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Yesterday I was at Rye Books in East Dulwich doing a cooking demonstration for my new book, Chinatown Kitchen. I taught a small gathering how to fold wontons and potsticker dumplings, before they got stuck in themselves to have a go too.
The chap in the flat cap is Alastair, owner of Rye Books. When we first met he gave me a Praki, that little red thing there, to experiment with, as that was what we were going to use to cook the dumplings at the demonstration. Alastair sells these in his shop - Prakti are a charcoal burner manufacturer from India, and the burners are designed to use less fuel and be more efficient. Originally aimed at home cooks and restaurants, they're also a brilliant camping stove - portable and easy to carry, but also easy to light and to control the heat from the charcoal. I'm terrible at lighting barbecues - there's usually a lot of flapping, often resorting to liquid lighter - and I was surprised to find I managed this one first time.
We've taken it on trips with us - we cooked sausages for sandwiches in a car park in the middle of the countryside. They don't give off much smoke either, so you can use them in smaller spaces...
One trick I did find was that wok cooking is pretty great on the Prakti. My electric hob is nowhere near hot enough for traditional wok cooking, but if you sit your wok on a charcoal grill, the charcoal heats up higher than a conventional hob, thus giving you some proper stir-fry ability. Also, the charcoal imparts a lovely flavour. I cooked egg fried rice, and the whole operation only took a few minutes longer than it would have done on the stove, for far superior results.
It had a great level of 'wok hei', literally translated as 'breath of the wok', that much-sought-after wok flavour you get from cooking at a super high heat.
There's a recipe for egg fried rice in Chinatown Kitchen - you can buy it here.
You can pick up a Prakti at Rye Books - they're £65 each.