Monday, September 29, 2008

Velveted Shrimp with Broccoli Flowerets

I have to come clean about a major deficiency in my culinary skills. Actually, there are several, but the one I’d like to mention today is my complete inability to prepare Chinese food of any kind. This disability is made clear by the look of horror and queasiness on Kurt’s face when I mention a plan to cook something Chinese. Sure, recipes fail sometimes. It could be the ingredients, the cooking time, or even the weather. I’m not talking about minor failures here though. The ugly fact is that I have turned out some truly horrible and inedible Chinese dishes. And, really, it’s not just Chinese food. I’m blocked when it comes to cooking any Asian cuisine including Indian.

I decided it’s high time to do something about this. I need to try a little harder, read something authoritative for inspiration, and acquire some Asian cooking self esteem. I turned to The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo which was published in 1977. I’ve just started reading this informative and valuable reference, and I attempted two dishes from the book on Sunday. I’m happy to report both were successfully prepared and quite edible. I could be making progress.

For the shrimp with broccoli, I learned about the velveting process. This is a pre-cooking step which gives pieces of meat a protective coating so they retain a very tender texture. This technique is common in southern Chinese cooking but is not used in the north. Pieces of meat are stirred into a marinade of oil, egg white, and cornstarch, and then they rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The pre-cooking can be done in oil or water, and I chose water. A pot of water is brought to a boil, a tablespoon of oil is added, and then the coated shrimp are added while stirring. You continue stirring while cooking to keep the shrimp separated. Once they turn opaque, the shrimp are removed and drained. They should be used right away and not returned to the refrigerator.

To complete the dish, ginger slices and smashed garlic are stir fried in oil in a hot wok. Blanched broccoli flowerets are added and cooked while being quickly turned about the wok and then receive a sprinkling of water and dry sherry. The velveted shrimp are tossed into the mix. A simple sauce of soy sauce, dry sherry, sesame oil, and sugar is stirred together, poured on top, and incorporated. Amazingly, I completed all these steps without ruining the dish.

In fact, I’m proud of what I accomplished here. The broccoli flowerets absorbed the sauce to nice effect, and the overall mild flavors kept the focus on the shrimp. The tender shrimp had a smooth surface texture unlike any I had prepared before. I’m looking forward to velveting chicken and learning more as I continue through this book. This was a good first step on the path to my Chinese cooking being eagerly anticipated. Or, at least tolerated.


  1. congrats on your successful attempt at cooking looks great! I have not come across the 'velveting' process b4, sounds interesting, I shall try it next time ;p

  2. This looks tasty & delicious! Shrimp is my favorite so I look forward to trying this!

  3. velveting, eh? i never knew that velvet could be made into a verb, but i like it, and i like what it means. very nice dish. :)

  4. Ya, I wasn't familiar with velveting either. It really works though. I think it would make a big difference with chicken.

  5. wow, how cool! i've never heard of this before, but it looks like areally cool idea! can you use it on other meats? i'm not much of a shrimp person.

  6. I'd forgotten about velvet shrimp - I made it years ago, loved it, and then never made it again! Time to do it - thanks for the post.


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