Monday, 12 March 2012

Sweet and Sour Pork


Sweet and sour pork cantonese style would always be one of my all-time favourite Chinese dishes. What does 'cantonese' mean in this context? Well, the pork is covered in batter and then deep fried before combining or pouring over the sweet and sour sauce. Unlike some other SS concoctions where the meat is cooked all together with the sauce.

My former Chinese colleagues (when I was living in Hong Kong) looked in feigned disdain at me whenever I have this. "That's for tourists", they said. Well, I was a foreigner there, though not exactly a tourist, but at any rate I don't really care. LOL. Serve me sweet and sour pork with a soy sauce dip and freshly cooked rice and I'm a happy bunny. I definitely have an affinity with anything fried with sauce. Somehow the contrast of the crispiness versus whatever flavourful sauce mixed with it is quite delightful to me.

Now my main complaint with this dish is if I follow the recipe to a T, the resulting meat is not tender enough. I wonder what the Chinese restaurant chefs do to make theirs super tender? So to solve the problem I pre-cooked the pork until tender and briefly deep fry it only long enough for the outside to be crisp. It didn't seem to detract from the original intention of the recipe so I guess that's all right.

My well-worn Chinese Cooking For Beginners cookbook by Huang Su-Huei is the source of my updated recipe.



Sweet and Sour Pork

500 gm pork
1 egg yolk
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/3 cup cornstarch (for dredging)

cooking oil for frying
1 small onion
1 clove garlic - finely chopped
1 cup canned pineapple chunks
1 small red or green bell pepper

*Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 Tbsp pineapple juice - use the juice from the canned pineapple
3 Tbsp white vinegar
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp sea salt

*Thickener:
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste and if needed adjust to the right sweet-sour balance that suits you. Set aside.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water for the thickener in another container; set aside.
  3. Cut the pork meat into about 3/4-inch size pieces.
  4. Lightly tenderise the meat by pounding it with a meat mallet or with the blunt edge of a cleaver.
    *OR*
    Pre-cook the meat (boil or steam) until just tender.
  5. Combine the egg yolk, soy sauce, and the 1 Tbsp cornstarch. Mix well with the meat; set aside.
  6. Heat enough cooking oil in a wok for deep frying. Before frying, dredge the meat in the cornstarch.
  7. Once the oil is hot, deep fry the meat for about 3 minutes. If you pre-cooked the meat, deep fry for about 1-2 minutes only. Remove and drain.
  8. Reheat oil in wok until very hot (not smoking). Re-fry the meat for 30 seconds. Remove and drain again.
  9. Remove oil from wok and re-heat. In high heat, add 1 Tbsp oil and stir-fry the bell pepper. Add 1 Tbsp water and continue to stir-fry until all water has evaporated (about 30 seconds). Remove and drain.
  10. Re-heat wok again; add 2 Tbsp oil. Stir-fry the garlic until fragrant.
  11. Turn up the heat and add the onion and pineapple. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  12. Stir in the sauce mixture and once it begins to boil add the thickener. Stir and bring to boil.
  13. Once thick, add the meat and bell pepper. Toss or stir lightly until sauce covers all of the meat. Dish up and serve.
*Note: Usually, I skip procedure no.9 by combining the stir-frying of the bell pepper with the onion (and omit the 1 Tbsp water). Then I add the pineapple after.