In The Family
How is Velveting the Magic of Chinese Stir-Frying?
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How Chinese restaurants get stir-fried meats super-tender.

If you’ve ever tried to replicate your take out spot’s chicken with broccoli, you’ve likely been befuddled by the unique, impossible-to-place texture of the bird: firm but remarkably tender and silky in the mouth, almost like…velvet. That’s the closest English translation for a Chinese stir-frying technique used everywhere from elite restaurants to humble General Tso’s joints. Velveting meat for stir fries involves marinating strips of pork, chicken, or beef in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch, as well as optional flavorings like oil or rice wine.

The marinated pieces are then quickly passed through hot oil or blanched in hot water, just to set the thin coating, before further cooking later in the stir-fry. Velveting forms a protective barrier to keep meats more moist, and the gossamer sheen of egg white and cornstarch makes the meat feel more tender as you chew. Stir fries just don’t taste the same without it.

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Max Falkowitz

Max Falkowitz is a food and travel writer for The New York Times, Saveur, GQ, New York magazine’s Grub Street, and other outlets. He’s also the coauthor of The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook with Helen You.