When you stir-fry it’s natural to assume you’ll be using a Chinese spatula, also known as a wok chuan in Cantonese. These beautiful tools have a shovel-like shape which means as you stir-fry, each scoop holds more food than a Western spatula. The rounded edge also fits the contour of the wok. I adore the Chinese spatula (pictured left) that I bought years ago in Kowloon, at Chan Chi Kee, the famous knife shop. If only I had bought more. For whatever reason, the Chinese spatulas I find these days look similar to mine but the design is off. Some are too long and meant to be used with a large restaurant wok. Some are the same length as mine but the spatula doesn’t fit the contour of a wok and the angle of the spatula is not right. Instead, as you stir-fry it feels like the spatula jams into the wok. There’s no fluid motion. And it’s heartbreaking to see all the scratches on the metal after cooking. I keep buying spatulas in hopes of finding the dream Chinese spatula. My friend Jennifer Thomas went on a spatula search for me in Hong Kong, including a stop at Chan Chi Kee, but alas, I’ve yet to find one like mine.
But don’t despair. The old-fashioned pancake or fish spatula are great for stir-frying. Both are flexible spatulas which mean they fit the contour of the wok. The smaller fish spatula (3rd from the left) is a cool spatula I got from Oxo in Japan. It’s too bad Oxo doesn’t sell this in the states but Kuhn Rikon sells a 11-inch flexi spatula that’s similar (and the WokShop.com carries it). The bigger fish spatula is made by Oxo and sold in America. I wish it was a little smaller but it works.
Finally, I’m always surprised by the number of people that automatically reach for a wood or bamboo spatula for stir-frying. I prefer a metal spatula because the edge is thinner. If you use wood for stir-frying meat, fish, rice, and noodles, your food is likely to stick because the wood is too thick to get under your ingredients. In my opinion, the only time a wood spatula can be used for stir-frying is for vegetables.