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.
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.
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.
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]