Velveting is a technique that involves marinating the meat in an egg white–and–cornstarch mixture, then blanching the meat in water or oil before stir-frying. Although velveting is a little bit more time-consuming than regular stir-frying, egg whites mixed with cornstarch provide a great protective layer around the meat or shellfish, so the meat or shellfish retains moisture and remains incredibly tender. In this recipe, stir-fry the chicken briefly until cooked through but not browned, because the blanching has already partially cooked the chicken. Crisp snow peas are great alongside the silky-smooth and mild-flavored chicken.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 large egg white
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into
- ¼ -inch-thick slices
- 1 quart water
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 4 ounces snow peas, hard ends trimmed
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Salt and ground white pepper
- 1. In a small bowl, stir together the rice wine and cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved; be sure it is fully dissolved or else it can turn clumpy when added to the egg. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg white for a few seconds. (It should not be beaten enough to turn frothy.) Add the cornstarch mixture to the beaten egg white and stir until the mixture is dissolved. Add the chicken and stir gently to coat. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so that the coating can adhere to the chicken.
- 2. Bring the water to a boil in a deep pot or saucepan. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil (this will help prevent the chicken slices from sticking to one another), then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer. With a slotted spoon, carefully add the chicken and lightly stir for about 2 minutes, until the coating is white but the chicken is not yet cooked through. Drain the chicken in a colander and shake out the excess water.
- 3. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the snow peas and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender and still bright green. Drizzle on the sesame oil and sprinkle the sugar over the snow peas. Add the chicken and stir-fry for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and still white all around. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Transfer to a plate and serve.