Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekend Cooking...The Velveteen Chicken

In an attempt to use up some things that have been sitting in the freeze a bit too long, I dug in there and found a pack of 'fresh' lo mein noodle I bought at some point, so lo mein it is!
But I have never made lo mein, as much as I love it.
OK, let's Google lo mein and look for some recipes...

Noodles..have them
Sauce...have all the ingredients on hand.
Veggies...let's see what is in the crisper.
Protein..well, I have some chicken breasts.

But..hey, I want tender chicken. Like the take-out chicken lo mein.
How do they do that? So back to Google I went.
It seems that they use a technique called 'velveting' where the meat is marinated in cornstarch and some liquid before cooking. And I will tell you, I am not sure why, but it works.
So how does one 'velvet'?

For 1 lb. need..
  • 1 TBS sherry
  • 1 egg white 
  • 1 TBS cornstarch 

Marinate the chicken..
Slice the chicken thinly, against the grain. (easier if it is just a little frozen.)
Mix the sherry, egg white and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add to the chicken, coating all the pieces. Let the meat marinate for 30 minutes.

Velveting the chicken..using the water method.
Start this process by bringing a pot of water to a boil.
Once the water boils, lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Scatter in the chicken, stir to separate and keep stirring gently until the pieces turn white. This should take 1-2 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces quickly with a slotted spoon (or drain using a colander). Set the chicken aside. Try not to get any of the egg that may have floated to the top in with the chicken....which did not really happen for me.
The chicken can be refrigerated for later or let's go on and make some Lo Mein!!

Chicken Lo Mein 

Marinade the chicken as detailed above. 

Prepare the noodles
Add 12 oz. fresh lo main noodles to boiling water and cook until just done according to package instructions, 1-2 minutes. Drain and toss with 1 tsp. sesame oil and 1 TBS. oyster sauce in a bowl and set aside. 

Prepare the sauce and set aside. 
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock 
  • 2 TBS. oyster sauce 
  • 2 TBS. soy sauce 
  • 1 TBS. sherry 
  • 1/2 TBS. spicy Szechuan stir fry sauce (or chili sauce, hot sauce, red pepper flakes to taste)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch 
Next, prepared the vegetables. 
  • 1 TBS. minced garlic 
  • 1 TBS. grated fresh ginger 
  • 1 small onion, cut in large dice 
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced or shredded 
  • 1 cup broccoli 
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 scallions, sliced 
  • 1 small red pepper, cut in dice or julienned 
Cook the chicken as explained above and set aside. 
OK, now we have everything ready, the noodles waiting, the chicken waiting, the sauce waiting and the veggies ready to go. Now it is time to put it all together and in just a few minutes dinner will be ready.!

Heat 1-2 TBS. oil in wok or large frying pan. When hot, add ginger and garlic and saute for a minute, being careful not to burn. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute, stirring constantly until crunchy tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken, stir to heat, then add in the sauce and finally the noodles. Toss to combine. 

This might seem a little complicated but it is just several small steps, preparing each part separately and then combining the parts. Noodles+Sauce+Meat or other protein if desired+Veggies=Lo Mein.

The winner with this recipe is the incredibly tender chicken. I always wondered how Chinese restaurants did it and now I know. This is the first time I tried this technique and it is one that I will use again in various chicken recipes.
I used the water method, but you could also take the marinate chicken and stir fry it in some oil, but honestly, I like the more neutral, un-browned chicken and I can do without the oil. Which is another reason to make it yourself rather than get the sometimes greasy take-out version.

As to the vegetables, the choice is yours! I think the garlic and ginger and onion are required and then just go from there, with what you like and what you have on hand. Snow peas..fresh bean sprouts...celery...water corn...napa cabbage..whatever you love to make up several cups. As to the protein, you could use chicken, shrimp, pork, tofu..or some lovely flat iron steak like in the pic above. Oh my, where has this cut of beef been. Tender and delicious and it was on sale!
And if there are no fresh lo mein noodles in your neighborhood, just use spaghetti. No problem.

This is a recipe with a lot of flexibility.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Well done caite. I can't say I have heard of the velveting method of cooking before. So I need to investigate it further, as it sounds like a delicious way to prepare food, and I would like to incorporate it in some recipes I post on my blog in future.

  2. Oh your title is so funny! But it makes me think of eating rabbits....

    1. well, you could use rabbit. I acvtually saw some frozen at the supermarket...but I will stick to the more common proteins. no

  3. Yummm-- and I love rabbit. Anyway, I've never velveted meat before, but I think I'll give it a try. Sounds like a winning method. I had to look up flat iron steak -- oh! A top blade steak. Yeah, yum again.

  4. This looks delicious. I've never done the velveting before, but I'm definitely going to check it out. Well, plus I do love some lo mein. I can always grub on that. Thanks!

  5. WOW, this made my mouth water. I am definitely giving it a try. Thanks for this delicious looking recipe.

  6. WHEW for a moment there I thought you were going to talk about Velvetta that horrible neon orange crap!! I had seen this done to meat when I took a Szechuan cooking course to tenderize tough meat but didn't know it was called velveting!!

    1. Yes, you can use with other meats..pork, beef and such..

  7. Caite - this looks good. I have tried to velvet but last time used too much cornflour which didn't work so well. I'll give it another go. Have a great week.

  8. Ha,I thought you were going to talk about Velveeta, too! 'Velveting' is a totally new concept to me, but I've always wondered how Chinese restaurants got the chicken so tender. I'll be experimenting with this - thanks!

  9. I have never heard of velveting but it sounds like a useful technique instead of stir-frying the meat like I always do. The end result looks delicious!

  10. I'm going to save this technique. Thank you for sharing!

  11. That looks so good. I've marinated chicken before in a cornstarch sauce before stir-frying, but I'll bet I'd like this water method. Never heard of it before.

  12. Oh this looks interesting ... although the title did make me think of rabbits!

  13. This is a new technique to me, hadn't even heard of it. Will have to read up about it further. Thanks. i love to learn new things.

  14. I've actually done that but didn't know that was what it was called! Who knew? This looks really good. I love lo main!

  15. I've never heard of velveting meat but your dish sure does look delicious!

  16. I've tried making lo mein as it is one of my very favorite foods, but it never came out quite right. The velveting sounds like the key--I can't wait to try it! Yours looks delish!

  17. This is perfect timing! I was planning to make a chicken stir-fry today, and the chicken always seems too tough. I thought it was because it wasn't free-range and had been shot through with hormones, but now I can try velveting it first!

  18. I just made this for lunch! Delicious and the chicken was perfectly tender!

  19. I was just wondering this myself! Pinned your post to come back later when I'm ready to make it. I didn't even know that "velvet" was the term for it until my brother in law was looking for a non pan-fried version of chicken at PF Chang's and this is what they gave him. Thanks for sharing!

  20. This sounds delicious! I will have to save it for later.


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