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I had this chicken that was extremely soft at a thai restaurant in Portland, Or. The cashew nut chicken dish had small strips of extremely soft chicken.

enter image description here

As you can see, the chicken is not cripsy or seared, it is just cooked in some fashion that makes it extremely soft.

Any ideas on how to reproduce?

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That chicken has been "velveted". The technique is to briefly marinate the chicken chunks in a mixture of egg whites and cornstarch. The result is delicious, very soft chicken. It's a simple technique, great for stir-fried dishes and soups. There are several variations, so here are a bunch of them.

The simplest is to mix 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 egg white. Marinate thin slices of chicken (breast meat is most commonly used) in the mixture for 30 minutes. Drain the chicken by just letting the marinade slip through your fingers. Now just treat the chicken however you care to cook it; stir-fried, deep-fried or poached are all commonly seen. For something so simple, the result is really quite dramatic.

  • That's interesting, any idea why velveting would cause the chicken to be more tender? I don't quite understand why it would have that effect – jalbee Jan 8 '14 at 0:59
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    @jalbee It doesn't really answer the question, but here's what Serious Eats has to say on the topic. seriouseats.com/2011/04/… – Jolenealaska Jan 8 '14 at 2:36
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    I think as the egg white cooks it creates a barrier around the chicken pieces that stops the liquid evaporating out of them. The meat them partly steams itself, becoming really tender and moist. The cornstarch just helps it bind to the meat. – canardgras Feb 16 '17 at 16:07
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    Egg whites also absorb all kinds of things, that's why they're so commonly used to clarify broths (trapping impurities, certain kinds of acid, etc) - this could partly explain the tenderizing effect it has on chicken. – Tim Post Feb 16 '17 at 17:16
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    I'm pretty sure it's also partly an illusion created by the mouth-feel of the outer coating. – Robin Betts Apr 22 '18 at 18:54

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