When cooking stir fry dishes, it is quite common to coat the meat in a mixture of water and cornstarch. This cooking technique actually has a name - velveting, which is a common practice in Chinese dishes.

It is a simple process of marinating small strips of beef, chicken or pork in egg whites and cornstarch, then cooking them quickly in hot oil or water and then immediately stopping the cooking process.

Why all the work? Because this process not only preserves the moisture of the meat, but also gives the meat a tender, smooth and what some cooks describe as a silky or “velvety” texture.

How does it work? In a nutshell, the “velveting” mixture protects the meat fibers so they don’t seize up and become tough while cooking.

This is a simple cooking process, but because the meat has to marinate for at least 30 minutes, it does require some planning. However, the meat can be prepared and placed into the marinade in the morning and left in the refrigerator throughout the day as the extra marinating time will not hurt the meat.

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After the meat is removed from the marinade, it takes very little time to cook and get the meal on to the table. As these dishes are chock-full of vegetables and low-fat meat, they are healthy meals and will counterbalance those heavy holiday dinners of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, scalloped corn and that rich apple pie topped with whipped cream that most of us have gobbled down in the last few weeks.

Dull, dreary winter days are a great time to putter around in the kitchen and try a new cooking technique. Velveting is a simple process that will enhance the flavor of beef, chicken and pork, while at the same time giving it a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Give velveting a chance and your dishes will snap with flavor and texture. Happy New Year and Happy Eating!

Pork Stir Fry With Noodles

Adapted from "Live Longer Cookbook"

  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 12 ounces boneless pork chops, cut into 2-inch by ¼-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium sized yellow or red onion cut into ½-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium sized carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces green beans (frozen or fresh); if using fresh, trim and cut in half
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 6 ounces fettuccine or egg noodles, cooked and drained
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the egg white, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and the water. Add the pork and toss so all pieces are well coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and as long as 8 hours.

Place a large saucepan on the stove. Fill two-thirds full of water and bring to a boil. Cook the coated pork strips in the water for 45 seconds. Remove and place in a strainer. Once drained, rinse quickly with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the canola oil to medium high heat. Add the onion and carrot and stir fry for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 3 minutes. While the carrots are cooking, in a small bowl mix together the chicken stock, soy sauce, ginger and remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

Transfer the vegetables to a plate. Raise the heat back to medium-high. Add the pork and noodles and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the stock mixture and then add the carrots/onion and green beans. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Vegetables will be cooked, but still firm, and the sauce will be thickened. Stir in the green onions and serve immediately.

Beef and Broccoli

  • 8 ounces beef tenderloin, flank or sirloin steak, cut into 2-inch by ¼-inch slices
  • 6 ounces broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups water (for boiling)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon jarred ginger

For the marinade:

  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine or sherry or white wine
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons water

Prepare the marinade by mixing together the ingredients - soy sauce, wine, white pepper, cornstarch and water - in a medium sized bowl; mix well. Place the beef into the marinade and turn several times so all pieces are covered with the marinade. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

Prepare the sauce. Place all sauce ingredients into a small bowl or mixing cup. Mix until well combined. Set aside.

Bring the 2 cups of water to boil and add a few drops of canola or vegetable oil. Blanch the broccoli florets in the hot water, about 10 seconds. Remove the broccoli immediately and place into a strainer to drain the excess water. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the beef and stir fry for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside. The beef will only be partially cooked. You do not want to overcook the meat at this stage.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet while keeping it on high heat. Add the ginger and stir fry just until you can smell the ginger. Place the beef back into the pan and cook until the beef is cooked through and the center of the meat is no longer pink, about 1-2 minutes. Add the broccoli and then the sauce. Stir to combine the ingredients.

As soon as the sauce thickens, dish out and serve immediately.