Chinese Velveting 101: Stir-Fried Chicken With Mushrooms and Oyster Sauce

Stir-fried water-velveted chicken with an assortment of fresh and dried mushrooms. . Shao Z.

If you've been reading our water-velveting series this week, then you already know that it's an excellent home-cook technique for ensuring that meats stay extremely tender in stir-fries. Unlike the more traditional method that involves cooking the meat in a hot-oil bath, water-velveted meat uses boiling water with just a little but of oil added to it. Otherwise, the velveting process is exactly the same, with the meat first marinated in a mixture of cornstarch, egg white, and seasonings.

Today's recipe features strips of chicken stir-fried with a mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms, along with a sauce made from soy and oyster sauces. The crunchy bite of the rehydrated dried wood ear mushrooms, which you can find in most Asian markets, adds a nice texture to the dish. (They are great in other stir-fries as well and also in these delicious pan-fried vegetable dumplings.) When using oyster sauce, a little goes a long way, so be careful not to pour out too much at once.

Here are the basic steps:

I start by marinating the chicken strips in the velveting mixture (a combination of cornstarch, egg white, rice wine, and seasonings) for 30 minutes.

Then I get the water boiling in the wok, and drizzle a small amount of oil on top.

The chicken takes a quick spin in the boiling water, just long enough to turn the exterior opaque while leaving it still raw inside, about 40 seconds. I drain it and give the chicken a good shake so that it isn't too wet the next time it goes into the wok for stir-frying.

Then I wipe out the wok, and stir-fry the fresh mushrooms in it first until they release their water.

I follow that with the rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, and cook all the mushrooms until their excess water is gone and they're starting to brown. One they're ready I transfer them to a plate.

I add a little more oil to the wok, then stir-fry the chicken next. Working in batches like this with wok stir-fries is important since home burners don't put out enough heat to properly stir-fry all of the ingredients at once.

Then I add the mushrooms back in, toss them to combine, then add the sauce. I keep cooking, tossing and stirring, until the sauce thickens and coats the chicken and mushrooms. Then it's ready to serve.