Amy Van and Chris Tan have been so kind as to allow Gastronommy to publish some of the recipes from their book, Chinese Heritage Cooking, for you to try out at home. The second recipe to be presented will be the classic Sweet and Sour Pork. (For previous recipes, see Steamed Radish Cake and Chinese Steamed Whole Fish.)
Sweet and Sour Pork
This southern Chinese classic properly gets its sweetness and tang from fruit. The resulting sauce is light and vibrant, and should never taste syrupy, cloying or heavy. Some cooks may add tomato ketchup to the sauce, a modern addition, but if used, it should not dominate the flavour of the sauce. A childhood favourite with many, this dish is best served with a bowl of freshly steamed white rice.
Pork shoulder meat 350 g (12 oz), cubed
Rice wine 1 Tbsp
Potato starch 11/2 tsp
Oyster sauce 3/4 tsp
Light soy sauce 1/2 tsp
Egg 1, small
Tapioca starch as needed
Cooking oil for frying and deep-frying
Onion 1/2, small, peeled and sliced into wedges
Young ginger 2 thin slices
Green and red capsicums (bell peppers) 1/2 each, small, cored and cut into 3-cm (1-in) pieces
Tomatoes 2, small, each cut into 6 segments
Canned pineapple rings (optional) 2, cut into chunks
Water 100 ml (31/2 fl oz)
Plum sauce 3 Tbsp
Sugar 11/2 Tbsp or to taste
Rice vinegar 1 Tbsp
Light soy sauce 1 Tbsp
Crumbled haw flakes (optional) 1 Tbsp
Salt 1/8 tsp or to taste
Cornflour (cornstarch) 1 tsp
Spring onion (scallion) 1, white part only, cut into slivers
1. Wash pork cubes well, then pat dry with paper towels. Toss well with rice wine, potato starch, oyster sauce and soy sauce. Cover and let marinate refrigerated.
2. Combine all ingredients for sauce and stir until smooth. Set aside.
3. Heat oil for deep-frying until it shimmers and a haze forms above it. Meanwhile, beat egg well and stir into marinated pork cubes. Spread tapioca starch on a plate and roll pork cubes in starch to coat lightly but thoroughly. Let cubes rest for 3–4 minutes, so the starch coat can set.
4. With chopsticks or tongs, drop pork cubes one by one into hot oil. Deep-fry for 2–3 minutes, until pale golden brown and pork is only just cooked through. Fry in batches to avoid crowding oil. Drain on paper towels. When all pork cubes have been fried, heat oil until very hot and fry pork again for 40–50 seconds per batch, until deep golden brown and crispy. Drain well.
5. Heat 2 tsp fresh oil in a clean wok over high heat. When hot, add onion and pineapple and fry until pieces are browned at the edges. Add ginger and capsicums and stir-fry vigorously for about 1 minute, until capsicums are crisp-tender.
6. Add tomatoes and sauce mixture. Stir for 30 seconds more, until sauce boils and thickens. Add pork and toss well. Dish out, garnish with spring onion and serve immediately.