Chi­nese sta­ple is sweet, sour and delicious all over

Yes, you could or­der in, or bet­ter yet, whip up this restau­rant favourite at home

Times Colonist - - Life - ERIC AKIS Sun­day Din­ner Eric Akis is the author of eight cook­books. His col­umns ap­pear in the Life sec­tion Wed­nes­day and Sun­day.

Ihad a ma­jor-league crav­ing for sweet and sour pork last week and de­cided to call my favourite Chi­nese restau­rant to or­der some to go. When I di­alled, a recorded mes­sage said they were on hol­i­days.

Good for them, I thought, but not for me. So I de­cided this would be a good time for me to make a home­made batch of sweet and sour pork, some­thing I’ve not done for a while.

Some think sweet and sour pork is a North Amer­i­can cre­ation — in par­tic­u­lar, the type served at some all-you-can-eat buf­fets, where gris­tle-filled chunks of heav­ily bat­tered pork are swim­ming in a su­per-sweet, neon-red-coloured sauce. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the tome

The Food of China, it is, in fact, Chi­nese in ori­gin. That book says the orig­i­nal ver­sion in­cludes light and crisp pieces of pork served in pi­quant sweet and sour sauce.

In my Chi­nese cook­books, pork shoul­der was the cut most of­ten used. It has a richer fat con­tent than other cuts of pork, and when it’s cut into pieces, coated and fried, you end up with suc­cu­lent and juicy pieces of pork. Some recipes ask you to deep-fry that pork, while others, such as mine, use a shal­low-fry tech­nique.

Things get even bet­ter when you add that cooked pork to a quick-to-cook be­guil­ing sauce adorned with bits of onion, bell pep­per and pineap­ple.

Be­cause things cook quickly, when mak­ing sweet and pork at home, you should do what they would do in a Chi­nese restau­rant be­fore meal ser­vice be­gins: Make sure all your in­gre­di­ents are pre­pared and ready to go. You don’t want to be chop­ping some­thing at the last minute when you should be keep­ing an eye on the pork cook­ing in hot oil on the stove.

I served my sweet and sour pork with steamed rice and steamed baby bok choy, cooked a minute or so, un­til bright green and just ten­der.

In my recipe, I offer the op­tion to use a leaner cut of pork, if de­sired. If you like sweet, sour and spicy pork, I also give you the op­tion to serve the dish with hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha.

Sweet and Sour Pork for Two

Suc­cu­lent pork coated and browned and then added to an easy-to-make sauce with veg­eta­bles and pineap­ple. Serve with steamed rice and green veg­etable and din­ner is ready. Prepa­ra­tion time: 25 min­utes Cook­ing time: About 15 min­utes Makes: Two serv­ings 3 Tbsp unsweet­ened pineap­ple juice (see Note)

1⁄3 cup ketchup 1 Tbsp rice vine­gar 11⁄2 Tbsp brown sugar 11⁄2 tsp soy sauce 1 large egg white

1⁄2 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp Shaox­ing rice wine, dry sherry or brandy (op­tional) 1 (400 gram) pork shoul­der steak, trimmed of ex­cess fat and bones, meat cut into 3⁄4- to 1-inch cubes (see Eric’s op­tions) • salt to taste 1⁄4 cup corn­starch 1⁄3 cup plus 1 Tbsp veg­etable oil 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup canned, unsweet­ened pineap­ple chunks 1⁄2 small green bell pep­per, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes 1⁄2 small onion, cut into 1⁄2 -inch cubes into 1 large green onion, cut 1-inch pieces 1 small gar­lic clove, minced 1 tsp chopped fresh gin­ger • hot Asian-style sauce, to taste (op­tional)

Com­bine the juice, ketchup, vine­gar, sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Place egg white, sesame oil and, if us­ing, wine (or sherry or brandy) in a sec­ond bowl and beat to com­bine. Sea­son the pork lightly with salt and then add to the egg-white mix­ture and toss to coat.

Line a plate with plas­tic wrap or corn­starch. Spread corn­starch out on a pie plate. Now coat each piece of pork in corn­starch and set on the pate, not touch­ing.

Heat the 1⁄4 cup veg­etable oil in large skil­let or wok set over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the pork, in two or three batches, and cook un­til brown on all sides and cooked through.

Trans­fer pork to a clean plate lined with pa­per towel.

Clean the cook­ing pan. Set pan back on the heat and add the 1 Tbsp oil. When oil is very hot, add the pineap­ple, bell pep­per, onion, green onion, gar­lic and gin­ger and stir-fry two to three min­utes.

Re­turn the pork to the pan and add the ketchup mix­ture. Bring to a sim­mer, and sim­mer one to two min­utes. Spoon the pork onto a serv­ing plat­ter or into a shal­low bowl and en­joy.

Serve with the hot sauce, if de­sired.

Eric’s op­tions: If you wish to use lean pork, re­place the pork shoul­der steak with 300 grams pork ten­der­loin, cut into 3⁄4- to one-inch cubes.

ERIC AKIS

Suc­cu­lent, sweet and sour pork cooks quickly, so have all in­gre­di­ents ready to go be­fore you start cook­ing.

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