You may have wondered how Chinese restaurants come to have such soft, silky textured meat in their dishes? Rather than stir-frying the meat and searing it all over until browned, they use a special technique called velveting.

What is velveting?

Velveting is a Chinese method of marinating which keeps delicate meat and seafood moist and tender during cooking.

The velveting technique is very easy and gives amazing results. Simply coat strips of chicken, turkey, pork, beef, (or scallops, prawns etc) in a mixture of egg white, cornflour, sesame oil and salt before deep-frying in hot oil or poaching in simmering water. The coating creates a protective barrier which seals in the moisture and also helps prevent the food from overcooking and becoming tough.

Chef Ken Hom is a fan of velveting so why not give it a go?

Velveting recipe

Basic quantity for a couple of chicken breasts:

  • 1 tbsp whisked egg white
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp sesame oil or rice wine
  • ¼ tsp table salt

Mix the ingredients above together until smooth and no lumps – the consistency should be thin. Coat the chicken pieces all over in the batter and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Then cook briefly in simmering water or hot oil, separating each piece with chopsticks to stop them sticking together. As soon as the pieces turn opaque, but still raw inside (about 40 seconds), lift out and drain. You can then add them to your stir fry once your vegetables or noodles are ready and finish cooking in the wok for 3-4 mins until fully cooked all the way through and piping hot.

Tips and recipes

Slicing against the grain shortens the meat fibres which also helps makes meat tender

Some recipes replace the sesame oil with rice wine (mirin) or rice vinegar. And you can replace the salt with Kikkoman soy sauce if wished.

Velveting can be done in advance to save time. It is ideal for stir fries where the vegetables should be cooked separately to the meat according to thickness and texture. Then all ingredients may be brought together at the end, usually tossed with a sauce.

Most recipes which call for strips or cubes of meat can be adapted to use this technique before cooking. Try the following recipes, velveting the meat first before continuing