The art of the Wok – Handmade woks in Shanghai

The high pitched hammering sound grows louder as we walk down Baoyuan Lu. The area is an old town wedged between Baoshan Lu and the canal. At the end of the road, we find the legendary Cen brothers, the last of Shanghais Wok makers.  We find Cen Liang Gen hammering away in the little outside area of the brothers’ small shop. 

The Cen brothers have become famous through the CNN article on Shanghais Wok Men and Grace Youngs book and blog. There were rumors that the Cens would close their shop soon, due to demolition of the quarter, and it seems, in December, only a few month after our visit, this has happened (link).

The Cen brothers hammer their woks out of steel sheets. This construction method is said to make the woks more durable. In any way it makes them a piece of art. We watch Mr. Cen hammer away. He is very friendly, allowing us to take pictures. We buy six woks at 180RMB each.

As we feel somewhat adventurous, we buy our first live duck from a small shop around the corner. We pick a duck and the shop owner kills and prepares it for us. Not for the faint-hearted, but I am a village kid, after all. The process takes 20min during which we are adopted into the shop owners family.

We return after our successful hunt and spend the afternoon breaking in two of the woks (one with pig fat (very good), one with oil (to messy)), burning layer after layer into the woks. Michi prepares the duck. While her cooking is superb, the duck itself is skinny-fat. Hence, no need to repeat this experience.

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