• Velvet Chicken


Simple Sweet & Spicy Stir-Fry

By Andrew Zimmern

Velvet Chicken. Sexy name. Great dish. Classic technique. I wouldn’t call this entry-level Chinese cookery—it’s 201 coursework—but any novice can produce a stellar version of this dish because it’s so easy to execute. The boiling of the marinated meat in oil results in a velvety texture that is the hallmark of this simple stir-fry. This is Cantonese cooking at its most elegant and your family will love you for it.

Velvet Chicken

Servings: 6

Total: 2 hours 45 minutes


  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons toban djan, a fermented chile-bean sauce (See Note)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons rice wine or sake
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • Peanut oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons black bean sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cup minced scallions
  • 3 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic
  • 3 small dried red hot chiles
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces


In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the toban djan, salt, 2 tablespoons of the rice wine and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch. Add the chicken and toss well, then cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 inch of peanut oil to 375°. Using a large slotted spoon, very carefully add one-third of the chicken to the hot oil and fry, stirring, until nearly cooked through and browned in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a paper towel-line baking sheet to drain. Repeat two more times with the remaining chicken. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the frying oil.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of rice wine with the black bean sauce, sugar, soy sauce and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.

In a wok or large skillet, heat the reserved 2 tablespoons of frying oil. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic and dried chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the chicken and asparagus and stir-fry until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the black bean sauce mixture and stir-fry for 1 minute. Transfer to a platter and serve.

NOTES Toban djan is available at Asian markets or at unitednoodles.com.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.

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