Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's Give Sweet & Sour Pork a Break!

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A staple of Chinese menus, Sweet and Sour pork is the second most researched Chinese food on Google after Beef and Broccoli...who would have thought?!  It is the first Chinese dish I ever had and liked in the days when Chicken Chow Mein was the definition of Chinese cooking.  It is also one of my daughter's favorites and she lived in San Francisco! But she's used to the recipe I make at home and that recipe comes from no other than Martin Yan, the Chinese version of Julia Child.

Nowadays, the mere thought of ordering this dish defines you as an amateur or country bumpkin, perhaps because there are so many awful and syrupy versions kicking around and so many more exciting dishes on the menus of most restaurants. .  Not even my favorite takeout in NYC, Pig Heaven,  can offer a palatable version.  Needless to say, I never order it out. I am a closet sweet and sour pork aficionado.

I cook Chinese food fairly often at home even though we have a pretty good takeout here in Atlanta called Chin Chin.  I figured out long ago that the most important thing in Chinese cooking is getting organized as the actual cooking is fairly simple and takes no time.  Chop everything first, combine your sauce next while the meat is marinading, and if you are serious about Chinese cooking, have all the staples on hand .  Things like rice vinegar, rice wine, soy sauce, plum sauce, oyster sauce and others will get you through most Chinese dishes.  I have a basket in the pantry where I store all my Chinese ingredients so when I'm ready to go, they are at hand.

There are as many versions of Sweet and Sour Pork as there are of chili. The dish originated in Guandong Province, and it is quintessential and classic Cantonese, as well as being perhaps the most well known of all Chinese recipes. The secret of an authentic sweet and sour pork lies in the perfect balance of the sweet vs. sour taste of the sauce. To master this dish, it’s not about the technique of stir-frying nor the use of the freshest ingredients, although both are equally important and wouldn't hurt. The sweet and sour sauce is the soul of this dish. If you fail on the sauce, you fail the dish.  Now that I've given you courage and hopefully, determination, go for it!

By the way, don't be put off by the catsup and Worcestershire Sauce, they are regularly used in Asian cooking

Serves 4


1/2 lb. pork tenderloin (cut into bite size pieces)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1/2 green bell pepper (about 2 oz. and cut into 1 inch dice)
1/2 red bell pepper (about 2 oz. and cut into 1 inch dice)
1/2 yellow onion cut into 1 inch dice
1 cup fresh/canned pineapple chunks (cut into small pieces)*
Oil for frying


1/2 cup corn starch
1 egg

Sweet and Sour Sauce:

3/4 cup tomato ketchup
6 TB sugar
3 TB Chinese rice vinegar
1 TB Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
2 TB fresh lime juice
1 TB soy sauce


Cut the pork tenderloin into pieces and marinade with the ingredients for 10  minutes.

Mix the sweet and sour sauce ingredients well and set aside.

In a deep skillet, add in the cooking oil enough for deep-frying ( about 2 inches). Once the oil is hot, deep fry the pork pieces until they turn golden brown 3- 4 minutes. Dish out and drain on paper towels.

Heat up a wok and add in some cooking oil. Make sure you coat the sides of the wok. Add in the minced garlic and ginger and stir fry until light brown (20 secs), then follow by the bell peppers and onions. Stir fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the peppers (2 to 3 mins) and then add in the sweet and sour sauce to coat vegetables. As soon as the sauce thickens, transfer the pork into the wok and stir well with the sauce. Add the pineapple and do a few quick stirs, dish out and serve hot with steamed white rice.

*For a nice twist, I sometimes substitute mango for pineapple, when in season.

Recipe adapted from Martin Yan
All photos Lindaraxa


  1. Very nice Sweet & Sour! That is my hubby's favorite Chinese dish. This is one I haven't tried as of yet. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. It's a favorite of mine and before Chinese Restuarants came to the prairie, one I often made at home.

    I made your wonderful lentil and sausage soup tonight -- it is terrific! I will give you credit when I post.

  3. Oh my goodness this looks delicious, and I am longing for S&S pork right now reading it. If you enjoy Chinese cooking then I would highly recommend "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" by Jennifer 8 Lee if you haven't read it already. It explores with humor and flawless research the birth and then explosion of chinese restaurants in this country, and is a real page-turner. Full of facinating information and stories.

  4. Reggie - no havent read it, will look up asap, my kind of book.

    Martha - glad you enjoyed the lentil soup

    kathy - try it!

  5. I'm making it this weekend: wish you were here to help (and the sous-chef). A bientot!

  6. Aneyefordetail,

    You go girl!! we had this a couple of nights ago, it's a great recipe, let me know how yu like it!!


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