The Breath of a Wok
Unlocking the Spirit of Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore

IACP Le Cordon Bleu International Cookbook Award

IACP Jane Grigson Cookbook Award for Distinguished Scholarship

World Food Media Awards’ Best Food Book

“Wok hay makes the difference between a good stir-fry and a great one,” said Ms. Young, who traveled to China in 2000 and 2002 to study and document wok cooking and traditions. Her book, The Breath of a Wok” (Simon & Schuster, 2004), is both an attempt to define wok hay and a guide to achieving it in an American kitchen.
-Julia Moskin, New York Times

The Breath of a Wok will bring to you a new appreciation of Chinese culinary history, one which very much has its roots in the humble yet rugged wok. Grace takes us on an unforgettable journey back to the homeland, traveling throughout China’s provinces to learn about this ancient culinary tool through personal stories, interviews, and of course recipes. All are accompanied by the phenomenal photography of Alan Richardson. This goes way beyond the scope of any traditional cookbook and will captivate cooks and non-cooks alike!”
–Ming Tsai, author of Simply Ming


“Grace Young takes us into the heart of wok cooking—from the master cooks of China to the culinary luminaries of the United States. In her book, we’re privileged to hear the age-old secrets of seasoning a wok, the stories behind family recipes, and the caveats of Chinese cooking. This is a cookbook that sizzles, sings, and ultimately has you sighing with pleasure.”
–Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club


“This new homage to wok cooking, the follow-up to Young’s award-winning The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, is both inspiring and refreshingly practical. The 125 excellent recipes for dishes like juicy, delicate steamed Scallop Siu Mai Spring Moon dumplings and Sweet and Sour Chicken prove the wok’s versatility, and the photographs demonstrate its beauty.”
–Kate Heddings,¬† Food & Wine

When Grace Young was a child, her father instilled in her a lasting appreciation of wok hay, the highly prized but elusive taste that food achieves when properly stir-fried in a wok. As an adult Young aspired to create that taste in her own kitchen. Her quest to master wok cooking led her throughout the United States, Hong Kong, and mainland China. Along with award-winning photographer Alan Richardson, Young sought the advice of home cooks, professional chefs, and esteemed culinary teachers like Cecilia Chiang, Florence Lin, and Ken Hom. Their advice, stories, and recipes, gathered in this richly designed and illustrated volume, offer not only expert lessons in the art of wok cooking, but also capture a beautiful and timeless way of life.

With its emphasis on cooking with all the senses, The Breath of a Wok brings the techniques and flavors of old-world wok cooking into today’s kitchen, enabling anyone to stir-fry with wok hay. IACP award-winner Young teaches not only the fundamentals of selecting, seasoning, and caring for a wok, but also the range of the wok’s uses; this surprisingly inexpensive utensil serves as the ultimate multipurpose kitchen tool. The 125 recipes are a testament to the versatility of the wok, with stir-fried, smoked, pan-fried, braised, boiled, poached, steamed, and deep-fried dishes that include not only the classics of wok cooking, like Kung Pao Chicken and Moo Shoo Pork, as well as unusual dishes like Sizzling Pepper and Salt Shrimp, Three Teacup Chicken, and Scallion and Ginger Lo Mein. Young’s elegant prose and Richardson’s extraordinary photographs create a unique and unforgettable picture of artisan wok makers in mainland China, street markets in Hong Kong, and a wok-a-thon¬†which Young’s family of aunties, uncles, and cousins cook together in a lively exchange of recipes and stories. A visit with author Amy Tan also becomes a family event as Tan and her sisters prepare New Year’s dumplings. Also included are menus for family-style meals and for Chinese New Year festivities, including an illustrated glossary and a source guide to purchasing ingredients, woks, and accessories. Written with the intimacy of a memoir and the immediacy of a travelogue, this recipe-rich volume is a celebration of cultural and culinary delights.

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