A Wok is perfectly designed for stir frying. Its rounded shape makes tossing food about – or stir frying – an easy process; the small bottom concentrates the heat and distributes it up the sides of the Wok. It also forces the ingredients to fall where the heat is strongest i.e. the bottom of the wok. Using a Wok for stir frying or shallow frying will mean you will end up using less oil, get better caramelisation (browning) of your ingredients and cook things quicker, making them taste more fresh and more flavoursome.
When buying a Wok it is best to stick to the traditional ones made out of steel carbon. They distribute the heat better and incidentally tend to be cheaper to buy than non-stick and stainless steel varieties. It is very important to take good care of your carbon steel Wok however, by “seasoning it” first and foremost before initial use as well as every once in a while thereon in (this only needs doing for iron and steel woks).
To season a wok first clean it thoroughly with hot soapy water and a scrubbing brush (this needs to been done particularly before initial use to remove the coating manufacturers often put on to stop rust). Once clean put the wok over high heat and keep it there for a long period until it is hot enough so a few drops of water will be sent hissing into the air immediately as they hit the pan. The wok should turn from steel grey, purple, red and finally black (this may take some time depending on the heat of your stovetop – stick with it and you will be rewarded in the long run). When the wok has started to go black on the bottom dip a cloth or paper towel in some corn or peanut oil (any refined oil will do) and wipe lavishly around the wok. Make sure you use tongs to do this lest you burn yourself on the hot pan. Turn the heat down low and leave it for a further 15 minutes. The wok should turn even more black over this time.
Once a wok is seasoned properly it should not rust, should be non-stick and very easy to clean. DO NOT use soapy water to clean your wok, EVER. Otherwise you will just have to season it again. Woks do not need soap to clean them. The easiest way to clean a wok, and this is going to revolutionize your life, is to rush your wok under hot water immediately after cooking while it is still piping hot. You won’t even have to scrub it. The steam from the water will lift off any grime without you lifting a finger. Season the wok from time to time if food starts sticking to it and it becomes more difficult to clean.