My First Wok, My Latest Stir-fry.

The wok you see in the picture is the first wok I ever purchased. I was a junior in college and had my very own studio apartment, complete with a separate, real-sized kitchen. The majority of my kitchen supplies came from a previous roommate (he had far too many pots and pans, thus I got the battered ones) and a run to Ikea for things like knives and silverware and dishes. It wasn't until several months later that I decided I wanted a wok and I bundled myself up and went down the street to the local Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Once there, I agonized over which one I wanted, did I want a steamer, was a bamboo spatula really a good idea, did I plan on frying things... My first real kitchen purchase, not done because I needed the item, persay, but because I wanted it.

I made a selection. Sort of a My First Wok kit, but I think I actually giggled when I paid for it and hustled it back to my studio.

I loved that wok.

I didn't just stir-fry my food with it. I used it as if all the skillets and pots I had previous used had suddenly vanished, as if I didn't have a perfectly good microwave - I'd reheat my leftover Thai food, I made soup, and I vividly remember using my new wok to make a grilled cheese sandwich. At the time, I swore it was the best grilled cheese I had ever had, but that was really just the novelty.

Also, I really enjoyed saying "wok wok wok" under my breath whenever I used it.

Inventive (or strangeness, but who is to say which?) aside, I did use that wok to work on stir-frying meals for myself and, later, others. This was not the first time I set about to cook something, this was not the first time I fell for my kitchen, but this did really kick-start a passion in me to work on my cooking skills. Like many poor college students, sometimes my "gourmet cuisine" was actually a packet of ramen noodles with added
peas and a quickly scrambled egg. And, really, there is nothing wrong with that fast (delicious) lunch.

I love stir-fry, love having crisp veg and tender chicken, love figuring out sauces and flavors and how easy it feels to accomplish a pretty healthy meal. I ditched (read: gave to a friend) m
y wok when I moved across the country, but didn't reclaim it when I returned to Chicago. I had gotten over the joy of a wok and just started using pans, but about a week ago I moved in with a friend of mine.

She has a wonderfully sized kitchen - better than my last two apartments. She has a wok. She (now, we, I suppose) also happen to live very close to Thai Nam and a host of other amazing places and restaurants. So, when I decided that I wanted to cook a stir-fry, I scoped out some produce places nearby and gathered chicken and the veg that I wanted and then dropped by Thai Nam to pick up noodles. Then, enjoying some white wine, I put together this dish.

Tipsy Chicken and Wide Rice Noodles

- rice flake noodles
- extra virgin sesame oil
- grapeseed oil
- soy sauce

- white wine
- boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into chunks)
- half a large onion (roughly chopped)
- mushrooms (sliced)
- red bell pepper (sliced) (you can also add any other color peppers as well)
- snow peas (although, I forgot them, so I used regular frozen)
- celery (sliced thin)

- garlic (however many cloves you want, sliced thin or diced)
- basil
- water chestnuts or bamboo shoots (or both or none)

First off, boil some water and pour it over the noodles in a large bowl. Follow the directions on the
packet (for however many noodles you want), but I tend to let them soak around seven minutes. I generally forget that I've got them waiting for me, but when they are done they will be white, opaque, and, well, it's cooked noodles. Sticky to touch, but still cooked noodles. You'll drain them, then ignore them.

Now, add your cooking oil (I used grapeseed, but peanut or canola are also fine) to the wok. Add garlic, basil, and onion. Stir for a few minutes, then add chicken. Season a little, stirring plenty, and pour in a small amount of wine (a few tablespoons, though you can more if you prefer. you could leave the whole thing out if you wanted.). As the wine cooks off, you should add some soy sauce and sesame oil, then cook chicken through. Add veg and cook until most are quite tender - the celery and water chestnuts will still be crisp. Drizzle some honey onto the mixture and keep stirring. You'll likely want a little more seasoning and soy sauce/sesame oil.

Add in the now-cooked and drained noodles. Continue to stir-fry until the noodles are heated and seaso
ned. You may need to add more oil at any point during this process, as you do not want anything sticking to the pan. When everything is cooked and seasoned to your satisfaction, simply remove from heat and serve still warm.

There are a lot of variations on this dish and I know there are things I wanted to have done differently (some changes I already made to this recipe), but I threw this together just a few nights ago and was pretty pleased with it. And, anyway, I haven't had the time to perfect it like my Mango-Chicken Stir-fry.

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