Velveting is a little-known but very effective Chinese cooking technique that uses a baking-soda- or cornstarch-based slurry to make any protein luxuriously soft and silky—like velvet. It’s also the secret to the tender stir-fried meat in Chinese cuisine.

Mu Jing Lau, chef-owner of Santa Fe’s popular Mu Du Noodles, which closed in 2016 after a 21-year run, offers this basic recipe and some seasoning options to make the marinade your own. Add seasonal vegetables and a sauce of your choice to complete the stir-fry.

  • ½ pound of thinly sliced, cubed, or diced boneless meat (chicken, beef, lamb, pork)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cooking wine
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons neutral cooking oil to sear meat

Optional additions to the basic marinade: Start with a small amount (¼ to ½ teaspoon) of one or two options and add more as you experiment.

  • Sugar
  • Sesame oil
  • Oyster sauce
  • White pepper
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Water or broth
  • Fish sauce
  • Finely minced garlic
  • Egg white

Serves 2-4

1. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.

2. Add the protein and mix until the meat is well coated and begins to absorb the marinade. Let rest for 15 minutes.

3. Heat neutral cooking oil over high heat in a skillet or wok until shimmering. Add the meat and any remaining slurry. Stir until the meat is lightly browned and opaque but not cooked all the way through—about two or three minutes.

4. Remove the meat to a plate and continue with your favorite stir-fry recipe, adding the meat back to the pan to finish cooking when it all comes together.

This recipe originally appeared in Putting Culture on the Table by Patricia West-Barker.