-wok-star/.  If only I could find something like this in […]

  16. […] it before. But I guess the better late than never adage applies here. I have Eleanor Hoh (remember the Wok Star class I took?) to thank for hosting the dinner that got D and I there last week, a whole three years after the […]

  17. […] & lime attended an Eleanor Hoh class at La Cuisine. You can read what she thought about it here. The class costs $ 65. Drinks are provided and students can sample the dishes. For more info, […]

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