Chinese Velveting 101: Stir-Fried Cod With Yellow Squash and Asparagus

Stir-fried water-velveted cod with squash and asparagus. . Shao Z.

This week, we've been taking a close look at water-velveting, a great stir-frying technique for home cooks that guarantees tender, silky meat, but without having to use the large amount of oil required by the more traditional oil-velveting method.

So far, we've shown recipes with pork and chicken, but today we'll see how well it works for a much more delicate protein: fish. The key with this stir-fry featuring cod is to turn the fish gently in the wok to avoid breaking it into smaller pieces. Let's take a closer look at the process:


The first step is to slice the cod into nice, even, thin pieces, each about 1/4 inch thick.


Next, I whip up the velveting mixture, which includes cornstarch, egg white, and rice wine, along with seasonings, and toss it to coat the fish. That gets refrigerated for 30 minutes.


After the 30 minutes of marinating time, I boil about 6 cups of water in a wok, and add just a teaspoon of oil to the surface of the water—this little bit of oil will be just enough to give a fine oily coating to the pieces of fish, simulating the more traditional oil-cooking method but without all the oil it requires.


I cook the meat just long enough to turn it opaque on the outside, but still leave it raw within. As soon as it hits that point, I drain it in a colander and give it a gentle shake to remove excess water from the fish.


Then I wipe out and dry the wok, add some more oil and begin the actual stir-frying process. First up, I add the vegetables, in this case asparagus and yellow squash and give it a quick toss in the heat.


Next I add the fish, followed by the sauce, which is made with chicken stock, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Turning the fish and vegetables carefully, to avoid breaking up the fish, I let it cook until the sauce has thickened and coats all of the other ingredients. Simple as that!