Wok hei, means ‘the breath of the wok,’ it is the smoky flavours, aroma and texture the dish picks up whilst being stir-fried in a hot wok. It is particularly prevalent in Cantonese cooking. To impart wok hei the traditional way, the food is cooked in a seasoned traditional cast iron wok over a very high flame while being stirred and tossed quickly. The heat needs to be extremely high to stop the food being boiling in its own juices and being stewed. When you see professional Chinese chefs cooking over gas stoves or an open flame, they toss the food at an angle allowing for the splattering of fine oil particles to catch the flame into the wok adding more Wok hei.
When you panné, you coat your meat, fish, shellfish or vegetables in breadcrumbs, recipes such as crispy, deep fried mushrooms or whitebait, pan fried fillets of plaice or the classic dishes Weiner Schnitzel and Chicken Cordon Bleu. The breadcrumb coating protects the enclosed foodstuff when it is cooked most often in the oven or deep fat fryer. Like recipes with food cooked in batter the result is a quicker cooking process and juicy final product.
The process is simple but you need a reasonable amount of free worktop space available and if you don’t like getting your hands dirty some thin food grade disposable gloves. You can purchase prepared breadcrumbs or make them by blitzing stale dry bread in a food processor. You can add garlic, herbs, nuts and Parmesan to the breadcrumbs for extra flavouring.
Once you have prepared the item you are going to panné you need to prepare three trays containing the following; sieved seasoned flour, a mix of beaten eggs and milk or buttermilk and your fine breadcrumbs. Many chefs and restaurants use Panko, it is a variety of flaky bread crumb from Japanese cuisine and the special way it is made results in a very crisp, light coating that absorbs less oil during cooking than convention crumb. You can also use cornmeal.
Dip and coat the prepared item first in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Then dip in the egg mix and hold over the container to allow to drain for a few seconds. Take the flour and egg coated item and thoroughly coat in breadcrumbs. If you are preparing dishes such as Chicken Cordon Bleu or deep fried Brie or any dish where part of the filling may liquefy during the cooking dip in the egg and breadcrumbs for a second time. Place on kitchen paper and repeat the process until all your recipe items are coated then cook as required.