The Breath of a Wok
The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore By Grace Young and Alan Richardson, Simon & Schuster, 2004. Hardcover. $35; 240 pages
It's hard to overstate the centrality of the wok to many Asian recipes. Watching chefs turn out stir-fried dishes in a busy Hong Kong restaurant, agog at the huge whooshes of flame from roaring burners, makes you long for even a bit of that skill. This is self-evident: Parboiling crowded food in a lukewarm nonstick pan doesn't cut it.
Grace Young opens with a recollection of her parents teaching her to respect "wok hay, the prized, elusive, seared taste that comes only from stir-frying in a wok."