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11/16/2013

~ How to: Velvet (Tenderize) Meat the Chinese Way~

IMG_6478I love and cook Chinese food, but, it wasn't until 5-6 years ago that I learned a "trick" that jettisoned my Chinese food from really good to restaurant quality.  Background:  I would meticulously slice, dice and prep meat, chicken or shrimp (along with a lot of vegetables) in anticipation of a fabulous Chinese stir-fry.  At the end of the day, dinner was wonderful, but, the protein just didn't have that signature "velvety" soft texture I adore in Chinese restaurants and take-out.  I am here to reveal an age old technique, integral to Chinese cooking, for "tenderizing" proteins and it doesn't involve pounding -- it involves giving it a protective coating to keep it soft!

Velveting:  A technique used to coat proteins to protect them from overcooking!

IMG_6481Learning how to velvet meat is as important to Chinese cooking as browning meat is to French cooking.  When stir-fried, proteins (like beef, chicken, pork and shrimp) can be tender, but not nearly as tender as those that are velveted first.  Velveting involves coating and marinating desired-sized pieces of meat in a mixture of cornstarch, rice wine, egg whites, salt, sugar and sometimes soy sauce for about 30-45 minutes.  The meat is then bathed in barely simmering water or warm oil for 30-45 seconds, just to the verge of being cooked through (which is ideal for stir-frying).  Velveting can be done well in advance of stir-frying, but, if you plan on refrigerating it at all or overnight, you must do it in water, as the oil method becomes "funky" in the refrigerator.  

Note:  From a personal standpoint, I find the water method much more manageable.  Unless you stir-fry all the time or all day long, like restaurants and Chinese housewives do, the oil method wastes a lot of oil for an occasional Chinese meal, so, hands down, it's the water method for me!

I am velveting strips of chicken tenderloin today!

IMG_6413For the chicken (feel free to substitute beef pork or medium shrimp):

1  pound chicken tenderloins or boneless, skinless breasts

IMG_6421~ Step 1.  Slice the chicken into thin strips, transfer to a 1-gallon food storage bag and set aside.

Note:  I'm cutting the chicken into strips today, but be sure to cut it or slice it as your recipe directs you to.

IMG_6426For the marinade:

1  tablespoon rice wine (sake)

1  teaspoon soy sauce 

1 large egg white

1  tablespoon cornstarch (use 1 1/2 tablespoons when velveting shrimp)

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon salt

1  tablespoon peanut oil (use 1 1/2 tablespoons when velveting shrimp)

IMG_6433 IMG_6428                                       ~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together all of the ingredients as listed.  Save the egg yolk for breakfast tomorrow morning!

IMG_6440 IMG_6436~ Step 3.  Add marinade to bag of chicken.  Toss to make sure chicken is evenly coated and set aside 30-45 minutes, retossing occasionally:

                                            IMG_6447~ Step 4. Place 1" of water in a 12" nonstick skillet along with 1 additional tablespoon of peanut oil.

Over high heat, bring the water to a steaming, barely simmering, shimmering, quivering state.  While water is coming to temperature:

IMG_6449~ Step 5. Drain chicken into a colander. Using your fingertips, scatter the chicken strips into the quivery water.  Once the water returns to a bare simmer:

IMG_6476 IMG_6461Lower heat to low and cook chicken for 30-45 seconds, or until opaque in color. Do not overcook!  I rarely let mine in for more than 30 seconds.  

Note:  This timing will vary a bit depending how you have  prepped your protein.  Using an Asian spider or a slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a plate, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until stir-fry time!

Chow Mein #3 (Intro Picture with Fork)How to:  Velvet (Tenderize) Meat the Chinese Way:  Recipes yields instructions to velvet (tenderize) beef, chicken, pork or shrimp, as per the Chinese technique called velveting.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board, chef's knife, 1-gallon food storage bag; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; small colander; Asian spider or slotted spoon

IMG_9426Cook's Note:  ~ Love Me Tender(s): Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender? Yes! ~.  Check out my post in Categories 1, 2, 16 & 25!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 

Comments

Saba -- Yes, I think the technique could (& should) be adapted to thin cuts of meat like schnitzel -- what a good idea. As for freezing afterward, I can think of no reason not to. Happy New Year & thank-you for your comment!

Hello, this technique looks fascinating. I am wondering, do you think this method could be adapted for something like schnitzel? Also, as a general question, can the meats be frozen after velvetizing?

Rex Ju -- I can't be 100% certain because I have never tried it, but since rice wine vinegar is an acid, and, since we're only discussing 1 tablespoon (not a large enough amount to significantly affect the taste or outcome) I see no reason why it would not work.

Can you just use egg white, corn starch, salt, sugar, and then add water or rice wine vineger instead of rice wine?

Carolina! Velveting really is one of the best-kept culinary secrets. Thank-you for reporting how well it works -- kind feedback is always appreciated!

Thank you! This works wonderfully, I love the velvet texture! Homemade Chinese food is now much better! =)

Becca -- thanks for the kind words and welcome to Kitchen Encounters!

THANK YOU! Very well done, I am a new fan of yours!

Chinese brining! Good words -- great technique!! As always, Teresa, you bring a smile to my face!!! ~ Mel.

Very slick Mel! It's like Chinese brining! ;)

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