Fist of Kitchen presents… Eat it: China!

Recooking "The Art of Chinese Cooking" by The Benedictine Sisters of Peking, 1956 | Remixed by Fist of Kitchen 2013

book version

Chicken Velvet

鶏芙

According to Chinese legend, chicken clouds and sea monkeys do not exist.

chicken
  • ½ lb. chicken breast, ground
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white, unbeaten
  • ¼ c. water
  • 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks
  • 2 tbsp. oil or chicken fat
gravy
  • 1 c. rich stock
  • 1 tsp. sherry
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
preparation

Mix the chicken, salt, cornstarch, and unbeaten egg white; slowly add the water, then fold into the beaten egg whites. When your oil is hot, add the chicken foam, then remove from the burner and stir the oil into it. Return the wok to the fire, and heat until the egg white is barely solid. Serve with the sauce.

Velvet Chicken

advice

Did your boxing coach do right and teach you how to beat egg whites? If you weren’t in class that day, don’t worry—it’s easy, and sort of therapeutic. While we’re going to do a whole article about this later, in short: using your hand mixer or a whisk, beat the room-temperature egg white until it looks kinda like soft-serve ice cream. Done!


The Sisters—who did a fair amount of nursing while in the POW camp—note that this is “a good dish for an invalid.” Indeed, this is like a pillowy, chicken-y raft to grab onto if one’s tossing in a sea of ague—so much so that I really wanted some 7-Up to wash it down!

That’s also a clue that it’s pretty mild: not to the point of unappealing blandness, but it’d be pretty easy to tip it into that. Be sure you have a dirty broken-in wok and dirty well-seasoned frying oil! Pepper and scallions are essential (though chives’ milder flavor and more tender tooth would be better).

So far, I’m not finding tons of references to this as a stand-alone dish—mostly, it’s a component in bird’s nest soup. While at first I thought this was a basic translation issue—the book’s Wade-Giles romanization is “Chi Jung” (鶏荣) but has the characters for “Chi Fu” (鶏芙)—neither of those combinations turn up anything useful. Next time, I’ll be looking at the idiomatic translation issue…and working out the deep-fried version of Chicken Velvet!

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