Buildings. Pans. Woks. And what no one tells you about the link between cooking and architecture.
Pop quiz: does architecture have more in common with a pan or a wok?
Chinese food is often stir-fried in a wok under extremely high heat. The high heat imparts a unique flavor known as wok hei, a Cantonese phrase loosely translated as “breath of the wok”.
The chefs cooking with a wok can withstand this high heat because the wok curves from the bottom into a convex shape. These sloping sides forces the hot air from the flame to flow quickly up the sides of the wok. Heat, steam and smoke are thus quickly dispersed away from the chef (read all about the design of woks and how they protect the chefs and foods from high heat in the 1-Minute NomNoms “Hei, wok’s up?” and “Get in the zone at wok“.)
Compare and contrast this with a flat-bottomed pan. No curves here. The food, such as a piece of salmon, is laid flat and allowed to cook evenly as the flat bottom conducts heat evenly to the food. Here the heat or flame used has to be of a much lower temperature than for a wok. The tastes and flavors are different too, which accounts for the different terms we often use: “pan-fried” and “stir-fried” respectively.
One can draw simple analogy of the above to the shapes of buildings found in cities. High winds tend to slam into flat buildings and are forced downwards by the flat facades towards the ground. When this happens, it can create a significant swirling winds at the street level, and making it unpleasant for the pedestrians.
Recent innovations in architecture and engineering have however made it possible to incorporate more curves into building design. Take for example the rightmost building in the photo above. Found in London, it is known informally as “The Gherkin” in London, as it resembles a type of cucumber called a gherkin.
Because of the curves of the building, strong winds rush around the curves instead of slamming straight into the facade, thus reducing the impact at the street level. According to Maths in the City,
“The designers of the Gherkin were able to experiment with the curved shapes and test them in computer simulations of wind movement to find a shape that reduced the turbulence on the ground.”
Makes one wonder: if we could use computer models to build the ideal pan or wok, what would they look like?
(P.S. And the answer to the pop quiz above – A wok, especially when it comes to curves! Did you get it right? :))
Like my curves? What do you mean my round body has no curves? Anyway just like me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!
photos: in order – depositphotos/belchonock; print2d; -Marcus-; lenyvavsha; quixoticsnd; ksena32