In December, I reported that the Cen brothers, the Shanghai wok artisans whose woks grace the cover of “The Breath of a Wok,” closed shop. Since that posting I’ve received numerous emails, some desperate on how to buy a Cen hand-pounded wok. Sadly, there is no hidden stash. Someone I know contacted one of the brothers who confirmed the business is permanently closed.
There is some good news in the hand-pounded wok universe. A few months ago, Christopher St Cavish wrote a piece Meeting Tao Qingjian,The Last Woksmith in Smartshanghai.com. Tao’s woks are dramatically different from the Cen woks because the metal is cold hammered. A few months ago, Mr Tao’s wok business was shut down by the Shanghai government. However, last week Ryland Auburn sent me a message on my website that Mr Tao is back in business. The instructions are: “He’s on the grass median next to a huge construction site. He works Mon-Fri in the afternoon, near the intersection of Tianhong Lu and Zhoujiazui.”
I have not seen these woks but I’m told they are beautiful. According to Chris St Cavish, Tao has the material to make 300 more woks. After that who knows what the future holds. I think it’s absolutely amazing that it’s still possible to buy a handmade wrought iron wok from the last known wok artisan of Shanghai. Book your flights to Shanghai now!