A wok is a steel bowl-shaped cooking pan which originated in China. The broadly curved shape of the pan ensures the contents are cooked evenly and very quickly making it an extremely versatile cooking utensil. Although associated primarily with Chinese cooking, the wok is now popular the world over.
Although the most common use for woks is the stir frying of vegetables and meat, they can be used for boiling, deep frying and shallow frying. As woks are traditionally made from carbon steel, they require "seasoning" with cooking oils prior to use to build up a non stick coating. Seasoning a wok involves rubbing the inside with vegetable or sesame oil before heating the pan to allow some of the oil to stick. Over time, this produces a coating that can be as effective as modern teflon coated pans.
Woks were popularised in the West in the late 20th century by the famous television chef, Ken Hom. As well as presenting the TV series, "Ken Hom's Hot Wok", he has also written several cookbooks for the wok and produced his own range of woks and wok utensils. However, people with any interest at all in preparing far-Eastern "cuisine", authentic or not, had been using woks for many decades before Ken Hom appeared on the scene. These days, one can buy electric Teflon coated woks.