Using this centuries-old Chinese technique, you can fry morsels of meat and vegetables in minutes by tossing them briskly against the side of an intensely hot but well-oiled pan. Because the cooking time is so short, flavor and juices do not have time to escape. Meat stays moist and tender; vegetables come out crisp.
Before chicken—or, as a substitute, turkey—is stir fried, the raw meat is coated to seal the pieces for cooking and to give the outside of each piece a smooth texture. After the poultry is done, it is removed from the pan, and vegetables and seasonings are stir fried in the same oil. Finally, the poultry pieces are stirred back into the pan and—in most cases—lightly glazed before serving.
Although a Chinese cleaver, a wok and a Chinese spatula are used in this demonstration, the meat may be sliced with any firm-bladed knife, stir fried in any metal skillet that heats up quickly and evenly, then tossed about with any wood or metal spatula.
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Time needed: 15 minutes.
- Preparing a breast
Skin, bone and halve a chicken breast. Place each half on a cutting board with the skinned side down so that the tubular fillet, along the outer edge of each breast half, faces up. Grasp a half in one hand and its fillet in the other. Pull gently until they come apart.
- Removing the tendon
Use the tip of your blade to scrape the fillet away from the tough white tendon that attaches it to the rest of the breast. Pul the tendon from the underside of the fillet with one hand and cut with theother.
- Slicing the breast and fillet:
Hold the blade horizontally with the cutting edge parallel to the grain of the meat. Keep the meat firmly flattened with your fingers. Use a sawing motion to slice pieces about 1/8 inch [3 mm.] thick. Then cut the larger slices in half so that all the pieces of meat will be about the same size and shape.
- Coating the slices:
Prepare the coating mixture —in this recipe, water, cornstarch and salt —and drop in the poultry slices. Work the coating into the slices with your fingers. Refrigerate the slices for about half an hourto set the coating, then let the meat stand at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before you begin to cook it.
Cutting Slices into Shreds:
|Forming matchsticks: After cutting the breast into slices 1/8 inch [3 mm.] thick (Step 3 at left), stack the slices with the grain running lengthwise, overlapping them like stairs. Then hold the stack flat with your fingertips, but curve your fingers so that your knuckles can guide the knife blade. Cut straight down along the grain to get shreds the shape and size of matchsticks. Partially freezing the breast slices beforehand makes the meat easier to shred.|