15-Mar-2011, 03:59 pm
How Asian restaurants soften meat for stir-frying
Tenderising Chicken, Beef or Pork for Asian Cooking
If your ending up with tough chewy pieces of meat especially beef or pork then this will transform them into plump, juicy and soft pieces. It will also save you money on paying out for expensive cuts of meat when with this tenderising process you can successfully use the cheaper cuts.
Here we will show you step by step instructions on how to soften meat for stir-frying and in the same process how to season so that when you bite into them they are tender and tasty.
Chinese Cooking Wine ( ShaoXing)
Light Soy Sauce
Tapioca starch or Corn starch
Optional Ingredients for extra seasoning
Chicken Stock Powder
If you only have cornflour at home you can use that instead of Tapioca Starch. Chinese Takeaways and Restaurants use corn flour whereas Thai Takeaways and Restaurants tend to use Tapioca flour as it is more delicate and lighter which is better suited to Thai flavours. Tapioca also has more tenderising power and is particularly good for softening cheaper cuts of beef like topside.
It can be bought from any Asian supermarket, look for the brand pictured (Thai World Import & Export)) as it is good quality and only costs about $1.20.
For this example we have used
1/2 kg of chicken breast
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon cooking wine
1 tablespoon of tapioca starch
1/4tsp white pepper
1 tablespoon of canola oil (This prevent pieces sticking together during marinating and makes it easy to separate when stir-frying)
Chicken stock powder which helps give a nice flavourful taste when biting into the chicken pieces.
Put chicken into a container and just pour all ingredients on top, mix together with a wooden spoon or even better by hand.
The end result should look like the picture below but note that we use free range chicken so it will have a more yellow appearance than battery chicken.
It works quite quickly for chicken and you will notice results even after only 10 minutes however for best results leave for 1 hour.
For pork try and leave for 1 hour and for beef cuts like topside, overnight gives the best results however even 1 hour will have a significant effect and make the beef seem 10 times better than non tenderised beef. Any unused meat can be stored in the fridge and be kept almost double the recommended storage times as the softening ingredients act as a preservative. So if you wish you can soften up a kilo of chicken on the Monday and keep using it until the Friday without any problems. Please note that it is for home use only, most restaurants turnover their chicken on a daily basis so they have no need to store longer than 24 hours.
Softening the meat also provides very useful advantages for cooking.
1. It is more forgiving as it can be overcooked and still retain a nice juicy plumpness
2. It browns easier and enables the flavour enhancing caramelisation process to develop
3. As the meat is coated with starch it naturally thickens the sauce so often no thickening is required as long as you don't add too much liquid stock
When stir-frying ensure the wok is as hot as you can get it then add your cooking oil and heat until it starts to smoke significantly. Avoid adding in the meat at first sign of a wisp of smoke, give it a few more seconds until it smokes over most of the wok surface. If the wok is not hot the meat will stick. If it does don't force it off the bottom just let it cook in place and as it does it will come off easily after about 30 seconds. After meat has been fried for about 30 seconds add your garlic, ginger and unblanched hard vegetables like celery, onion, courgette, followed by blanched veges, sauce and liquid stock.
It is common for a lot of Asian restaurant and takeaways to quickly deep fry and pre-cook the softened meat for 1 minute in the morning so that when they get busy in the evening the meat is 90% pre-cooked and they can knock out a noodle dish or stir-fry in under a minute. However this makes the meat slimy and greyish in colour and is the opposite of what fresh should be like so there is no need to do this for home cooking.
Don't waste money on expensive beef, just buy topside or rump and soften. Results will be more tender and juicier.
Also with beef try and leave for as along as possible , under 1 hour and often only half the meat gets softened so you end up with a strange texture of soft on the outside but tough on the inside.
With Pork use lean leg pork, this is cheaper than scotch or loin and softens nicely within an hour.
Next we will show you the best way of cutting and blanching vegetables for stir-frying. This simple step is often over looked but if done correctly will help towards cooking a good restaurant quality stir-fry at home.
TAGS: softening meat tenderising chicken beef pork asian thai chinese takeaway restaurant cooking blog
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