A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
CLT (chicken, lettuce and tomato) (5/26)
“Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time” (5/25)
“A gig is worth ten rehearsals” (music adage) (5/24)
“Victory is a thousand times sweeter when you’re the underdog” (5/24)
“Progress is what happens when impossibility yields to necessity” (5/24)
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Entry from February 16, 2019
Wok Chi (wok energy)

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Wok hei
Wok hei (Chinese: 鑊氣; Jyutping: wok6 hei3) literally, the “breath of the wok”, a poetic phrase Grace Young first coined in her cookbook, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen. In her book, The Breath of a Wok, Young further explores the ideas and concepts of wok hei. An essay called “Wok Hay: The Breath of a Wok” explains how the definition of wok hei varies from cook to cook and how difficult it is to translate the term. Some define it as the “taste of the wok”, a “harmony of taste”, etc.: “I think of wok hay as the breath of a wok—when a wok breathes energy into a stir-fry, giving foods a unique concentrated flavor and aroma.”

The second character is transliterated as qi (chi) according to its Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, so wok hei is sometimes rendered as wok chi in Western cookbooks is the flavour, tastes, and “essence” imparted by a hot wok on food during stir frying. It is particularly important for Chinese dishes requiring high heat for fragrance such as and beef chow fun. Out of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, wok hei is encountered the most in Cantonese cuisine, whereas it may not even be an accepted underlying principle in some of the other Chinese cuisines.

To impart wok hei the traditional way, the food is cooked in a seasoned wok over a high flame while being stirred and tossed quickly. Constant contact with the heat source is crucial as the addition of new ingredients and each toss of the wok inevitably cools the wok down; therefore, cooking over flame is preferred.

5 December 1982, New York (NY) Times, “Where the Twain Meet—Deliciously: San Francisco’s Chinese restaurants are abundant, and almost everywhere” by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo,sec. 20, pg. 15, cols. 3-4:
Yuet Lee, 1300 Stockton Street, (415) 982-6020. (...) Yet Lee houses three good-humored brothers, Michael, Jimmy and Sammy Wu, who work with what the Cantonese call “wok chi,” or wok energy, with spatula and wok behind a shoulder-high laminated counter that overlooks 10 tables.
(...)
Lichee Garden, 1416 Powell Street, (415) 397-2290. (...) “Wok Hei,” says Chef Siu, the phrase used to denote the Hong Kong style, “makes the food powerful and strong.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Saturday, February 16, 2019 • Permalink