It’s one of those dishes that most people think is so easy to make at home. And then, the surprise that it’s just not the same as the sweet sour pork served in Chinese restaurants. There are a few steps that just can’t be skipped to make restaurant-quality sweet sour pork.
The first is choosing the right cut of meat. Very lean pork just won’t do. Fat helps keep the meat moist and adds flavor as well.
The second is marinating the meat and adding just a bit of baking soda. Marinating the pork flavors it and the long marinating time allows tha flavors to reach the innermost portion. You just can’t rely on the sauce alone to flavor the dish. You need to flavor the meat first and then coat it with sauce.
The baking soda alters the texture of the meat making it softer with a lovely silky chewiness. Beware not to use too much baking soda though because it can give the meat a nasty taste.
The marinated pork is coated with batter before it is fried. In making the batter, use corn starch. Never substitute wheat-based flour because it makes a dense crust that turns soggy fast as the pork starts to cool.
The third thing is to never cook the pork and vegetables together. They require different cooking times and cooking methods. Cook separately then toss with the sauce. That’s how you get tender meat with lightly crisp vegetables.
The fourth is making the sauce properly. Sugar and rice vinegar are boiled together then salt, ginger and garlic are stirred in.
Plum sauce and oyster sauce are addded and I just allow everything to reduce until it reaches a syrupy consistency. To test if the sauce is thick enough, drag a spatula across it. A canal should form and the sauce should take several seconds to flow back and cover that canal.
Take your fried pork, stir fried vegetables and pineapple chunks, add them all to the sauce and toss thoroughly until every solid ingredient is coated with sticky sweet sour sauce.
Sweet sour pork
- 500 grams pork - cut into one-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda - (to tenderize the pork)
To fry the pork
- cooking oil - for deep frying
- 1 small egg
- ¼ cup corn starch
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder - (to create a very light crust)
Marinate the pork
- Place the pork in a bowl.
- Stir together the soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, starch and baking soda, and pour over the pork.
- Mix well.
- Cover the bowl and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Fry the pork
- In a wok, start heating enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Mix together the egg, starch and baking powder, and stir into the pork to coat each piece evenly.
- Drop the battered pork cubes one by one into the hot oil and cook at 325F for seven to eight minutes or until cooked through.
- Scoop out the pork and transfer to a strainer.
Cook the vegetables
- In a large wok, heat the teaspoonful of oil.
- Stir fry the shallots and bell pepper for a minute.
- Add the pineapple chunks and stir fry for another fifteen seconds.
- Scoop everything out and transfer to a plate.
Make the sweet sour sauce
- Into the same wok, pour in the sugar and rice vinegar.
- Over medium heat, boil until the sugar is almost dissolved.
- Stir in the salt, grated garlic and ginger.
- Add the plum sauce and oyster sauce.
- Set the heat to medium-low and continue cooking the sauce until reduced and thick enough for a canal to form when you drag a spatula across the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the sesame seed oil.
Finish your sweet sour pork
- Dump the pork, vegetables and pineapple into the sauce.
- Cook, tossing, until the pork cubes are coated with the sticky sweet sour sauce.