Enlarge / Wok tossing has
long been suspected of causing the high shoulder injury rate among
Chinese chefs. (credit: Hunting Ko and David Hu/Georgia Tech)
Fried rice is a classic dish in pretty much every Chinese
restaurant, and the strenuous process of tossing the rice in a wok
over high heat is key to producing the perfect final product.
There’s always chemistry involved in cooking, but there’s also a
fair amount of physics. Scientists at the Georgia Institute of
Technology have devised a model for the kinematics of wok-tossing
to explain how it produces fried rice that is nicely browned, but
not burnt. They described their work in a
recent paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society:
This work hails from David Hu’s lab at Georgia Tech, known for
investigating such diverse phenomena as the collective behavior of
fire ants, water striders, snakes, various climbing insects,
mosquitos, the unique properties of
cat tongues, and animal bodily functions like urination and
2019 Ig Nobel Prize winning study on why
wombats produce cubed poo. Hu and his graduate student,
Hungtang Ko—also a co-author on
a 2019 paper on the physics of how fire ants band together to
build rafts—discovered they shared a common interest in the
physics of cooking, particularly Chinese stir-fry.
Hu and Ko chose to focus their investigation on fried rice (or
“scattered golden rice”), a classic dish dating back some 1500
years. According to the authors, tossing the ingredients in the wok
while stir-frying ensures that the dish is browned, but not burned.
Something about this cooking process creates the so-called
“Maillard reaction”: the chemical interaction of amino acids and
carbohydrates subjected to high heat that is responsible for the
browning of meats, for instance.
Source: FS – All – Science – News
Georgia Tech physicists unlock the secret to perfect wok-tossed fried rice