It’s that time again when I have to republish an old post because I have discovered a better cooking technique for an old recipe. Been eating and cooking Chinese-style sweet and sour pork for a long time, the ingredients hardly ever change but how I cook the meat has varied over the years.
But why modify an already good recipe? For us who take cooking seriously, it’s that mindset that it can be better. Why do restaurants have different ways of serving sweet and sour pork in the first place? Isn’t it because there is no universal recipe and cooking process for the dish?
When we eat in Chinese restaurants, we often order dishes that we had enjoyed before. For instance, we love Causeway Seafood Restaurant‘s and King Chef’s dim sum selection but, for me, nothing beats Din Tai Fung‘s steamed dumplings. Speedy and I think that HK Choi‘s pata tim and lechon macau are the best and President Grand Palace‘s roast duck is the most succulent…
In other words, although about seventy percent of the items in Chinese restaurants is the same, some versions are more memorable than others. And that is the obvious truth. There is no singular standard recipe for any dish. There are as many versions as there are cooks.
Take the ubiquitous sweet and sour pork. Why is the sweet and sour pork in Restaurant A better than the dish with the same name in Restaurants B, C and D? Same thing among home cooks. Why is your friend’s mother’s sweet and sour pork more mouth-watering than your mother’s version? Perhaps, the balance between sweet and sour is more pleasant. Perhaps, the pork is juicier and more tender. Perhaps, the crisp starch coating is thinner so there is more meat than starch.
It is the obsession with the thin crisp coating that had me experimenting for years and years. The coating has to be thin enough to see the pork through it. Yet, it has to be able to withstand the tossing when the sauce is added and not slide off the meat.
The first thing to remember is that Chinese-style sweet and sour pork is only partially stir fried. The other part consists of deep frying.
So, you slice your pork, marinate it and coat each piece in batter. You heat up plenty of oil, fry the battered pork in batches making sure that they don’t stick to one another.
After frying, the crisp batter should be so thin that you can see the meat through it. If you can’t see the meat, the batter is too thick. And you don’t want that because the batter is just to create a beautiful texture around the meat — don’t treat the batter as an extender so that a little meat goes a long way. Think quality over quantity.
When all the pork slices have been fried, pour off the oil. The trace that coats the bottom and sides of the wok should be enough to stir fry the vegetables.
Add the fried pork to the stir fried vegetables and toss.
Pour in the sauce.
Allow the pork and vegetables to boil in the sauce for a few seconds. And your Chinese-style sweet and sour pork is ready to serve! Scoop out the contents of the wok onto a platter, or just tip the contents of the wok directly into a platter, garnish as desired and serve.
Chinese-style Sweet and Sour Pork
- 500 grams thinly sliced pork (shoulder or skinless belly is recommended)
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- cooking oil for deep frying
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch or corn starch (NOT all-purpose flour, please!)
For the stir fried vegetables
To complete the dish
- 1 and 1/2 cups sweet and sour sauce (see notes after the recipe)
Cut the pork slices into bite-size pieces. Throw into a bowl with the ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and rice wine. Mix well. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat enough cooking oil in a wok or frying pan to reach a depth of at least two inches.
Take the pork out of the fridge.
Crack the egg directly into a bowl and stir. Add the starch and whisk to form a loose batter.
Add the pork to the batter and mix well.
Drop the battered pork, one at a time, into the hot oil. Fry the pork in two to three batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. If the pork has been sliced thinly enough, the cooking time should be short, no more than three to four minutes per batch.
Drain the pork in a strainer or a stack of paper towels.
Pour off the oil from the wok or frying pan.
Turn the heat to high. Stir fry the bell pepper, carrot and scallions with salt and pepper for about half a minute.
Add the pork to the vegetables and toss to reheat.
Pour in the sauce. Stir. Boil for a few seconds.
Tip the contents of the wok or frying pan into a platter. Garnish with more scallions, optionally. Serve the Chinese-style sweet and sour pork immediately.
I use homemade sweet and sour sauce which I do NOT thicken with starch. Click here for instructions.
This recipe supersedes the version published in March 13, 2014.