It is not known exactly when the Chinese first used woks. By examining extant funerary stoves and stone relief pictures of the Han Dynasty (200 B.C. to 220 A.D.), the author conjectures that they definitely have been used for at least two thousand years. Since the Chinese wok is a concave shaped cooking pan without seams or corners, it war probably invented to fit directly over the round hole of the Chinese cooking stove. Wood was used to fuel the cooking stove. When the wok was put over the cooking hole, the rounded bottom of it would become the hottest part of it, while the upper sides remained somewhat cooler. To take advantage of this heating condition, the Chinese "chow" or stir fry pieces of food that have been cut up into bite size quickly in the wok. The high heat at the bottom of the wok seals in the individual flavours of each ingredients. With a quick stir of the wrist, all of the flavours of the ingredients are blended together to form harmonious or contrasting tastes and textures.
Deep frying and steaming may also be performed in the wok. The wok is actually an all purpose cooking utensil for the Chinese. Except for a very good Chinese cleaver and a pot for cooking rice, that is all that a Chinese really needs to prepare his meals.
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