Basic Chinese meat marinade

UPDATE 11/2021

I've decided to update this post after my return from working in several kitchens in some wonderful New York City restaurants.  The original marinade was made for one pound of meat since that is usually the amount needed for a particular dish.  From my experience in NYC, I learned that the chefs made their marinades and sauces in bulk every week and this was such a time saver.  I decided to incorporate a few of the restaurant techniques into my home cooking to save time and be more efficient with meal prep.  Check out my Chinese Cooking 101 Series, Part 2.

If you understand the basics behind a Chinese marinade, you can use this for any meat,  and it will result in tasty, tender meat dishes, guaranteed. There are a few things you should understand. I use this basic marinade for chicken, pork, beef and even turkey.  Other ingredients can be added to suit your taste.  This marinade is a little too heavy for light, white fish.   There are a total of seven ingredients for this basic meat marinade.

Tips to making basic meat marinade.

Salt and sugar  

The combination of salt and sugar, in the right proportions, creates a natural flavor enhancer.

Pepper

In general, I prefer using ground white pepper in my marinade.  Black pepper, although tasty, results in black specks on dishes that are light in color.  For Cantonese cooking, the lighter sauce is more popular rather than the "brown sauce".  However, this is purely for aesthetic reasons!

Cornstarch:  My mother always told me to add cornstarch into every marinade. I never knew why. Over the years, I realize that cornstarch is both a binder and thickener.  So, when you add cornstarch to the marinade, the liquid ingredients will adhere to the meat while frying and the sauce will thicken and "stick" to whatever you are stir frying.

Corn starch

When making the marinade in bulk, see video, do not add the cornstarch to the marinade as it will clump due to the hydrophobic properties of the starch.  Instead, the cornstarch is added separately when marinating the meat.

Marinate chicken with Chinese marinade ingredients for blakcbean sauce zucchini and chicken recipe

Alcohol: (whiskey or rice wine)  Alcohol is an acid.  Acids break down protein.  In a sense, the alcohol will tenderize your meat.  The alcohol also adds flavor to the meat.  I love the subtle taste of whiskey in the meat so I often use whiskey instead of rice wine.  

There are various forms of rice wine.  From Shaoxing to Mirin and Sake.  Mirin and Sake are Japanese rice wines that have different flavors.  Shoaxing wine comes from Shaoxing, a city in China's Zhejiang Province known for rice wine production.  This rice wine is made by fermenting rice, water and a little wheat.   If you don't have Shaoxing wine, you can use other rice wines.   Click here for an extensive guide on Chinese Cooking Wines.

Shaohsing rice cooking wine

shaohsing rice cooking wine

Soy sauce:  There are so many brands and tastes of soy sauce out there and they range in price.  I recommend that you use "premium" soy sauces as dipping sauces or accompaniments and a "good" soy sauce for your marinade.

Light soy sauce

Light soy sauce

Sesame oil: This is optional, but I like the smell and taste of sesame oil.

sesame oil

Pure sesame oil

Tips:  If there is excess marinade in your meat, DO NOT pour all the liquid into the frying pan / wok as this will end up boiling your meat instead of frying / browning your meat. Instead, scoop out just the meat with a slotted spoon and leave the leftover marinade until the end when you will add it to produce the sauce. 

For more sauce, add 1/2 cup of water to the marinade just before adding it to the stir fry.

Marinate chicken with Chinese marinade ingredients for blakcbean sauce zucchini and chicken recipe

BASIC CHINESE MEAT MARINADE (For 434g or 1 lb of meat).

Michelle Sam
Understand the basic ingredients and proportions behind the Chinese meat marinade so you can make any tasty Chinese dish.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4 people
Calories 64 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 453 grams meat Chicken, pork, beef, lamb. About 1 lb
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp whiskey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Instructions
 

  • Add above ingredients together to your meat and mix
    453 grams meat, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp white pepper, ¼ tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp light soy sauce, 1 Tbsp whiskey, 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Allow to marinade for at least 1/2 hour.
  • Stir fry / cook with your choice of vegetables.

Video

Notes

This basic Chinese marinade can be used for 1 lb of meat: Chicken, pork or beef.  Other ingredients can be added to suit your taste.

Nutrition

Serving: 4peopleCalories: 64kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 10gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 269mgPotassium: 172mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 14IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 3mgIron: 1mgNet Carbohydrates: 1g
Keyword chinese cooking, cornstarch, marinade, salt, soy sauce, sugar, whiskey
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Marinate chicken with Chinese marinade ingredients for blakcbean sauce zucchini and chicken recipe

BASIC BULK CHINESE MEAT MARINADE (Marinates 4.5 kg or 10 lbs)

Michelle Sam
Understand the basic ingredients and proportions behind the Chinese meat marinade so you can make any tasty Chinese dish.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 10 pounds
Calories 128 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions
 

  • Combine above ingredients EXCEPT cornstarch into a sealable container and mix.
    40 g sea salt, 10 g white pepper, 15 g sugar, 143 ml light soy sauce, 150 ml whiskey, 10 tsp sesame oil
  • For every 454 g or 1 lb of meat, combine 1 Tbsp of cornstarch with 2.5 Tbsp of basic meat marinade.
    100 g cornstarch
  • Allow to marinade for at least 1/2 hour.
  • Stir fry / cook with your choice of vegetables.
  • Refrigerate unused marinade. Use marinade within 6 months of making.

Notes

This basic Chinese marinade will marinade 10 lbs of meat: Chicken, pork or beef.  Marinade will keep up to 6 months in the refrigerator.  For every 454 g or 1 lb of meat, use 2-3 tsp cornstarch and 2-2.5 Tbsp of basic meat marinade. 

Nutrition

Serving: 10lbCalories: 128kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 2gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 2350mgPotassium: 32mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 7mgIron: 1mg
Keyword chinese cooking, cornstarch, marinade, salt, soy sauce, sugar, whiskey
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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