Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

Cook time: 20 minutes  |  Total time: 45 min |  Serves: 4

From the massive pantheon of Chinese dishes, and I do mean massive, Sweet and Sour Pork (咕噜肉 or 糖醋猪肉 *Gūlū ròu or Táng cù zhūròu*) is probably the most contentious. It is not considered the most Chinese of Chinese dishes by the Chinese. And to be honest, I don't think I've ever ordered this dish when dining out in the exclusive company of my Sino friends. Surprisingly, I do actually like to cook this recipe as it combines a variety of techniques and my guests dig it.

Most modern recipes call for a slathering of ketchup, which just kinda disgusts me. Ketchup in Chinese food? No way. The idea just makes my mouth curl. I discovered, however, that even in Fu Pei Mei's epic cookbook volumes and Irene Kuo's seminal "The Key to Chinese Cooking," these highly revered Chinese cooks added ketchup in their sweet and sour recipes. Regardless, I still just can't with the ketchup. Instead I've concocted my own recipe, from a variety of old school recipes and trial & error, which I believe is more in keeping with how sweet and sour came to be.

The sweet and sour dishes that you get in modern Chinese restaurants descends from the Hong Kong style of sweet and sour. In Chinese restaurants in the west, most sweet and sour dishes come in a very saucy, almost molasses like, type of glaze completely drowning the meat and vegetables. Furthermore, they often add chunks of pineapple, which in my opinion is a Hawaiian bastardisation. In some more contemporary, nouveau (read: bull shit) recipes that you can spot on youtube, I've seen all types of sauces, which shouldn't be mixed together, mixed together. I find it highly disturbing and as an amateur cook I am offended.

I like to keep it simple and honest. To get the sweet and sour taste, my recipes calls for rice vinegar and sugar. This method of flavouring can be traced back to fish recipes from the Yellow River area. The carp from the Yellow River, a very muddy and silty river with a violent flooding history, much like my family's temper, often have a strong flavour that needs taming. To reduce the harsh flavour of the fish, cooks would add a little vinegar and sugar. I often use small portions of the aforementioned mixture to marinate meat before frying to tendorise. In my recipe, I do add tomato paste or puree to add colour and it also thickens the sauce a bit. Colour in Chinese cooking is very important and this dish—first fried and stir fried and then glazed—should have a slight red glow. I like to cook this dish along with a soy braised dish or light Qīngdàn dish along with a vegetable stir fry. Well enough rambling... let's get to the recipe. 

What you'll need and how much:

— 3 cloves of garlic minced
— 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
— 2 diced scallions (spring onions)
— 2 bell peppers
— 1/2 an onion
— 500g of pork shoulder cut in bite sized pieces
— 1/2 cup of flour (4oz)
— 1/2 cup of cornflour (4oz)
— 1/2 teaspoon of salt
— 1 egg white
— 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
— 1.5 cups of oil (12.5oz)

Sweet and Sour Sauce
— 5 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
— 4 tablespoons of sugar
— 1/2 cup of water (4oz)
— 3 tablespoons of tomato concentrate paste
— 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
— 1 teaspoon of cornflour
 

See and read

Or skip to abridged recipe

Drop 1 egg white over the pork pieces in a bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix thoroughly and allow to "velvet" for 30 minutes at room temperature. Velveting is the process of doing a quick marinade of the meat to tendorise it. Velveting can incorporate different ingredients depending on the recipe. Most stir frys call for meat to be velveted in light soy, corn flour, and alittle water. For meat that will be fried in oil first, we often use an egg white (or egg yolk) and a little salt and/or pepper.

Cut the bell peppers and onion in diamond shapes. I like the diamond shapes as it adds a visual balance to the square-ish / rectangular pieces of meat.

Mix the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce in a bowl and set aside. This sweet and sour mixture seems ridiculously easy and it is. After this, you'll never ever buy a jar of Aunty Chun's sweet and sour mix. And if you do, shame on you.

Prepare the flour and cornflour in a bowl. Drop the pork pieces in and evenly coat so that all of the starch adheres to the sticky pork pieces. The pieces should be dry on the outside so that is creates a nice crispy coat after frying.

Heat the oil in a wok on high heat till medium high and drop the pork pieces in so that there is ample breathing space between the pieces. Don't "crowd the pan." Fry for roughly 6 minutes on medium high heat until golden brown. Don't fry on low heat as the batter will get soggy and that's not good. Remove and allow to strain on a wire rack, not on paper towels. Discard the oil from the work.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in the work. When it gets to medium high, stir fry the garlic and ginger, then throw in the onions and bell peppers. Allow to stir fry for about 3 minutes and remove to a plate or bowl. Don't over do it. The vegetables should still be crispy.

Clean the wok, bring back to the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Pour the sweet and sour mixture in the wok and allow to come to a nice medium bowl for about a minute. Stir it throughout so that it doesn't get lumpy.

Drop the fried pork pieces into the wok, turn the heat to high and toss'n stir the fried meat in the sweet and sour mixture until nicely coated in the glaze.

Then add the vegetables and continue to toss'n stir in the glaze for about 2 minutes until all ingredients are evenly heated. Don't be afraid to toss'n stir in a mildly vigorous manner. And don't cook it for too long otherwise the coating on the meat will get slimy. 

Remove to a serving plate and douse with chopped spring onions and voila!

Abridged Recipe

What you'll need and how much:

— 3 cloves of garlic mined
— 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
— 2 diced scallions (spring onions)
— 2 bell peppers
— 1/2 an onion
— 500g of pork shoulder cut in bite sized pieces
— 1/2 cup of flour (4oz)
— 1/2 cup of cornflour (4oz)
— 1/2 teaspoon of salt
— 1 egg white
— 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
— 1.5 cups of oil (12.5oz)

Sweet and Sour Sauce
— 5 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
— 4 tablespoons of sugar
— 1/3 cup of water (2.7oz)
— 3 tablespoons of tomato concentrate paste
— 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
— 1 teaspoon of cornflour

Recipe

  1. Drop 1 egg white over the pork pieces in a bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Mix thoroughly and allow to "velvet" for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Cut the bell peppers and onion in diamond shapes.
  3. Mix the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Prepare the flour and cornflour in a bowl. Drop the pork pieces in and evenly coat so that all of the starch adheres to the sticky pork pieces.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok on high heat till medium high and drop the pork pieces in so that there is breathing spaces between the pieces. Fry for roughly 6 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to strain on a wire rack, not on paper towels. Discard the oil from the work.
  6. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in the work. When it gets to medium high, stir fry the garlic and ginger, then throw in the onions and bell pepper. Allow to stir fry for about 3 minutes and remove to a plate or bowl. Don't over do it. The vegetables should still be crispy.
  7. Clean the wok, bring back to the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Pour the sweet and sour mixture in the wok and allow to come to a nice medium bowl for about a minute.
  8. Drop the fried pork pieces into the wok, turn the heat to high and stir in the sweet and sour mixture until nicely coated. Then add the vegetables and continue to stir in the glaze for about 2 minutes. 
  9. Remove to a serving plate and douse with chopped spring onions.

Photo Credits: Jenny Smart

Homemade Chilli Oil

Homemade Chilli Oil