As usual, I picked out a recipe that was a bit more complicated than expected for a weeknight, but this Sweet and Sour Pork is well worth the effort, especially if you have a weakness for sweet and sour sauce like I do. It’s not something I order very often because of its—let’s be honest—seriously high calorie count, so making it at home seemed like a good way to up the dish’s veggie content and leave all the MSG behind. Here’s what it includes:
(P.S. I got these really cool arrows from Pugly Pixel, my new favorite design blog!)
So, as you can see, there are definitely more fruit and vegetables than you usually see in Chinese take out: the fresh pineapple gives the stir fry a juicy sweetness, the yellow and red bell peppers add a much-needed crunch, and the onions and garlic give the sauce its savory note.
And it turns out that making sweet and sour sauce is much easier than I thought! Simply combine soy sauce, water, vinegar, sugar, and salt into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then add a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch mixed with cold water) and food coloring and voila! You have sweet and sour sauce.
And, yes, this recipe does involve frying thin pieces of pork, but as long as the oil stays hot it won’t soak into the pork, leaving you with crispy bits of pork tenderloin. The recipe calls for double frying the pork, but one deep fry was enough for this chick, and it didn’t seem to effect the final dish. If you’re ready to upgrade to homemade Chinese take out, this recipe is a great way to go—and it tastes better than the restaurant version, too. 🙂
Sweet and Sour Pork
This recipe for sweet and sour pork is based on one in The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee (J. B. Lippincott Company, 1972). It is most certainly a Chinese-American rendering of a Cantonese dish, employing a version of a sweet and sour sauce that is most typically used on fish, but just as delicious on pork. This recipe appeared in Issue #96 of Saveur magazine. Click here to print the original recipe from Saveur.com. SERVES 4.
1 1⁄4 lbs. pork loin, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes
1 tbsp. dry sherry
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 cup cornstarch
1⁄3 cup white distilled vinegar
1⁄2 cup sugar
12 drops red food coloring
1 small onion, cut into 1″ pieces
1⁄2 large ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1″ chunks
1⁄2 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1″ pieces
1⁄2 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1″ pieces
4 thin “coins” of peeled fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, lightly pound each pork cube to a 1⁄4″ thickness. Transfer to a medium bowl, add sherry and 1 tbsp. of the soy sauce, and toss to combine.
2. Pour peanut oil into a wok to a depth of 1″ and heat over medium-high heat until temperature registers 375° on a deep-fry thermometer. Put all but 2 tbsp. of the cornstarch into a wide dish. Dredge pork in cornstarch, one piece at a time, pressing down with your fingers to coat well. Discard cornstarch left in dish. Working in batches, fry pork in peanut oil until cooked through and golden brown on all sides, 4–5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to let drain. Heat oil until it registers 400° on a deep-fry thermometer, then refry pork in a single batch until deep golden brown, 1–2 minutes, to make pork crisper. Return pork to plate. Discard all but 1⁄4 cup of oil in wok; set aside.
3. Put remaining soy sauce, 1 cup water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to taste into a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir until sugar has dissolved. Mix together remaining 2 tbsp. cornstarch with 1⁄4 cup water in a small bowl; stir into the simmering sauce along with food coloring and 2 tbsp. additional peanut oil and simmer for 1 minute.
4. Heat wok with reserved oil over medium heat. Add onions, pineapple, peppers, ginger, and garlic and stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Stir in sauce, bring to a boil, then add reserved pork and toss to combine. Serve with rice, if you like.