Ken Hom at Leekes

Apparently one in seven households in the UK own a Ken Hom wok – a pretty impressive statistic! Also a statistic that made me really, really want a Ken Hom wok.

I love cooking, and a stir-fry is one of my all time favourite things to throw together. However, since I said goodbye to my (no longer) non-stick Ikea classic from my Uni days, I just haven’t ever got round to replacing my wok. I tend to cook almost everything in my big green Le Creuset, and I had almost forgotten just how useful a wok can be in the kitchen.

When I received an invitation from Leekes to join them for their Ken Hom wok event at their Melksham branch, I knew my time had come. I was finally going to fill that wok shaped space in my kitchen cupboard and get some tips from the Michelin Star chef himself.

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First things first, doesn’t Ken know how to hold a crowd! I always thought he came across really well on TV shows and he is obviously a super talented chef, but from the moment he greeted the room full of eager foodies he had us all in a soy infused trance.

There were stories of his childhood, there were anecdotes and jokes (he is SO funny) and his smile was truly infectious. He wasn’t even all that phased by the minor setback of an unresponsive hob – that man is a true professional.

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He started by cooking a simple (yet ridiculously delicious) chicken stir-fry, all the while sharing with us his tips and tricks for proper Asian cooking. He explained the importance of a smoking hot wok, the process of draining the meat whilst separately cooking your vegetables, and showed us how to make the perfect egg fried rice.

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Am I the only one who has never really been sure of their rice cooking technique?! I’ve always just popped it in a pan with boiling water and hoped for the best, but from now on I’ll be cooking my rice the Ken way. (Half a thumb’s depth of water over the rice, boiled until there is no water left, cover and cook for 15 minutes – if you’re interested!) I also learnt that basil and pineapple egg fried rice is incredible!

Taster plates of Ken’s creations were handed around the hungry crowd, and judging by the groans of approval that followed I think it’s safe to say we had all died and gone to Chinese food heaven. I don’t think I have ever tasted chicken so tender, and the tangy yet slightly spicy sauce was beautiful. And now I’m hungry.

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Good, proper Chinese food really is so simple and healthy. I could have high fived Ken when he talked about the importance of cooking vegetables in a way that kids will want to eat them; keeping them crunchy, fresh and colourful – something the UK isn’t really very good at. He spoke with amazing enthusiasm and warmth about learning to cook as a child, praising his mother’s techniques. I love the idea of family recipes and getting the whole family involved in cooking meals. Cooking and eating is such a pleasurable part of life.

Ken ended his demonstration with a glass of champagne and stayed to sign some copies of his book: 100 Quick Stir-fry Recipes. If you love a stir-fry as much as I do, this is the book for you. And if you don’t already own one, buy a wok! I can assure you it will become the most used item in your kitchen. We’ve already re-created a few of Ken’s recipes and I can’t wait to try out more.

Thank you, Ken and Leekes – I’ve fallen back in love with my wok!

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