The Art of Eating No. 78: Velveting, Deep-Frying, Stir-Frying, and General Tso's Chicken

This article by Ed Schoenfeld from the summer issue of Art of Eating has introduced us to a new cooking technique: velveting!

Sometimes called "twice-cooking," velveting is a traditional Chinese cooking method that involves first deep-frying the recipe's main ingredients and then stir-frying them in an aromatic sauce. Schoenfeld describes the resulting dish as having a "luscious soft texture."

This had our mouths watering. What about yours?!

Our fries and onion rings are usually deep-fried in oil that's been heated to around 375-degrees. For velveting, the oil temperature is relatively low--around 280-degrees Fahrenheit.

Normally, a lower oil temperature would mean that the food absorbs oil instead of frying, making it greasy. But Schoenfeld describes velveting as a quick process taking less than 60 seconds. We think that some oil would be absorbed, but not enough to make the food soggy.

Schoenfeld also emphasizes that the point of velveting is more about texture than it is about flavor. As he says, "first you set the texture, then you flavor the food. Rule number one in Chinese cooking: texture is king."

In western cooking, we're more accustomed to thinking of flavor first and texture second, so this definitely gave us pause for thought.

And then we got hungry for Chinese food.

Schoenberg recommends General Tso's Chicken! This ever-popular dish was originally prepared using this velveting technique, though it has since evolved to it's current American incarnation of crispy-fried chicken tossed in sweet sauce.

"Deep-frying" was a deal-breaker for many of us, but still, this idea of velveting has appeal!

Has anyone ever tried it at home?

Subscriptions to the Art of Eating are $48 for 4 issues and are available through the Art of Eating homepage.

Related: Art of Eating No. 77: Island Sheep

(Images: Flickr member SqueakyMarmot licensed under Creative Commons)

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