One thing I learned as a single dad raising twin daughters, while working full-time as a marketing executive, was that dinnertime meals had to be quick, healthy and come with lunch-ready leftovers. And the easiest, best way I found to make those meals was making use of a carbon steel wok.

While you can certainly take the deep dive into learning to prepare true Asian cuisine, that knowledge is unnecessary to embrace the benefit of this inexpensive, invaluable kitchen workhorse. With a few simple guidelines, your wok becomes the crucible for a limitless variety of tasty, healthy, fast and easy-to-clean-up meals.

There are three main food categories to a wok meal:

  1. Aromatics: ginger and garlic
  2. Protein: beef, chicken, shrimp, fish and tofu
  3. Veggies: broccoli, bok choy, asparagus, carrots and peppers, among others

As far as techniques go, there are just two basics: chopping and mincing.


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That’s it. Seriously. Chop some veggies and protein of your choice into roughly equal (bite-size) chunks; mince or grate your aromatics. And get ready to have a meal in 10 or so minutes.

Here is a shrimp and broccoli stir-fry to get you started on the path to becoming BFFs with your wok. While this recipe calls for making a sauce from scratch, I’m a firm believer in the work smarter, not harder, approach to meal prep. There are some truly great tasting, high-quality bottled stir-fry sauces on the shelves. Grab one, skip the aromatics and sauce prep, and pour on the sauce of your choosing as the last step, using enough to coat the veggies and protein without drowning them.

Another bonus to wok meals? Easy cleanup: You’ll be washing just a wok, a cutting board, a knife, a spatula, and a pot for noodles or rice, if used. Pretty nice return on investment for a quick and healthy meal!

—Jack Sonni, writer, musician and food lover, known as the “other guitar player” in Dire Straits

SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI STIR-FRY 

yield: 4 SERVINGS

prep time: 10 MINUTES

cook time: 10 MINUTES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 24 ounces (about 5 cups) broccoli florets
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

FOR THE SAUCE (Or USE your Favorite bottled sauce)

  • 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, cornstarch and Sriracha, if using; set aside. Or take the top off the bottle!
  2. Heat wok on medium high heat until a drop of water beads, dances and vaporizes immediately. Add oil. Tilt wok and work oil around to coat walls and bottom.
  3. Add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until pink, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add broccoli and cook — keep stirring — until tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in sauce mixture until veggies and protein are well coated, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately over prepared noodles or rice or on its own.