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!
Learning 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!
For the chicken (feel free to substitute beef pork or medium shrimp):
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.
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!
Step 3. Add marinade to bag of chicken. Toss to make sure chicken is evenly coated and set aside 30-45 minutes, retossing occasionally:
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:
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:
Lower 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!
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