Image of shrimp jungle curry cooking

Girl, this curry’s gonna make you sweat (a la la la la long)

Clearly, we’re at the end of days. Maniacs are terrorizing the planet. Disease and destruction abound. The greatest rock stars in history are knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door to sound the seven trumpets (as if Prince couldn’t handle it himself).

Image of Prince

His Purpleness could do anything.

All the media panic over the state of our world misses one big question, though: What’re you gonna eat when the Rapture comes to town?

“Whoa! Lighten up, D! No need to go all Jim Bakker on us!”

You’re totally right. Still, it’s worth considering how you’ll survive in an emergency. Even in a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic wasteland, you’re gonna have to make dinner.

Image of Mad Max

At least we’ll have forks covered.

If you’re like me, you have an old pirate trunk stuffed with storage water and cans of Chunky Chicken à la King. (Or, you’re a normal person who’s never given it a thought.) Either way, the soup that eats like a meal will run out sooner or later. What’re you going to do then?

Most preppers think to save a knife. They’re not wrong. A big sturdy chef’s knife will certainly make your life much, much easier (even before the world ends). But, I wouldn’t bother. Knives are everywhere.

If there’s only one thing I could save from my kitchen, it wouldn’t be a knife. It wouldn’t be a stockpot. It wouldn’t be a blender. It wouldn’t even be my much-loved cast-iron skillet. No, if I had to choose only one cooking device to use before the zombies devoured my insides, I’d grab the most versatile one I own: my wok.

“A wok? C’mon, D! Remember: Other people don’t love Chinese food as much as you do.”

First, I know 1.3 billion people who would disagree. But, more importantly, a wok works wonders for dishes across the entire culinary landscape — Chinese and beyond.

Yes, you need a wok for the super high-heat bao () stirfries of Chinese cookery. But, woks also make great soups, stews, salads, and sautés. They rule when deep-frying and steaming. Hell, you can even smoke stuff with a wok. Centuries old, they’re perfect in their simplicity. Woks are the ideal cooking vessel.

So, why don’t more (non-Asian) people cook with them? I’m not sure.

Maybe they’re intimidated. They see an old man dodging flames at their neighbourhood Chinese takeout and they back away slowly with their hands in the air. Maybe they never knew the high sides of woks help them boil more potatoes, scramble more eggs, wilt more spinach, stew more chicken, or toss more salad better than other pots and pans. Maybe they just never gave it a thought. If you think about it, though, a tough mixing bowl with a handle is the perfect tool for almost any preparation.

“OK, D, you’ve convinced me. What’s the damage on a good wok anyway? $250? $300?”

Image of Kevin Hart

You’re thinking about it all wrong. Williams-Sonoma and Le Creuset make lovely cookware, probably, but we don’t need all that. Woks are the tool of the people. Buy a cheap one the same way you’d buy anything else — go on Amazon and look.

One big caveat, though: Don’t fuck with non-stick. Woks are designed for high-heat cooking and non-stick coatings tend to break down into carcinogens at higher temperatures. In this case, Teflon is not the material. Choose carbon steel and keep it seasoned like cast iron (i.e., rinse and oil it, don’t wash it). If food sticks, just burn it to cinders and rub it off.

I stole inherited a model much like this one from an old roommate and I’ve no complaints. If I were to buy a new one, I’d probably get this guy though (‘cause I’m a sucker for the beauty of all things hand hammered.) Grab a wok ring while you’re at it to keep it steady (or make one out of tinfoil, if you’re desperate). Then, get to work cooking everything — Asian or otherwise. Start with this equally versatile jungle curry, using ingredients you can track down with ease.

Shrimp Jungle Curry

First, buy this stuff:

Image of shrimp jungle curry ingredients

  • Coconut oil
  • Lemongrass
  • Red curry paste
  • Green beans
  • Vegetable stock
  • Shrimp

Cut the soft, fleshy stalk of the lemongrass into penny-sized coins.

Cut green beans into inch-long pieces.

Dissolve a cube of vegetable stock in a container of warm water about the size of a tissue box.

Turn your burner on the highest setting and lay your wok on it.

Image of wok on burner

Add a big glob of coconut oil to the wok.

When the oil starts to smoke, toss in the lemongrass and a couple of big spoons of curry paste.

Image of shrimp jungle curry cooking

Stir it all around until it darkens a shade or two in colour.

Add the green beans to the wok.

Image of shrimp jungle curry cooking

Stir it all around until you get bored.

Pour in the vegetable stock.

Image of shrimp jungle curry cooking

Stir it all around again.

Add the shrimp.

Stir some more.

When the shrimp look translucent, move the wok to a cool burner.

Taste the broth. Does it need anything? Salt? Fish sauce? Chilies? Lime juice? Add whatever’s required. (If it tastes too strong, just top it up with water.)

That’s it! Grab a bowl of rice, some crispy shallots, and toss some chopped basil on top to round out this Thai dish that’ll make you sweat like Inner Circle.  

Image of shrimp jungle curry, plated

Once that’s done, branch out with your wok. Make a bitchin’ pad ma kuer. Slow simmer a chicken stock. Steam out some mussels. Cook whatever you feel like with the only tool you need — Apocalypse or bust. 

Then, let me know how it works out for you — e-mail me, tweet me, or track me down on Facebook. I love to hear from you all (and you know we don’t talk enough).

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