There is a technique called velveting used in Chinese stir-fried dishes. Traditionally, a mixture of cornstarch, egg white and vinegar is used to marinate chicken and then it is cooked in oil. The chicken maintains a smooth texture outside and is very tender inside. It also looks white, as you often see in Chinese food you order at restaurants or for takeout.
I modified the technique a little for this recipe. I excluded the egg white because I am developing it for a cooking class with someone who has an egg allergy in their family. However, I still wanted to marinate the chicken in cornstarch and vinegar to add flavor, help the browning process a bit and thicken the sauce at the end. I loved the result and actually prefer the golden brown look and flavor.
As is the case for any stir-fry, it is very important to set up all of your ingredients before you begin cooking. I actually prepped all of the ingredients and marinated the chicken in the morning so I could cook it very quickly in the evening before heading off to a baseball game for one of my 3 sons. The season is hectic with all of them playing on different teams therefore, quick, healthy weeknight dinner options are a must.
- 1.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1.5 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp Shaoxing wine (or sherry vinegar), divided
- 1 small head broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces (about 2 cups)
- 4 oz sliced mushrooms (shiitake, crimini or any variety)
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 large scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1" piece ginger, peeled and minced
- 3 tbsp low-sodium tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
- ¼ tsp sambal oelek (chili paste), or more, to taste
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- Place cut up chicken thighs in a medium bowl and season with salt a pepper. Whisk together cornstarch, 1½ tbsp of Shaoxing wine and 1½ tbsp of water together until cornstarch is dissolved. Pour liquid over chicken, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, while prepping other ingredients, or until ready to cook. Prep vegetables and make stir-fry sauce by combining scallion whites, garlic, ginger, remaining Shaoxing wine, tamari and chili paste together in a small bowl.
- When ready to cook, heat a large wok or sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil. Remove chicken from marinating liquid and add to pan, in batches, if necessary. Allow to brown slightly on underside, about 5 minutes, before turning and stirring frequently for an additional 3-4 minutes, until slightly crisp and golden all over. Remove chicken from the wok or pan and add vegetables. Stir frequently until mushrooms are just beginning to brown and other vegetables are beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add chicken back to pan and pour over stir-fry sauce. Add 2 tbsp water and more, if needed, to simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens slightly, about 4-5 minutes more. Top with scallion greens and serve immediately.
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