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2023-12-22 2:05 pm
A person chopping dicing vegetables on a wooden board. There are bowls with various chopped ingredients on the counter

Getting 'wok hei' on induction: Corinne Ang is myth busting for climate

Corinne Ang
March 26, 2024

A founding member of Asian Australians for Climate Action speaks to Renew magazine about the one thing she wishes all Asian families knew when it comes to getting off gas at home, why representation in climate justice matters, and how diversity is power when creating real change.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of Renew magazine and is appearing here as part of Bank Australia’s support for Sustainable House Day. The opinions included are those of the authors.

Great ideas often form when friends get together, and our organisation was certainly one of them.

It was post-federal election, and I caught up with climate-conscious friends to discuss climate and election issues. I was uncertain of the next steps I should take to help progress the climate movement. Given that I work part-time as a general dentist, and am a full-time mother to three boys, my spare time is very limited. I wanted to do something meaningful and impactful in the little time I had left each day.

During our catch-up, we reflected on the environmental awareness there seemed to be within our Asian communities. A common remark amongst Asian climate activists was how alone we felt, often being one of few Asian faces at climate awareness and education events.

The sense that there is a lack of Asian representation in the climate scene, disproportionate to Australia’s population demographics, begs the question of why. We talked about the many linguistic and significant cultural barriers we had seen our families and community experience; many of us being raised to be grateful to be living in Australia, to keep our heads down, work hard, and not “rock the boat”.

Corinne Ang uses an induction stovetop to cook a meal

Yet, we know that diversity is power: it brings new perspectives, new ideas and new approaches. At the end of the day, bringing all of Australia together for climate awareness is power. So, from these dinner table conversations, we agreed that we needed to do something to address this; hence the founding of our organisation, Asian Australians for Climate Change.

We decided on a campaign that encouraged practical but positive action for the environment. Well, what could be more of a win than to electrify our homes? More than that, we agreed that we were best placed to take on the biggest challenge—to run a campaign to convince our Asian families to part with their gas stoves.

Cooking with gas is very much ingrained within the Asian modern tradition and culture; cooking and having meals together being what we use to connect with our family and friends. There is certainly the perceived myth that gas stoves are far superior to other cooktops available in the market; I get comments like: “I only cook on gas because I can only get “wok hei” with my gas stove”, “Can we cook Asian on induction?” and “The wok is not going to work on induction.”

Unfortunately, this gap in knowledge has led to some Asian families building brand new homes with all electric appliances … except for their gas stove. Others have fully renovated their kitchens only to install a gas stove next to their induction cooktop.

If there is one thing that I wish Asian families knew, it is that induction cooktops are much more efficient in heating cookware directly compared to gas and electric cooktops. This means that concerns over “wok hei”, or whether the stove is hot enough for cooking, can be laid to rest.

A family gathers around a portable induction stovetop, holding chopsticks. On the table sits an assortment of side dishes and meat

The “wok hei” on my 32-amp induction cooktop is far superior to gas stoves; I regularly make “char koay teow” (a stir-fry flat noodle dish that can require good “wok hei”) on my induction cooktop for family and friends just to show them that “wok hei” is certainly achievable on induction.

After my most recent char koay teow party, I have several friends who are looking at replacing their old gas stoves with induction cooktops. Others are not ready to change their gas stoves, but have switched to using portable induction cooktops in the interim.

The common theme that we hear regularly when we present to members in our communities are: “Nobody talks about the environment in our community” and “I didn’t realise that gas cooktops were that bad.” This is the challenge our organisation faces; to educate and build awareness about climate and the environment in our Asian communities.

We do not have time to lose. 2030 is not far away, and much needs to be done to get everybody on board with transitioning away from gas. The easiest way to help our organisation is to inform your local council or environmental group about our campaign and that we have flyers available for public distribution. We are also always on the lookout for new members to join our organisation or help with our campaign. If that person is you, email us at info@aa4ca.org  

Australia’s Asian population is too large to dismiss, and if we want to make a significant dent in our emissions, then it is crucial we bring all our multicultural communities along in our journey towards a safer and more stable climate.

In the meantime, running this campaign is a great excuse for organising more char koay teow parties at home!

AUTHOR: Corinne Ang is a part time dentist, full time mother and one of the founding members of Asian Australians for Climate Action. She started this organisation with a group of climate conscious Asian friends to build awareness about climate and environment within our multicultural communities. Corinne credits her three sons for being her inspiration to work hard to ensure that a safe and stable future can be secured for all living beings on this planet.

Renew is a membership non-profit organisation working to transform Australian homes for climate and energy resilience. It produces the quarterly print magazines, Renew and Sanctuary, full of stories, practical tips, journalism and research for amore sustainable home and lifestyle.

Renew also runs Sustainable House Day, which is back for 2024 with Open Homes on Sunday the 21st of April, as well as the highly successful online profiles. Get your tickets here to visit some of Australia's most inspiring homes and learn from the people who designed, built and live in them.