Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
This week, we found a wok spatula!
This week’s tool is familiar to anyone who cooks at home with a wok. It’s a metal wok spatula, a shovel-shaped utensil that let you easily toss the ingredients in a standard carbon steel or iron wok. It’s designed with a curved edge that hugs the curve of the wok. The handle is long enough to reach into the bottom of a wok without burning your hand.
Professional Chinese cooks actually use a wok ladle for this purpose, which allows the cook to easily pick up the ingredients from the round bottom, as well as add liquid ingredients and toss them around.
This spatula was designed for a wok that is completely concave, that is, a pan that curves from bottom to top edge. Many modern home woks have flat bottoms of varying sizes, allowing them to sit on a electric stoves, so the spatula/shovel technically only fits the wok’s sides, not its bottom. However, if you haven’t ever used a completely round wok, you probably won’t notice any reduction in the spatula’s effectiveness in a flat-bottomed one.
What you would notice is that a regular metal spatula or turner does not work very well since a wok’s sides (especially those made for the home) are too steep and curved to toss the foods properly. While it’s a specialized tool, if you use a wok even occasionally for stir-frying, it’s indispensable.
Our Rating: Great for doing stir-fry in a steel or iron wok. Not for use in a non-stick wok. (Actually, don’t buy a non-stick wok; you can’t get the heat high enough in it.)
Design: All such spatulas are made about the same. Chinese-made versions may have all-metal handles.
Originality: It’s an old design that fits the job.
Practicality: You can’t get more basic than this tool. While it’s designed for perfectly concave woks, it works fine in a flat-bottomed one.