My prevailing memories of Sweet and Sour when I was growing up were the sticky, cloying bright red sauce with guilty pleasure battered chicken balls or my Mum’s Sweet and Sour Chicken, which was basically dry chicken breast in a jar of Uncle Ben’s Sauce, served with boil in the bag rice. Weird I ever got a taste for it, right?!
However, my first forays into stir frying (again with experience led by my Mum who can’t have stir fry without a sachet of sauce) had me reaching for a sachet of Blue Dragon Sweet and Sour Sauce, which is arguably of better quality.
Most recently, I’ve learned how to make it myself, and that means I can make it however I want! No green peppers, lighter, thinner and with a bit of a kick. If you want to recreate that old fashioned taste, you can easily do so. Just leave out the ginger, garlic and chilli and add a bit more cornflour to get a thicker sauce.
You will need (for 1):
1 small piece of pork fillet (tenderloin). I used a leftover piece I had in the freezer) this should be out of the fridge for half an hour or so before you cook it.
1/2 brown onion
1/2 red pepper
1 small carrot
1 clove garlic
1 knob fresh ginger
2 tsp tomato purée
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaohsing rice wine (or sherry)
1 tbsp honey
Pinch mild chilli powder
1 tsp cornflour
1 small tin of pineapple slices or chunks in their own juice
Splash groundnut oil
I used to make this recipe with fresh pineapple and pineapple juice (which is delicious) rather than tinned, but I’m not really one for drinking fresh pineapple juice so it made the recipe much more expensive and it meant running out for particular ingredients rather than trying to pull something together with what’s in the cupboard.
1. Slice the onion, chop the pepper and peel and chop the carrot. Size is up to you. Some people like to julienne the carrot but I just prefer to cut discs from the narrow end, the half or quarter lengthways and continue to slice.
2. Grate the ginger and garlic. Cut the pineapple into chunks, unless you bought it in chunks.
3. Add the groundnut oil to a large frying pan, allow to heat to a high heat and toss in the onion. Once it has started to turn translucent, add in the pepper and carrot. These actually need quite slot of cooking and will still stay nice and crunchy.
4. Allow the veg to cook down a bit, stirring or tossing every now and then depending how dexterous you are with this…I’ve finally nailed the one handed toss with even my biggest frying pan and am feeling pretty chuffed with myself! Anyway, add the grated ginger and garlic and cook out for a few minutes, reducing the heat down to low to medium.
5. Mix together the soy, honey, mirin, chilli powder and cornflour.
6. Thinly slice the pork. I like to do this widthways but whichever way gives you thin smallish pieces is absolutely fine. You can cook this in the same pan if you like, but I decided to use a medium pan for the veg and my smallest frying pan for the pork, just to give it the best chance of really searing and taking on colour without being affected by the moisture in the other pan. If you want to minimise washing up, push the veg to the side and use the same pan, but use the largest one you have. You want the pork to sear on one side then turn over to brown the other side. As soon as it is just cooked, take off the heat.
6. Meanwhile, add the tomato purée to the veg, stir in and allow to cook out at a lowish heat.