How to Velvet Your Meat

Ever wonder how that Chinese takeaway has that distinct, smooth, moist and tender meat? Whether it be chicken, shrimp, pork or beef it somehow has that unusual texture and mouth feel? Think MSG is the secret ingredient to make the perfect stir fry? Well think again…

Let me introduce you to the ancient Chinese technique of Velveting Meat. It effects the texture and tenderness of the meat of your choice, whether you boil, deep or stir fry it. It requires very basic ingredients and needs some marinating time. Say you are making a stir fry, you are going to want strips of meat, around 1/2 1/3 an inch thick and an inch long . To velvet a bowl full of meat you are going to need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbs sake(rice wine)
  • 2 tbs cornstarch (cornflower)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

If you don’t have the  sake, you may substitute it with red wine vinegar or any regular vinegar. Soya or Soy sauce may be added, but it is rarely used in the velveting mix. Now with all the ingredients, proceed to make a smooth batter. However, do not beat too much air into it. Coat your meat with the batter, plastic wrap it, and leave it to rest in your fridge for an hour. Feel free to give an occasional mix .

For the next essential step in velveting meat, you have two options. You have to shock the meat, either in boiling water or by deep frying it. This is done to seal the meat and keep in the juices and to protect the protein within. Basically, to keep it tender and moist.
To start this step, shake any excess batter off the meat – your meat should be quite slimy. Now slip it into the hot oil or boiling water. Do not let it brown! It must not cook. Leave it be for about 30 sec, before straining it out or removing it with a slotted spoon. Let your (now velveted meat) dry on a paper towel. Your meat is still raw inside, but it’s ready for cooking your main dish.

A branch to velveting is soaking your meat in a bi-carb soda and water solution. For this method, mix a tablespoon of soda bicarbonate to 50ml of water and stir. Marinate your meat in the solution for about 1 hour, then pass through cold water to wash off the soda from the meat. Proceed to cook. This method of velveting primarily contributes only to the tenderness, and doesn’t really effect the taste and texture of the meat. Be warned, this method also increases the level of sodium in the meat, so if health is a concern use the former method.

Now you’ve got your meat right to make some sexy Chinese. Get your vegetables cut, noodles cooked al dente, heat up the wok and get ready to make the perfect stir fry. Always remember, don’t overcook the meat and keep those veggies tender…