Man devotes lifetime to the art of wok-making

China 24

Man devotes lifetime to the art of wok-making

It’s a staple of any Chinese kitchen — the wok.

The mass-produced ones are a dime a dozen.

But those that are hand-made are truly special.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo introduces us to a man who’s devoted a lifetime to the craft.

In a village in central Hubei Province, life may seem to move slowly.

But it’s full speed ahead inside one factory — Tang Yunguo is at the helm with a pipe in his mouth while maneuvering a hot iron plate.

He’s making a wok from scratch, and he’s a stickler for details.

“The edge of the wok must be round and the bottom must be level,” said Tang Yunguo.

To achieve this, he has to heat the piece of steel at extremely high temperatures.

“The melting process is for burning out the toxic elements, and secondly it becomes softer and easier for hammering. It is around 1,500 to 1,600 degrees centigrade,” explained Tang.

Tang then molds it by striking it over and over again.

“I need to hammer it tens of thousands of times. After it gets back to room temperature, it needs another 20,000 strikes,” said Tang.

He’s been perfecting his craft since the age of 13.  Tang believes his woks are a world away from what machines could ever deliver.

“The experience is closer to my childhood memory,” said Fu.  “None of the stuff we bought when we were children was mass produced on the factory assembly lines. They were all hand-made piece by piece. So I think this pan is better.”

Fu is the exact customer Tian Huan is trying to attract.

He started the factory in Hubei three years ago and now owns six shops.

Tian sells 300 to 400 woks a month for more than $140 each, nearly three times the price of a machine-made wok.  He says his woks cater to a growing demand by China’s young and affluent.

“Now China is developing very fast,” said Tian Huan.  “The material standard of living is getting higher and higher, so people have a higher need for spiritual pursuit and sentiment. I see a big opportunity there in exploring the handmade products.”

Hungtang Ko discusses his research on wok cooking

CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with Hungtang Ko, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, about his research on wok cooking.