Chinese staple is sweet, sour and delicious all over
Yes, you could order in, or better yet, whip up this restaurant favourite at home
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.
Succulent, sweet and sour pork cooks quickly, so have all ingredients ready to go before you start cooking.