For most dedicated eaters, the summer means grilling. If you are not firing up some flames to roast some summer sweet corn or a blacken a hanger steak or (at least) a hot dog, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys of the season. There is so much potential and tradition in a simple kettle grill, a chimney full of carbonized wood, and the possibility of what to put on top. But in between the pork chops and burgers and corn cobs and zucchini, there's something else you should absolutely be putting on your grill: a wok.
Chances are that somewhere in your town––either far away from the big box stores or in some area that is under-visited or out of the way––there is an amazing Asian market nearby. They exist in towns and cities of all sizes, so don't assume there isn't one near you until you actually look into it. Asian grocery stores are an immigrant's lifeboat, and they are one of the few, authentic cross-cultural locations you can find in most of America that isn't a temple or cultural center. They tend to have an array of products that confuse nearly all shoppers due to the sheer diversity of products that fall under the category of "Asian."
While the meat offerings and seafood tends to be absolutely exceptional and exceptionally inexpensive, the thing that routinely blows me away at my local Asian market is the produce. My god, the produce! Where your standard grocery store will have a small range of Asian ingredients, an Asian market will stagger you just in its section of radishes. Its refreshingly overwhelming, especially when you see something familiar––a bunch of cilantro or garlic or something––and recognize their exceptional quality. This is a place you should certainly familiarize yourself with, and return often.
And while you're there, you should use some of the wonderful vegetables that are, unfortunately, out of our Western culinary vocabulary. In an effort to help you navigate, here are some of the tastiest ones to look out for. This list is anywhere near exhaustive (we love you, too, ong choy), but a great way to start to learn to use some of the classic produce you just can't find at you local megamart.
Fried rice is a comfort food in almost every Eastern culture where rice is a staple, and the styles vary widely among traditions cultures. But if you ask me, one cuisine has nailed it above all the others; and its version isn't just a way to use up leftover rice. It's a reason to make a huge pot of rice in the first place.
Thai cuisine is all about the balance of four essential taste experiences: salty, sweet, sour, and piquancy (spicy heat). (Some would also add bitter to the list). This is well-represented by the most well-known Thai dish in the U.S. - Pad Thai (its name refers to its identity as a national dish of Thailand, with the pad coming from it's being cooked in wok - literally, stir-fried Thai-style).
If you go to any high-end kitchen shop and general goods discount store, you'll find any number of dedicated popcorn popping devices. Handle-cranked special pans, air poppers, campfire shakers, motorized stirrers, microwave options, and even tiny versions of carnival/movie theater style hopper poppers. (Isn't that fun to say?)
Turns out, their all unnecessary, and a waste of money and storage space. Cause the best way to pop corn at home, avoiding burning and popping every kernel, is likely already in your kitchen.