I visited the Wok Shop in SF Chinatown in hopes of picking up a flat bottom carbon steel wok. They had those out near the front, many of them, for $35. It should have been an easy sale. The place is charming and has a vast selection of cookware.
Instead, an elderly male (husband of the owner?) kept pushing me towards a round bottom pow wok instead and said I could use a wok ring to make it fit. That’s wrong for most home kitchens because it puts the wok further from the heat source.
He also opened up Grace Young’s book explaining how to season a wok (page 48) and kept saying “do you really want to do this?” I repeatedly said yes. He may have been trying to dissuade me from a wooden handle, in which case he should have offered to sell me a flat bottom pow wok, which he didn’t do. Ironically, Grace Young herself recommends a wooden handle flat bottom wok for home cooks (page 40) and specifically calls out the pow wok (page 41) as not ideal for all but the most skilled cooks.
I ended up have to walk out because they refused to sell the flat bottom wok to me - if it’s that “bad”, then why are they stocking so many at the front?
I am an experienced cook and felt incredibly disrespected. They may have good products and a good reputation, but I’ve seen occasional reviews where the owner or staff would treat customers with disrespect, get defensive and offer rebuttals online.
I’m a really easy person to get along with and was completely shocked and disappointed by this experience, particularly because this is a shop that rests on its reputation for providing sound advice and has effectively no competition.
Wondering the price of the wok he was trying to sell you.
I heard about this type of business practice, attracting you with some cheaper stuff, once you enter the shop, they will try to persuade you with something else. Or it can be the guy has a certain point of view, and he is old and stubborn and already decide what was the best for you.
Personally, a pow wok is it is too heavy for me to handle, especially single-handed. Wooden handle is practical.
Interestingly, I just came back from the Wok Shop today. I didn’t buy anything today or for awhile from Tane and her shop, but she sells reasonable products – not high end products though. I still have the pine wood cutting block and thought about getting a smaller one for a friend. Now, those are great.
I personally have moved from a flat bottom wok to a round bottom wok. It really depends on the thermal power of the stove. A flat bottom wok yield a little more power, but lose some of the food control. For most of my kitchen life, my stoves have been strong enough to handle both. Ironically, all the cheap electric coil stoves - from various apartment, where able to provide enough thermal power for even the round bottom woks. My last two places are not. One has a weak gas stove… I don’t know if it would make a difference have I had a flat bottom wok. The other one has a flat surface radiated surface stove that very little radiation could transfer to the round bottom.
I am a little surprised that he didn’t sell you the flat bottom wok. Is this the one? US made flat bottom 14 inch? This is one of their most popular qoka and they sell these in massive number:
Yes, that is the exact one I wanted, but he didn’t want to sell me.
That is just strange…For years, that was the “default” wok they sell to people…
Sorry to hear about this experience.
The owner, Tane Chan, encouraged me to get a flat bottomed pow wok rather than use a wok ring! (I believe this is what I have, though a larger size than depicted in the photo).
Interesting that they recommend flaxseed oil to season woks. For cast iron pans, Kenji has spoken a lot about how flaxseed oil isn’t durable and flakes (cooks illustrated and various other sources promote the use of flaxseed oil).
What oil would you recommend instead of flax?
A few other people have also used flaxseed oil. It is fine, but it is no better than other oil, and seasoning will eventually wear off anyway. I think any high smoke point oil is fine.
I would email a note to Tane and tell her what happened. I don’t think she would have encouraged such behavior and she is very good to her customers.