Velvet Chinese Chicken & Broccoli

with bok choy

I hope that everyone had a fun Halloween! This is the first time Kramer and I had really been in town to celebrate on the actual day since we’ve lived in New York. The first two years, we were out of town, heading to Vegas as we typically did when we were living in Phoenix, then the following year we went to an early Halloween party – thankfully the event was held on the Friday before Halloween, because Hurricane Sandy reared its ugly head on the actual holiday. I can’t believe that was only two years ago. Time flies. Last year, we found ourselves in Mexico for a wedding – coincidentally, it was the same friends who had thrown their well times Halloween party the year before. So this year, we were excited to be local on the official holiday, despite my very legitimate fears that Halloween on a Friday night in New York could easily turn into a night of pure chaos. We went to a friend’s house party though, where we avoided all the riff-raff and had a really good time. It’s always fun to see how creative people get with their costumes. I went as Daria this year, and Kramer went as a particularly svelte lumberjack. My favorite costume that I saw, though, was a couple dressed as Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie Twins. It was inspired. Anyway, we stayed out way too late but had a great time without bearing witness to anything insane on the subway ride home – a successful Halloween, indeed.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

On Saturday night, we were excited to go to an engagement party for our friends Matt and Amanda. Kramer and I got married young like a couple of dumb kids, so it’s fun for us to welcome other couples into our married world. Not that it’s much different than life before getting married, but it opens you up to a lot more options for stupid jokes, so that’s worth getting married for all on its own. The party was amazing, held in a beautiful apartment with delicious food. They served bacon on a stick, which Kramer and I ate way too much of, pigs in a blanket, which you don’t see enough of these days, crab cakes, cauliflower fritters, miniature chicken and waffles, truffled popcorn and more. There was also cake – salted chocolate caramel cake, to be specific, from Empire Cake. I devoured it. Kramer and I were also lucky enough to sample Polly McCall’s cooking – lentil salad with feta and lemon, mango chutney, tomatoes brown, Mediterranean spiced meatballs, Sriracha mayo and mint sauce. Everything was excellent and, to top it all off, there was more cake! This time it was passion fruit flavored. Again, I devoured it. And, again, we stayed out far too late, but it was awesome to celebrate with everyone and we really felt like we’ve known Matt and Amanda for forever, even if it’s only been four years. Congratulations to them, once again!

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliMe dressed as Daria for Halloween, Kramer dressed as a lumberjack, trying on a friend’s mask and amazing cookbooks that my friend Amanda’s mom, Polly, gave me over the weekend. Modern Modes in Meat Cookery!

After a weekend of eating candy, rich foods and cake, it’s time to get back to reality. May I suggest this stir-fried dish of chicken, broccoli and bok choy? The secret to this Chinese chicken is to “velvet coat” the chicken before cooking, then par-cook it in boiling water. The marinade is simple: cornstarch, vinegar, egg white and salt, but the result creates a sort of buffer between the heat source and the chicken, keeping it moist and tender without over or undercooking. The marinade, plus flash boiling the chicken quickly to make the final stages of cooking go quickly, It’s kind of amazing, and easy at that! I made this one night after work – I got home from the gym, got the marinade together, put a pot of water on to boil, then hopped in the shower while the chicken sat in the fridge. All I had to do then was prep the veggies and the sauce. Ten minutes or so later, dinner was on the table, with enough left over for lunch the next day. You can add some Sriracha or red pepper flakes if you like a bit of heat, like I do, or leave it as it is. You’ll never cook chicken the same way again after you give this velveting technique a try – it’s a game changer. Trust me.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliApple pie, Halloween cookies and Halloween festivities at work.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliYour ingredients.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliMarinate your chicken in a cornstarch, egg white and vinegar mixture before cooking it in a water bath for a minute or so, then removing and setting aside.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliWhisk together your sauce and set aside.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliCook your vegetables until just charred a bit, then remove from the pan and set aside.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliAdd in the par-cooked chicken, cooking until cooked through and golden in parts.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliThen add the broccoli and bok choy back to the pan.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliFinally, add in the sauce and cook until slightly thickened.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and BroccoliGarnish with a pinch of red pepper flakes, if you like.

Velvet Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

Velvet Chicken & Broccoli
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
Incredibly tender Chinese chicken and broccoli, made so by the secret velveting technique of marinating chicken in cornstarch, rice wine vinegar, egg white and salt!
For the Velvet Chicken:
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, thinly sliced to about ⅛-inch thick
  • 2 small egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the Sauce and Broccoli:
  • 1 tablespoon oyster or hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced well
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 bunch Chinese broccoli or broccoli rabe
  • 1 bunch baby bok choy
  1. Start with the velvet chicken. In a small bowl, combine the egg white, cornstarch, rice wine vinegar and salt. Place the chicken in a sealable bag or a bowl and toss with the cornstarch mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Bring your 6 cups of water to a boil, then add in your sesame oil. Add in the marinated chicken and cook until the chicken is white on the outside but still raw in the center, about 1 minute, being sure to separate any pieces that stick together with tongs or chopsticks. Drain the chicken into a colander, discarding the water, and shake off any excess water. Wipe your pot or wok dry and set the chicken aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together your oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch, sesame oil and garlic. In your pot or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until very hot, then add in your trimmed broccoli and bok choy and cook until beginning to crisp up and char slightly in some parts, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pan, add another 2 tablespoons of oil, then and add in the chicken, cooking until slightly golden and cooked through in the middle, about 5-8 minutes. Add the broccoli and bok choy back in, then pour in the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, then serve hot.
Adapted From


13 Responses

  1. Lindsay says:

    Looks simple and delicious!! Do you think this would work with pork? (that’s what’s in the fridge) :)

  2. I saw this on instagram and immediately started craving Chinese.
    All types of hungry right now.

  3. i’ve always wondered what the chemistry is at work here that you use an egg white and not the whole thing. btw, you may want to note that oyster and hoisin are massively different flavors!

    • Sydney says:

      I think it’s because you are creative a protective layer instead of breading, and the egg white is enough, whereas the yolk may add a difference flavor or a thicker coating to the meat. And yes, they are different but sometimes I only have one or the other, and I like them both so I assume if you have them in your fridge, you’d like them both, too!

  4. I confess, I’ve been scared of bok choy. I don’t know how to cook with it! I’m going to roll up my sleeves and try this soon. Thank you for easing my fear :) It looks really good. I love the costume! La la la la la…best show ever. Also…I’m freaking jealous of your cook books you got. I’m super obsessed with vintage cook books. They rock. They are always hilarious and the cartoon art in some of them is amazing. “Pies Men Like” I mean, common! That’s awesome! The baby boomer era has a place in my heart. I need to find that one on ebay.

  5. Polly mccall says:

    Loved meeting you. Love your blog and loved the festivities for Matt and Ananda and so happy you liked all the food. You are a great cook and helped pep up the lentils and feta salad that was a bit bland

  6. Lisa says:

    This stir-fry looks absolutely lovely! Chinese broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables!

  7. Emalie Sundale says:

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. The only thing I noticed- and maybe I just read it too quickly- was that the recipes does not explain what to do with the 1/4c water. I just put it in with the sauce… It worked fine, but maybe that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Thanks for this! I’m always looking for easy and delicious chinese recipes.

  8. Only you can make stirfry look beautiful. Whenever I make it, it just looks like a pile of sad vegetables. Tasty, but sad. Love your costume, especially since I was Jane for Halloween, so we’d be BEST FRIENDS but only because everyone else was too lame to hang out with.

  9. brandy says:

    Old post, I know, but I am finally making this tomorrow. I’ve made velvet chicken before, but cooked it all the way through in the water. Is there a reason that you only cook it partway?

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