i think every poster on this thread has interpreted the OP and subsequent posters in every which way, and they are mostly correct in their own interpretations :-))
I frequently hear that true Chinese stir-fries can't be cooked in home stoves because they aren't hot enough. I'm curious to hear what fellow egulleters think about this.
I often cook Chinese food at home
If by 'true' Chinese cuisine you mean as in the 'western' countries, or as in China? If it is as in the 'western' countries, then it is predominantly Cantonese or its derivatives, and wok hei IS a big deal in quite a lot of Cantonese stir-fry. But, Cantonese cuisine (Yuè cài) is not only about stir fry or wok hei (think dimsum, steamed seafood, blanched kai lan, etc).
However, if it is about stir fry in China in general, then all bets are off, as there are at least 8 regional cuisines, of which Yuè cài is only one of them, and they differ significantly from each other.
If it is only about achieving wok hei at home (are home stoves not really hot enough) as compared to what a restaurant can dish out, then IMO, its something like asking if one can produce a great grilled steak at home as compared to what can be expected from a steak restaurant, ie do most home cooks need or have an external/industrial/whatever grill and sous vide to achieve the same results? Also, a great steak, or a great wok hei, is very subjective, and if it came from ones own kitchen, one may tend to be less demanding, especially if most of the wok hei/steak experience is from ones own cooking.
If it is a more general question about heat intensity and control and how it has evolved in Chinese cooking techniques, then you may want to watch this video that i had previously posted in
The first episode is " optimal heating ' and you may then agree that it is not all about high flaming heat, and sous vide is not going to be adopted any time soon anywhere in China.
Grace Young in The Breath of a Wok gives some seriously well thought out advice on how to get as close as possible to wok hei on a Western stove. She recommends a flat-bottomed cast-iron wok, properly seasoned, used on a gas stove. Her tips include preheating to the right degree, the usual swirling technique for liquids, never cooking more than 12 oz. of meat at a time (and letting it sear for 30 secs, stir for 20 secs, sear for 30 secs), and making sure to thoroughly dry all vegetables. And more.
Why flat bottomed on a gas stove? and why cast iron which will weigh a ton and how does one flip the contents during woking? it does not take much practice (using raw rice in a cold round bottom carbon steel wok) to learn that technique, which is somewhat similar to flipping pancakes (flapjacks), and is part of the art of achieving wok hei with or without a nuclear reactor as the heat source?
I believe, as i have no proof, that Maillard reaction can only explain a small part of what it takes to achieve wok hei.