I had never heard of this type of cooking, but it makes sense when I think about how many asian soups have you add raw meat to very hot broth. Though those are usually very thin pieces. I've never thought of doing it in water with larger cuts of meat.
Anyone have experience with this? Do the meats really come out tender?
It seems pretty close to poaching to me. With poaching, you put the meat into barely simmering liquid (approximately 190°F) and keep it submerged until it's done. For a chicken breast, that would be maybe 20 - 30 minutes.
In this steeping method, you take boiling liquid off the burner, which would immediately take it down to about 190°F, then you put your meat in and cover it and let it steep until done. Now, using this method, it would be difficult to overcook the meat. Even if you forgot all about it, it probably wouldn't be overdone so it is interesting.
With sous vide the liquid never really comes in contact with the meat. I assume you could seal a piece of meat in a plastic bag with the air evacuated and have similar results... sorta.
How tender the meats turn out depend on the cut. The proteins do not get tough and coarse because the cooking temperature is below boiling point. You can achieve some very smooth textures that the Chinese prize. I've made soy sauce chicken this way, and as Hank mentions, another benefit is the amount of control you have cooking a whole bird more evenly to exactly the doneness you want. In my case, still very juicy and red at the bone. Sometimes you need to reheat the liquid again, if your cooking vessel is small and loses temperature rapidly.