mouthwatering velvet chicken and summer vegetable stir fry

velvet chicken
If you have ever wondered why the stir-fried chicken at your local Chinese restaurant is so much more moist and succulent than the version you make at home, the chances are that there is a really simple reason. It's a Chinese cooking technique beautifully known as "velveting".

Essentially chicken (or any meat) is marinated in dressing of cornflour, egg white and rice wine and then gently poached before stir frying. This gives the chicken a barrier against the heat of the wok or the frying pan and prevents the meat from drying out. It also works well with beef too. Try it and see!

I recently entered this recipe into The Guardian's Cook Section, Readers' Recipe Swap on the theme of poached.  It didn't win but it did get published, which makes me rather happy!

Lots of mouthwatering poached egg pictures were submitted this week, but the recipes were rather more ambitious. Far Eastern cooks know that slow simmering gives gorgeously tender results, and finally, thanks to Rachel Kelly, I now know the secret of melt‑in‑the-mouth stir-fried meat.
Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

500g chicken breast, skinned and cut into thin strips
velvet marinade
1 tbsp cornflour
1 x egg white
1 tsp rice wine, mirin or rice wine vinegar
half tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
stir fry vegetables
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 x asparagus, lightly blanched and sliced into chunks on the diagonal
8 x spring onions, trimmed and halved lengthways
2 x garlic cloves, very finely sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger, very finely chopped
75ml cold chicken stock
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp rice wine, mirin or rice wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g cashew nuts, lightly crushed


  1. First whisk together the cornflour, egg white, rice wine, salt and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil.
  2. Add the chicken strips and make sure they are well coated in the marinade. Set aside in a cool place for about 30 minutes. (Don't put in the fridge as this toughens up the marinade).
  3. Heat about 3 centimetres of water in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  4. When it reaches boiling point, gently add the chicken pieces and wait until the liquid has started to come back to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and poach the chicken for 1 minute.
  5. Drain the poached chicken pieces and set aside while you prepare the stir fry.
  6. In a small jug or bowl, whisk together the cold chicken stock, cornflour and rice wine. (The stock needs to be cold or the cornflour will "seize".) Season to taste and set aside.
  7. Heat remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat.
  8. Add the spring onions and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute before adding the asparagus and garlic. Stir-fry for 1 minute before adding the chicken and stir-fry for 1 further minute before adding the chicken stock mixture. Continue cooking for another 2 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
  9. Toss through the crushed cashew nuts and serve with steamed rice.

nice things to add:

  • chopped chilli or dried chilli flakes
  • bok choy, broccoli, mangetout or green beans
  • a dash of light soy sauce

1 comment:

Petra said...

I love the sound of this dish and I have to try the "velveting"
Congratulations on being published, that is great :)