Friday, April 3, 2015

Sweet and Sour Pork at Home

You know that feeling when you make a meal at home that you love so much you'd even be willing to buy it from yourself?  That's how I feel about the sweet and sour that I make myself. I'd put mine up against any Chinese restaurant in this town.  And, I'm pretty confident I'd win.

I've written about this one before, but it's so good,it bears repeating. Last time I don't think I really told you how to make it so I will this time.  The coolest thing about Asian cuisines is that you don't have to have a lot of meat to work with.  The protein is so nicely accompanied by vegetables and rice that a little goes a long way.  Needless to say, this brings us into the category of budget meals too.

You all may remember that I'm a meat snob. I don't like meat with bones in it or with a bunch of fat & other icky stuff hanging off it.  So, I start with really good, fresh, lean pork.  This could be boneless pork chops or tenderloin.  To me, this is key.  Another aspect of this dish that I love is the true sweet and sour nature of combining onions and bell peppers with pineapple and the sweet sauce.  Just delicious!

So here's what I want you to do.  Cut your pork (about 1/2 lb.) into small, bite-sized pieces.  Gather these things:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbs oil 
Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the center & add the oil and enough water to make a thick, smooth batter. Using a wooden spoon, stir the ingredients in the well & gradually incorporate flour from the outside. Beat until smooth.

Heat some oil in your wok, dip your pork in the batter and fry about 6 pieces at a time, to keep your oil from cooling off. Drain on paper towels.

 Pour off most of the oil from your wok.  Now add a sliced onion, sliced bell pepper and one can of pineapple chunks (drain them but save the juice for the sauce.)  Stir fry over high until veggies are tender.  Remove & set aside.

 Now, for the sauce: 
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 6 Tbs ketchup
  • 6 Tbs reserved pineapple juice
Mix all these ingredients together and pour into the wok. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring continuously until thickened. Allow to simmer for about 2 minutes until it becomes clear.  

Add the veggies and pork back to the wok and stir to coat completely.  Reheat for about 2 minutes then serve.  It's great over jasmine rice but rice isn't a must.

Of course, you could do this same thing with chicken or shrimp if you wish. The technique with the batter and the sauce is what I think are most important.  I paired ours with egg rolls that I picked up from Sun Ming in Irmo.  

Sun Ming is one of the best Chinese restaurants we have, IMO and their egg rolls remind me of the kind we always had as kids.  Big and fat with bits of pork and shrimp inside.  Not like the ones you get so often today that are nothing but cabbage and shredded celery.  And, don't forget to ask them to give you some of their homemade hot mustard to go with the egg rolls. That garbage in the packet isn't worth the name mustard! 

So, there you have it: homemade sweet and sour pork that will impress your family and your guests.  It's surprisingly easy to whip this up at home and so much better than take-out.  Give it a try; you'll thank yourself for putting forth the effort.


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