Wadjan or Wok. Wadjan comes from Wadja – Indonesian for steel pan or Wok in Cantonese.
The wadjan or wok is a practical spherical pan, which you can use for the following:
1) Stir Frying, vegetable fried rice or, for example, firing of the leftovers from the previous day
2) Slowly stewing of ingredients, suitable for dishes that have plenty of liquid in the beginning and in the end become a thick sauce
3) Steaming, use a bamboo steamer with a lid over boiling water. The bamboo is better than a metal steamer because it absorbs moisture, rather it going back into the food, or
4) Frying, uses less oil than a deep fryer. Preferably use a heavy cast iron or enamel wadjan
Choose the wadjan with a flat metal scoop (soetil) and an assortment of metal (perforated) spatulas, large semicircular spatula or slotted spoon and wooden spatulas for the wok or pan with a nonstick (teflon) layer.
Wadjan / wok is a good alternative to a frying pan.
Which material: Many Dutch-Indonesian dishes contain acidic ingredients such as lemon or tamarind juice and coconut milk. The use of aluminum pots and pans can cause a discoloration or chemical reaction. We would therefore lean towards stainless steel. However, for stir-fry food, that needs on-the-fly head adjustments it’s not recommended, as it takes a long time to heat up and cool down. Also, protein (like chicken) has a tendency to stick to steel.
A better option is cast iron, it has a better nonstick surface. Like stainless, heavy and can make flipping during stir-frying difficult. It also takes a long time to heat up and cool down, not ideal for rapid stir frying.
Then there is the carbon steel wok. Not only a durable option but also inexpensive. Most importantly it heats quickly and evenly. When you care for it properly it will end up with a practically nonstick surface. Get one that is at least 2 mm thick (14-gauge). When you press on the sides it should not bend. Just like a good cast iron pan, this wok’s performance will improve the more you use it.
TIP: if you want to use it for stewing, stir-frying and steaming and get the most multi use out of your pan, then avoid nonstick woks. As most coatings cannot handle the high heat necessary for a proper stir-fry. If you wan’t a clear surface to cook in the middle, it’s impossible to get food to stick in a place against the wok.
I am using the enamel coated wadjan I inherited. Fast heat transfer and uniform heating. Also easy to clean. But hard to find.
Buy a ‘cooking ring’ to ensure the wadjan is stable.
Read more about the wadjan cooking techniques and applications in my new upcoming cookbook.