Different stoves for different foods

Text and images by Joanna Yeo @ Makansutra.

The art of cooking doesn’t just stop at knowing the right ingredients to add at the appropriate time, amount, or even mastering the different cooking techniques. An important factor of consideration that is often overlooked is the type of stove used. Unlike household kitchen stoves that are pretty standard, stoves used in eateries and food businesses are quite varied and different.

Makansutra interviewed two hawker chefs, Ah Guan, boss of Guan Kee Kway Chap and Mr Jimmy Tan of Yun Seafood Fish head Steamboatto find out about the different commercially used stoves. We highlight four among the many kinds of gas stoves used by the industry.

Different stoves for different foods5B Stove

“5B, 6B”

Ah Guan says this is the most common type of stove used by hawkers. The fire that is produced directly upwards from the ring is small as compared to the other commercial stoves. There is also a bigger version of the 5B stove, called 6B that produces a bigger fire. This type of stove is mostly used for cooking dishes that does not require a big fire such as soup, stews or braised items.

Different stoves for different foodsPian lu- fire burns in a radial fashion along the indents

片炉(pian lu)

Compared to 5B, pian lu produces a much bigger fire and thus, best used for cooking dishes that need to be cooked fast. But of course, a bigger fire will mean more gas is used. For pian lu, the fire burns from the indented areas of both the center ‘flower-shaped’ ring as well as the encircling ring in a radial pattern.

Ah Guan says this type of stove is suitable for cooking huge pots of soup where the ingredients need to be heated and cooked quickly. Other foods that can be cooked using this include char kuay teow, mee goreng and even Hokkien mee.

Different stoves for different foodsFeng lu

风炉 (fenglu)/ 香港炉 (xiang gang lu)

Known as fenglu or xiang gang lu, Mr Tan says it is one of the more expensive stove types in the market and that is used in restaurants. There are two parts to this: The fire burning from the center ring is buried at the bottom of well-like structure. When cooking, the wok sits perfectly right on top of the raised outer elevated rim of the stove, leaving no gaps for the fire to escape or the air from outside to enter when the wok is placed atop.

Inside the stove ‘well’, Mr Tan explains that the fire is being raised up to the wok in a circular motion by the wind source that comes from the middle of the fire rings. He says the resultant fire is more‘powerful’ and evenly distributed at the bottom of the wok. He adds that dishes that are cooked this way are more 香(fragrant) and “wok hei” is often achieved with this type of heat and fire. This type of stove is best used for frying vegetables, noodles and rice.

Different stoves for different foodsMei hua lu


Mei hua lu resembles 5B albeit with smaller fire holes. This in turn produces a smaller fire, which is best for stewing food such as sea cucumber or deep-frying chicken wings over low fire, according to Mr Tan.