Dahling, oh how much fun we had! Our Wok-fired Lo Mein Cooking Class was such a great time. I’m so glad you came. We mastered a few cutting techniques (chopping, rolling, and pivoting) and became pros at making the batonnet cut. All of that resulted in a flavorful vegetable lo mein that you can quite easily make at home.
Here’s a quick recap of what went down.
Wok-cooking is a true art form. It hones your knife skills and calls upon various methods of food preparation. In fact, finally getting the food in the wok is the easiest part. There’s a lot to get done to get to that point but each step is easy to master. It is also entirely adaptable. During the day’s recap, one of our budding chefs pointed out that his takeaway from the class was that almost everything can be adjusted to taste and preference. BINGO! Once you get the techniques down, you are free to roam the country, dahling. You can add ingredients that you love and leave out some that you don’t. You can adjust the quantities of ingredients to create a specific texture or flavor. How Irie is that?
MISE EN PLACE
The first thing we learned was the art of preparation. Mise en place – a french cooking term meaning “everything in place” – plays a pivotal role in attaining a great dish. It is particularly important in wok cooking as cooking in a wok goes rather quickly. It means before we ever turn on the stove, we gather and prepare all of our ingredients. The measuring, chopping and organization get done first. It would be quite disastrous to be hunting for the soy-sauce while the garlic is burning away in the wok. Preparation leads to pleasant results, dahling.
We learned 3 basic cutting techniques that will make your prep experience much more efficient. We covered CHOPPING, where the knife goes up-down, up-down, and the full blade leaves the board which is perfect for getting the thin slices of onion for our lo mein.
We also covered ROLLING, which is perhaps the most efficient and rhythmic cutting technique. The blade of the knife rolls through the food, allowing the sharpness of the blade to work its magic. You drag the tip of the knife back towards the food as you the lift the heel, then push it forward again creating a backward circular (rolling) motion. The knife is always kept in contact with the cutting board. The rolling technique makes efficient use of longer pieces of food like celery and carrot.
Finally we covered the PIVOTING technique, which is particularly useful with herbs and garlic. By anchoring the tip of the blade with your fingers, you then rotate the knife as you chop, using the tip as a pivot point.
Food cuts are really just specific measurements to ensure uniformity and to achieve a particular texture. The cut of the food greatly affects its final texture or mouth-feel and look. For example, a small dice (1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4 inch) of carrot has a different look and feel than say a batonnet cut (1/4 x 1/4 inch thick by 2 inch long strip.) Here’s how you achieve this Batonnet cut.
Finally, we covered blanching which was our last step before firing up the wok. By blanching vegetables (briefly cooking them in boiling water then immersing in an ice bath) we are able to get tender-crisp vegetables that retain a vibrant color. This ensured that harder vegetables like broccoli and carrots can cook at the same time as onions and peppers while giving a providing vibrancy to the finished dish.
We also had a ton of fun learning the art of tossing! Perhaps we ended up with more food on the floor than in the pot, but that was part of the fun, I’m sure. Everything requires practice, dahling.
WHERE TO GET SOME OF OUR ITEMS
- Fresh lo mein is often food at Asian grocery stores (if you are in Orlando, there are lots of options along Colonial Road, particularly on the West side). Be sure to get the ones without egg.
- Shelf-stable lo mein noodles are available at your local grocery store, usually in the Asian-foods aisle.
- Sambal oelek – a spicy, South Asian chili paste can also be found at your local grocery store, along with other Asian products.
Here’s the recipe for our Vegetable Lo Mein that you can make at home. Give it a try, adjust the ingredients to your heart’s desire, then write a comment below letting me know all about it. Dahling, let’s cook together!