Sunchoke and Cashew Stir-fry

Sunchoke and Cashew Stir-fry Recipe

I have a baby wok. It is cast-iron and metallic grey with a crackly surface texture, something reminiscent of elephant skin. My wok has a round bottom, two handles, and aspirations - or rather, I have aspirations for it. It is simple in shape and material, and will eventually be able to tell its own story through the patina it will develop on its surface - the sort of thing that takes time, and countless meals. This relatively new addition to my kitchen has been sitting on my stove lately next to my old cast iron pan - one black and slick, the other young and fresh with barely a bruise of color beyond the grey. If you have a minute, I'll tell you how it got here. This all started when Grace Young took me wok shopping in San Francisco's Chinatown a few months ago.

Sunchoke and Cashew Stir-frySunchoke and Cashew Stir-frySunchoke and Cashew Stir-fry

Actually, Grace and I chatted about wok cooking while signing books next to each other last year at a conference. I told her how my dad would cook with a wok once or twice a week when I was a kid, after taking classes at the local junior college. Grace and I agreed it would be fun to go wok shopping the next time she was in San Francisco. I'm junior varsity on the stir-fry front and I was excited that Grace was game to talk me through my wok options. And she did! Grace is awesome, and her enthusiasm for wok cooking is infectious. I came home with the perfect wok.

Now, I believe in serendipity, and although I suspect Grace had planned to set me up with a carbon steel wok (which I think would have been perfectly nice to cook with), fantastically practical with it's flat bottom and wood handles. Tane, the owner of The Wok Shop, had a run on those the previously day. Instead, a traditional Chinese-made cast iron wok was handed to me - the kind Cantonese home cooks swear by to impart the coveted taste of wok hay. There are few things I love more than cooking in cast iron, and I knew in an instant this was the wok for me. In the months since, my wok and I have become fast friends. I think people have the idea that cast-iron is fussy, but it's really not so. My cast iron skillet is as slippery as any non-stick, and my wok is well on its way.

Sunchoke and Cashew Stir-frySunchoke and Cashew Stir-frySunchoke and Cashew Stir-fry

Grace was in SF last week, and she came over for lunch (and to take my pan for a spin). It was fantastically helpful to see some of her cooking techniques in action. We made two dishes with fresh ingredients I'd picked up at the farmers' market. This one was a simple fried rice stir-fry made with day-old brown rice, sunchokes, sweet corn, toasted nuts, and punches of flavor from basil, ginger, garlic and the like. Big thumbs up. I wrote up the recipe down below.

There are definitely some considerations related to choosing the appropriate wok for your cooking surface (flat bottom vs. round, etc), and Grace's books (Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge / The Breath of a Wok) are inspiring references for everything you need to know. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you're going it's a fascinating cooking vessel with its own personality and temperament. My wok has certainly impacted some of my favorite one-pan meals for the better. I think my wok set me back just $15, but it's the sort of thing that a year or two (or ten) from now, it will evolve into something priceless. I have to tell you, one of my favorite things is when Grace posts photos to her Twitter stream of people holding their woks - many have made long journeys, provided a lifetime of meals, been passed down from generation to generation. Look at this photo of Florence Lin with her wok from the 60s. That's what I mean when I say my wok has aspirations. Thank you Grace, and I look forward to many more wok meals together. xo-h


Sunchoke and Cashew Stir-fry

I'm still getting my head around which oils I prefer to use for stir-frying, but have had good results with Spectrum sunflower and peanut oils - Although they're both refined to allow for the high temps encountered in stir-fry, but my sense is that they start with good organic ingredients, and use natural refining techniques. Some of the other fats/oils I like to use in relation to high-temp cooking (coconut oil, clarified butter, etc) would definitely lend a not-always-welcome flavor profile to some of these stir-fries.

1 teaspoon peanut or sunflower oil
1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon peanut or sunflower oil, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
3 medium shallots, chopped
1/2 serrano chile pepper, deveined and minced
1 cup very thinly sliced sunchokes, well scrubbed
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 1/2 - 2 cups day-old, cooked brown rice
1 egg, beaten (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more to taste
1/3 cup toasted almond slices
1/2 cup toasted cashews
fine grain sea salt and pepper, to taste
plenty of chopped fresh basil

Start by making a thin egg pancake/crepe by adding one beaten egg to a hot wok (or well-seasoned skillet) that has been coated with about 1 teaspoon of oil. Carefully tilt the pan so the egg covers the bottom as thinly as possible. Cook until the egg is just set. Flip and cook the other side before removing to a cutting board. Let cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Now you're ready to stir-fry the rest. Make sure all your ingredients are prepped and at the ready, because this goes fast. Heat your wok (or skillet) over high heat until a drop of water vaporizes in a second or two. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of oil, and add the ginger, garlic, shallots, and chile pepper. Stir-fry 20 or thirty seconds, or until fragrant and softened a bit. Stir in the sunchokes and cook until they take on a hint of color, then add the corn, all the while pushing the ingredients around the pan. If you feel like you need a touch more oil at this point, swirl a bit more in before adding the rice, and stirring well to combine. If you like less separation in your fried rice, you can stir another beaten egg straight into the rice at this point, it's optional though. If added, stir well, letting the egg cook through. Swirl in the soy sauce, and continue to toss the ingredients. Add the egg crepe, almonds, and cashews, then taste and work in more soy sauce if needed (or perhaps a bit of salt and pepper instead). Quickly turn out onto a platter to serve, sprinkled generously with chopped basil.

Serves 2-3 as a main course, more as part of a larger multi-course meal.

Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 3 min

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Your Comments

Sneh | Cook Republic
July 12, 2012

This looks like my type of stir fry! Love the cashew nut in a speedy stir. A trusty old wok is like an old friend, you can always rely on it. I find seasoning mine, very therapeutic too :-)


Averie @ Averie Cooks
July 12, 2012

Sunchokes, peanut oil, cashews...oh it sounds wonderful and I get smelled divine while cooking!


perfect timing on this post. we are in need of a wok, and i had no idea where to start (& absolutely love our cast iron pans). curious- did you get the 14"?

...also, wanted to tell you i made the sunflower butter the day after you posted it. SO incredibly delicious. the next day, i used it to make flourless sunflower butter cookies. Mmmmmm. :)


July 12, 2012

I don't quite know what I'm doing with woks and the stir-frys within--but this beautiful fried rice sounds well worth some practice! I live right down the peninsula, so maybe I should hop on the train and pay a visit to the Wok Shop sometime soon...


July 12, 2012

I always thought there was more to stir frying than just throwing all your ingredients into a skillet at hoping for the best which is my current technique and this post has convinced me that I need to take the whole science slightly more seriously (and probably explains why some of my results are less than stellar...)


July 12, 2012

I think I'm going to have let go of that nagging temptation to buy a $5 wok every time I walk through the kitchen department in Ikea. I love the simple approach you've shown to a seemingly complicated technique. You always inspire me to step outside my ethnic cilunary comfort zone!


July 13, 2012

I have a lovely wok my friend bought me many years ago sitting at the back of my pan cupboard gathering dust. My stir fry's have never turned out very well but this post has convinced me to try again... thanks so much :)


July 13, 2012

I have a high carbon steel wok, bought on the dusty bottom shelf of an Asian grocery store some 6 years ago for $17 dollars, that is one of my two "in a fire" pans (my LC dutch oven being my other.)

Grace's books, both of them, have been my wok bibles, full of practical, plainspoken techniques that always, always work. (Not to mention the recipes themselves, which always work, and delight.)

My wok now has a gorgeous black sheen, which, yes, works as well as almost any non-stick skillet. (Save eggs. They are tough).

My best seasoning tip? Every so often, in our home, a few times/year, deep fry something in your wok. Ricotta fritters, fritto misto (not exactly Chinese, either of these, but a wok's usefulness stretches way, way beyond its country of origin), anything that involves a few inches of hot bubbling oil. We don't eat this way most of the year, so the light, crisp whatever is always a treat. And the boiling oil mends any blemishes in the seasoning, and adds one more wink of gloss to the patina.

Congratulations on your new baby! And happy wokking, Heidi. You will love it.


Mike @TheIronYou
July 13, 2012

Cooking the egg before everything else...that's what I've been missing all these years.
I usually throw everything inside in one batch and cook it.
From now on I'll know better!


This looks like a great alternative to the usual fried rice! So much goodness and flavour.


July 13, 2012

You have certainly inspired me to take cooking with a wok more seriously and to find one that I'll have for life.

That picture of the woman in her 90s who has had the same wok since the 60s is amazing. It is truly remarkable to think about how many meals have been cooked on that one wok.

And another beautiful recipe. I love the combinations of ingredients.


Belinda @zomppa
July 13, 2012

So lucky to have her!!! WOW!! I too got mine from the Wok Shop in SF - they ship, folks! My dad has had his for goodness, over 40 years, and I'm hoping mine will last as long!


What a fabulous idea! This recipe is awesome!


I am so excited to see a recipe with Sunchokes. I always look at them but never know what to do with them- so I haven't tried them.


Simply Life
July 13, 2012

ooh, what a great new kitchen tool to have!


July 13, 2012

I have been hankering after some stir-fried rice, so will definitely use this recipe.

Would love too to get the recipe notes for the tofu/greens dish I see on the table, if that's not too cheeky?!


July 13, 2012

What a wonderful way to use up sunchokes!


July 13, 2012

I have never heard of some the ingredients here being used but it looks delicious!!


July 13, 2012

Why is it that any recipe with the word 'cashew' in the title makes me start to drool a little?

I'm growing sunchokes in the garden this summer and will definitely try this come harvest time.


July 13, 2012

i used to work with grace... she is amazing! i'll never forget the trip she led to chinatown (nyc) where she showed us the best spots for everything you could need for chinese cooking. you are so lucky to have a chance to work with her!

HS: Hi Bree - agreed! She's fantastic (and incredibly knowledgeable!). I always feel lucky to spend a bit of time with her.


la domestique
July 13, 2012

I do most of my cooking with cast iron, and would love to have a wok like yours! It's got a beautiful shape and you'll enjoy using it forever.


July 13, 2012

I loved this post Heidi. It was a great read. I don't know much about stir fry myself. I'd love to invest in a wok someday but need to learn a little more. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Looks like a great stir fry. I especially love that first photo. Is it me, or are you super organized? And I kind of want to climb in your kitchen...or maybe just be a fly on the wall ;)

HS: I had to be on point! Grace Young was coming to lunch. And even if I'm still a bit of an awkward wokker, I knew I could do impeccable mise en place ;)


This recipe and the use of equipment sounds fantastic. I cannot wait to give it a try myself. Thanks.


July 13, 2012

Nice! Heidi, do you ever use grape seed oil for this kind of thing?


July 13, 2012

intriguing recipe, and lovely story. where are the shallow bowls from? they're beautiful.

HS: Hi meliSsa: I think, if you're referring to the ones with the unglazed band at the bottom, they are.....- shoot - I'm actually not sure. I think I picked them up at The General Store in SF.


July 13, 2012

What a nice story to go along with your recipe. It seems like you meet so many awesome people through your love of food. I have a dream of learning about food from different cultures.

Somehow, I have never seen sunchokes. What are they like? Any recommendations for a substitute?

HS: Hey Monica! They are sometimes named Jerusalem can swap them out for another veg if you have a hard time finding them though...


I will be making this! Bought sunchokes last year at the farmers market and never could figure out what to do with them, now I have a recipe!
also, is this your kitchen? i have been endlessly searching for photos of your kitchen because I love the white and light in all of your photos! have you posted any full pics? would love to see for inspiration!

HS: HI Elizabeth - I'm not sure off hand if there are any full-on shots of the entire kitchen. I promise to post a couple at some point.


July 13, 2012

Have used peanut oil but have become a big fan of grapeseed oil for high temp frying. This looks yummy - never see sunchokes in Ohio.


Oh my! I love cooking with cast iron too - but I hope you don't go posting lots of stir-fry wok recipes, because I'll be too tempted buy myself a nice wok.


July 13, 2012

It is so true about cooking in a cast iron skillet. We use our smallest one to make Apple Crisp (or whatever is in season) on the grill when we cook out. Much cooler than using the oven! Thanks for sharing such a fun story and great recipe.


July 13, 2012

For some reason, woks have always intimidated me - I don't understand what is desirable vs undesirable, etc. This is very helpful - maybe now I can finally buy one!


Hi Heidi - Have you seen the movie, 'The Red Violin'? I love the idea of inanimate objects moving through time, passing from hand to hand, evolving into vessels of story - your post took me right there. What a nice way to begin my day - thanks :) + Looking forward to trying this fried rice. I love sunchokes and don't cook with them nearly enough.


July 13, 2012

Last month, I had my cast iron skillet POP! and split almost across the very middle. I miss that pan! I got it about the same time I started dating the man who is my husband. I thought I would have it when I was old and grey, but it died horribly. Not sure what I did to make it crack at just 25 years old. I think a cast iron wok would be a wonderful addition!

HS: Polly, that is heart-breaking! Grace did warn me to be mindful of my wok, that they can shatter if dropped or banged against something too hard.


Beverly Jane
July 13, 2012

Wonderful photos of your friend and her Mom. Their wok looks exactly like mine after 30+ years of cooking in it. It is far more precious to me than a diamond would kidding. I love it. I did a lot of reading before I bought mine. Thanks for sharing this with us.


July 13, 2012

As usual this looks amazing! I was wondering if you could post what other cookware you're a fan of. I am trying to build a wedding registry and am so confused by all the coated, non-stick, eco non-stick options. Do you have any advice? Any stores here in SF that you recommend?

HS: Hi E - this definitely warrants its own post. I'm not a fan of sets, and tend recommend buying based on how you actually cook. My pots right now are a mix of modern and vintage, and I've had some of my pots forever. I phased out any non-stick long ago (save for the occasions when we break out the big crepe maker)....I love enameled cast iron for soups/stews/curries, etc, and I have a stainless skillet I use quite a lot, and a cast iron one as well, and a couple saucepans....I'll try to pull together a more cohesive post related to this at some point soon.


July 13, 2012

I love to stir fry. A comment on OILS -- coconut oil only has a taste if you get the virgin type. There are those that have been deodorized but still are organic. Usually they are called refined I believe. Tropical Traditions sells one on line called Expeller Pressed Organic Coconut Oil. It has no taste. I use nothing else for my cooking except rarely.


July 13, 2012

I've long been considering buying a wok--I became obsessed with Chinese cuisine after reading Fuschia Dunlop's lovely memoir--but, for some reason or another, I put it off, thinking the last thing I needed was another pan. Reading your post, however, has reminded me that there's always room for one more cooking tool in the cupboard, and especially one that, as you describe so beautifully, will have its own story to tell after years of cooking together. I may just head to The Wok Shop this weekend. As always, thanks for the inspiration!

HS: I have to tell you Katy, I was kind of on the same page. I try to keep single-use appliances and cookware to an absolute minimum around here, but the wok is such a special addition, I'm so glad Grace did a bit of hand-holding to get me set up and sorted...


Cookie and Kate
July 13, 2012

Lovely post, Heidi. I asked for a cast iron wok from Amazon a couple of years ago for Christmas (I am cast iron obsessed) but it doesn't get used as often as it should. Thanks for the commentary on cooking oils, I have not been sure which ones to use!


July 13, 2012

can you share where you ended up buying your wok? Would love to get one next time I am in SF and yours looks so great without overwhelming the rest of the stove. Thanks!

HS: Hi Paige, I purchased it at The (legendary) Wok Shop in San Francisco's Chinatown. If you visit say hi to Tane for me.


Ryan Spooner
July 13, 2012

I love stir-fry and I really love cashews!! The only thing is I don't have a wok pan. Do you think using a regular frying pan you could still make stir fry just the same?

HS: Hi Ryan, You can absolutely make this sort of thing in a skillet, and it will be delicious. That said, making it in a wok is its own thing entirely, and I find myself reaching for the wok more often than I thought I would for all sorts of things - quick veg sides, breakfast scramble, spring roll fillings, etc, etc. It's a blast to cook with.


July 13, 2012

I had no Idea what a sunchoke was! thanks to google I now know that it is what we in Australia call a jeruselem artichoke. I have always wondered what to do with these strange looking things.


July 13, 2012

I got my wok about 40 years ago - before I turned 20. Bought it at a Chinese kitchen and and houseware store. Steel - not cast iron. Still have it and still use it a lot. BTW - I found Heidi's site when I was looking to see if the publisher of my first Chinese cook book (from soon after the wok purchase), 101 Cookbooks, was still around. Although the publisher seems to be gone, this post and recipe have closed the circle in a way. But I don't make fried rice. Have yet to find a Chinese cook book with a fried rice recipe. Was never served fried rice in China. But I'll try this recipe as a topping for rice. Like the innovation of using the sunchokes.


sophie hyde
July 13, 2012

i just googled sunchoke too tracey. Jerusalem artichoke!! yum. (Australian as well)

HS: Exactly! give them a good scrub and you can eat them raw, sauteed, roasted, etc...


July 14, 2012

I loved this!! I used day old barley instead of rice and it was fantastic! Thanks again.


July 14, 2012

Beautifully written post!! My wok was given to me from my mom and she picked it up at a garage sale. It has a round bottom, and the outside is painted red. It has some minor chips in it and I love it. I will def. be making this recipe and daydreaming about my wok's previous ownership and meals it's created. Thank you so much!


July 14, 2012

What is the other dish you both made for lunch? From the picture it looks like a tofu and asparagus (or maybe green bean) stir fry with a brown sauce. Looks great too!


July 14, 2012

i love cast iron for many things, but why wok? steel warms up fast, cools down fast. i feel like i'm in control


July 14, 2012

Beautiful meal! I was wondering if you would share your tips on seasoning a cast iron skillet? My dad gave me a small one recently and I love it but always have trouble with things sticking!


July 14, 2012

i have an old cast iron Le Creuset wok that i bought from a consignment shop, i can't remember how much i paid, but it was less than $20. i love it so much. it is the perfect size for my little family and it makes perfect stir fry and fried rice. i plan on always having it. i


July 14, 2012

Where did you get your wok Heidi? it is exactly the type I'm looking for, cast iron, two handles, not to big and haven't been able to find.


July 15, 2012

Cooking the egg before everything else...that's what I've been missing all these years.
I usually throw everything inside in one batch and cook it.
From now on I'll know better!


July 15, 2012

Heidi, thank you for your creativity and incredibly beautiful images. You may consider doing a bit of research into the healthfulness of refined oils. Certainly, they may start out with good ingredients (organic), but the refining process makes them unhealthful. What is a "natural" refining method?? If anyone is interested in educational pieces on cooking/using oils and fats, I highly encourage reading Rebecca Wood's blog (, specifically "fats and oils" under "food as medicine". She writes from a whole foods point of view with a background in ancient nutrition/healing traditions.


Cooking in a wok is tons of fun and stir fry is one of my favorite meals to make. I have never cooked with sunchoke so I'm excited to try your recipe - It's a change up from my usual, which will be fu!


July 15, 2012

My first wok purchase was quite the disaster as I didn't know that one should season it before using. Henceforth everything tasted nasty and metallic and I ditched it when I moved overseas.
Thanks for this recipe. It's looks divine and may just be the inspiration I need to bring a new wok into my life.


July 16, 2012

Haha very true Heidi, well done. If you do happen to put together a list on cookware/bakeware, I would love to find of non-toxic alternatives to the traditional 'non stick' baking/cookie sheets. Like you, I've phased out all my non stick and rely mostly on my cast iron, etc. The cookie sheets are one thing I haven't been able to kick ;)


July 16, 2012

@ Tori or anyone else who grows sunchokes: When do I harvest these lovelies? I mistakenly thought last year that the tuber would come out at the base of the stalk if I pull it, but it doesn't. Found a couple this spring (they were delicious) and now I have at least 3 times as many growing. I want to actually harvest them this year!
And Heidi, thanks for the recipe when I make them!


heather @ chiknpastry
July 16, 2012

this dish looks super tasty. i have a really big and really little cast iron skillet at home and i'm finally starting to get the hang of using them both. i used the little one this weekend to make corn tortillas and it was perfect (although tortilla making wasn't so..). the big skillet is coming around, but still needs a lot of oil and use to get a good seasoned feel to it.

will have to check out the wok shop for a good wok if i really get into cast iron cooking!


Sarah @ Fresh Living
July 16, 2012

Amazing photos and recipe as always!


jeri kim lowe
July 16, 2012

Thank you Heidi for the wok breakdown. I use mine for bul go gi, and yes, they definitely develop their own character. Also, thanks for the sunchoke recipe. I just bought some at H Mart and didn't know what to do with it. ;)


Jeane M.
July 17, 2012

Never tried sunchokes before and this really got me smitten, yummy. Must have this in my table surely.


July 17, 2012

What a beautiful story! I love sunchokes! I've never thought of using them in a stirfry before. Thanks, as always, for another inspiring recipe.


oh my gosh, that looks marvelous! i love sunchokes! mmm!


What a great idea to make a cashew stir-fry! I cooked this the other day with my daughter and the nutty flavor really enhances the dish to bring out a great flavor. Everyone cleared their plates and all we could think was yum!


jen maiser
July 17, 2012

hi, lady. wondering if you've by chance tasted this room temp. debating trying it for a beach day later this week (it's what we do in SoCal, ya know. ;) ).

HS: Jen, hope I'm not too late - I think it might be ok. But def. better warm/hot. My instinct would to go more of the farro salad route with a luxe dressing you use on site - but consider the source ;). xo


July 17, 2012

Oh yum I love anything with cashews in it! My mother in law bought us an awesome wok for a Christmas gift a few years ago. It's the heaviest wok I've ever seen but works great and will last me at least another decade. I make curries in it all the time too.


Jason Stemm
July 17, 2012

Love your post Heidi. What a special time to spend with Grace. She is a wonderful person and cook. Even in my limited NYC space, I find a special place for my wok. It is still developing its own story, but some memorable times already. If you ever get a chance to spend some time with Martin Yan he will certainly add some chapters to your wok's book.


Jill @ 42potatoes
July 18, 2012

I use the Spectrum Sunflower oil for my high-heat dishes, too. It doesn't impart or muddle flavors, and heats beautifully. This sounds like a fantastic stir-fry - I tend to eat cashews like they are going out of style, so this will be perfect! Thank you!


July 18, 2012

Sunchokes were a new ingredient to me, so thank you for introducing them! Looks like a great recipe, and you are so very correct about how priceless woks can be. I can't imagine my kitchen without mine. Wonderful post, as always!


Mike Richards
July 20, 2012

Lovely recipe and as always thanks for sharing - it is very true that people can be actually proud of their wok - particularily if it has been handed down from a family member with many years service