The first Chinese dish (outside of fried rice) that I really decided that I like was sweet and sour chicken. Given my upbringing, this was at one of the ubiquitous “Chinese” fast-food restaurants at a mall. Given I was child at the time, I can’t really blame myself for it.
Sweet and sour chicken has to be one of the least offensive “foreign” foods ever (I’m guessing it’s about as American as apple pie but it’s still somewhat exotic for middle-America). It’s chicken (outside of Peta members, is there anyone who finds chicken objectionable?) which has been deep-fried (which has to be the most all-American way of cooking something) served in a sweet sauce (and where would Americans be without
sugar corn syrup). So it’s not particularly surprising that I liked it.
And I’ve actually had good renditions of it. It’s just usually overly thick and overly sweet. And there’s more breading than chicken. And the pieces are too big to be edible with chop sticks. And it just ends up dissappointing.
I’ve even tried to make it myself (with a variety of recipes). And I’ve never come up with something that I can actually say is good. Sure, the chicken is alright but the sauce never works out.
When I came across this recipe, I was naturally skeptical. How good could any Chinese recipe be that included ketchup? (Of course, the Chinese may have invented ketchup.) And there’s a lot of sugar in it. And given my previous attempts, why won’t the sauce be overly thick or sweet?
I figured I’d give it a shot. And it was good. Very good. The pork actually has flavor as opposed to simply providing a vehicle to eat the sauce. And the sauce wasn’t too thick. It coated the pork well without being too thick. And it was actually sweet and sour. It was much better than any fast food Chinese.
But I still have a place in my heat for sweet and sour chicken.
Sweet and Sour Pineapple Pork
Adapted from The Key to Chinese Cooking
1 lbs pork tenderloin
4 cups oil
1/4 cup cornstarch mixed 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
1 egg yolk, beaten
5 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp oil
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup canned cubed pineapple
- Trim the meat of excess fat and any silver skin. Pound the meat with a meat tenderizer to separate the muscle fibers. Cut it lengthwise into 1 inch wide stripes and then crosswise into 1 inch cubes.
- Combine the marinade ingredients together and mix well. Place the pork in the marinade, stir well, and allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
- Mix together the sugar, salt, white vinegar, soy sauce, wine, and ketchup for the sauce.
- In a sauce pan, heat 2 tbsp oil over high heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook briefly, turning the garlic several times.
- Add the mixed sauce ingredients and stir until it comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and add in the cornstarch mixture stirring until it begins to thicken.
- Add the water and stir until the sauce becomes smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and discard the garlic.
- Heat the oil in a wok until hot, about 350ºF.
- Dredge the pork in the cornstarch-flour mixture and shake off any excess flour.
- Place the pork in the oil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pork from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Return the oil to 350ºF. Return the pork to the oil and cook for 2 minutes until the pork is crisp and browned.
- Return the sauce to a simmer and add the pineapple. Simmer for 30 seconds.
- Remove the pork from the oil and place in the sauce after draining briefly.
- Place the sauce over high heat and stir until the pork is well coated.
- Serve immediately with white rice.