As the name “velveting” implies, the coating is white and fluffy and the
meat is soft as velvet. While the oil method gives the meat a firmer
texture, the water method produces a softer coating. In either one, the
chicken is on the verge of being fully cooked, which is ideal for the
process of stir-frying.

1 pound, boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon, salt
1 tablespoon, dry sherry
1 large, egg white
1 tablespoon, cornstarch
1tablespoon, oil

Cut the chicken into the desired shape and put into a bowl. Add the salt and
sherry and stir. Beat the egg white only until the gel is completely
broken – it should not be frothy, lest the coating puff and disintegrate
during cooking. Add this to the chicken, sprinkle in the cornstarch, and mix
well. Add the tablespoon of oil and stir until smooth. Let the chicken sit
in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so that the coating has time to
adhere to the meat.

To Velvet in Oil: Heat a wok or skillet over high heat until very hot; then
turn heat to medium. Add 2 cups oil, and heat for about 40 seconds until it
is warm, about 275 degrees, or until it browns a cube of bread very slowly.
Give the chicken a big stir and scatter the pieces; quickly but gently stir
them to separate them. The oil should cover every piece. Lower the heat
immediately if the chicken begins to sizzle; hot oil will make velveted
chicken hard and yellow.

When the flesh of the chicken turns white, which takes only about 30-45
seconds, immediately pour both oil and chicken into a strainer, reserving
the oil. The chicken is now velveted, ready to be stir-fried. When the oil
is cool, you can strain and re-bottle it for re-use.

NOTE: Velveting can be done well before the stir-frying. If you are going to
use the chicken in an hour or so, do it in oil as above, but do not
refrigerate the chicken, or it will become hard and tough. If you want to
velvet chicken in advance and refrigerate or freeze the velveted chicken for
finishing in a recipe later, you must use the water method.

To Velvet in Water: Bring 1 quart water to a boil, add 1-tablespoon oil to
“grease the liquid” and then lower the heat to maintain a very gentle
simmer. Scatter in the chicken, stir to separate and keep stirring gently
until the coating turns white. Then immediately pour into a strainer to

Keys to velveting: The oil in the coating makes it lustrous and prevents
lumping; it also eliminates the raw taste of the cornstarch. When velveting
is done in oil, the wok or skillet must be very hot before the oil goes in,
so that the coated chicken does not stick to the pan. The oil however,
should never be hot, or it will toughen the chicken.


1 pound, medium-sized shrimp, shelled
1/2 teaspoon, salt
2 teaspoons, sherry
1 large, egg white
1 1/2 tablespoons, cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons, oil

The procedure for velveting shrimp is the same as that for velveting
chicken, except that there’s a bit more cornstarch – shrimp need extra
protection because of their fragile texture.

Place the shrimp in a deep bowl; sprinkle in the salt and sherry and mix
well, gently. Beat the egg white just until the gel is completely broken and
add to the shrimp. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and mix until smooth. Add the
oil and stir well. Place the shrimp in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so
that the cornstarch will set and the coatings adhere to the shrimp.

Follow the same directions for velveting in either oil or water as for the

NOTE: Do not freeze velveted shrimp; even if velveted in water, they will
become tough if frozen.

Glenn sent this “amazing” recipe that uses a more delicate mixture (less
cornstarch) for velveting the shrimp. He took the recipe from Fragrant
Harbor Taste (Simon and Schuster, 1989). Might be a good – and simple - way
to deliciously test the basic technique! Looks like the recipe will serve
about 6.


2 tablespoons, salt
1 1/2 pounds, medium-size shrimp – peeled and deveined

for the coating:
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons, cornstarch
½ teaspoon, salt
1 teaspoon, sesame oil
ground pepper to taste

for the velveting and stir-fry:
1 cup, peanut or corn oil
1 tablespoon, finely chopped ginger
2 teaspoons, finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon, rice wine (or substitute dry sherry)
1 teaspoon, salt
2 mangoes – peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon, finely chopped cilantro

Dissolve the 2 tablespoons of salt in a medium-size bowl filled with water.
Rinse the shrimp and soak in this solution for 5 minutes. Drain.

Blend together the coating ingredients and the drained shrimp. [Note: no
directions are given for this blending procedure, but I’d refer to the
method described in Carol’s recipe, above - being careful not to over-whip
the egg white.] Refrigerate the shrimp in the coating mixture for 20

Heat the cup of oil in a hot wok. When the oil is just warmed, quickly add
the shrimp, stir to separate the individual pieces, then turn off the heat.
Allow the shrimp to stand in the warm oil for 2 minutes, then drain in a
colander or strainer set over a heat-proof bowl to catch the oil.

Return 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok and reheat. Add the ginger
and garlic, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the wine, salt and mangoes.
Gently stir-fry until warm – about 2 minutes. Add the drained shrimp, gently
stir to blend ingredients well, and serve.