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Wok, Circa 1880

Woks in West Texas?

Broken pieces of a wokArche­ol­o­gists found broken pieces of woks in a railroad crew camp in West Texas. How did the pieces get there?

Railway crews

Chinese immigrants built the Southern Pacific railway from the west coast to Texas. Irish immigrants laid track west from Galveston. In 1883, Chinese crews met Irish crews near Seminole Canyon State Historic Site.

What’s a wok?

Broken pieces of wok assembled in boxAcross southern Asia, the round-bottomed wok is the go-to cooking pan to boil, sauté, stir-fry, deep-fry and steam. The round bottom and iron body allows food to cook quickly at high temperatures without sticking. The round bottom sits steady in the coals of a fire.

Chinese immigrants brought woks with them to California in the 1840s. Quickly cooked food meant less fuel for the fire - better for travel across the deserts of the west. After a long day laying railroad track, the men could quickly cook a nutritious meal in woks.