Cornstarch and soy sauce are the keys to a Chinese cooking method called velveting. It is essentially a marinade, sauce, and pre-cooking technique that also tenderizes meat. For every pound of meat, a typical velveting mixture consists of 1 tablespoon each cornstarch, soy sauce, and sesame oil or vegetable oil. When meat is marinated in this mixture, the sodium in the soy sauce helps break down and tenderize the meat. When cooked, the cornstarch thickens into a glaze and the oil enriches the glaze to make a smooth, velvety coating. Usually meat is marinated in the velveting mixture for about an hour, then briefly cooked in hot oil or hot water to gelatinize the starch. According to chef Lucas Sin of Junzi Kitchen, this pre-cooking step helps to create the signature velvety texture. Then the meat can finish cooking in a stir-fry, soup, or stew. For a thicker velvety coating, you can add an egg white to the cornstarch slurry. For more flavor, you can also add 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or rice vinegar. Either way, velveting does more than tenderize protein. It also creates a smooth coating that browns meat more evenly, holds moisture, and enhances sauce adhesion. Read more here at Bon Appetit.
Photo Source: Emma Fishman