Day Twenty: Sweet and Sour Pork

9 Feb

In my hometown of Los Altos, CA, there is a restaurant named Chef Chu’s. I think if you’re ever in the neighborhood, you must try it. Definitely not a walk in place for dinner, as every time I’ve gone there is a monstrous wait. It is worth it though, for sure, but I’d recommend reservations.

Anyway, the food is fantastic. It is far superior to any other Chinese restaurant I’ve been to (with the exception of the “real deal” in SF’s Chinatown, or on our trip to Hong Kong). I’m obsessed with their shredded chicken salad and Mongolian Beef. I’ve often wondered how in the world they can make their food taste so good.

They mystery was solved when I recently took home the old Chef Chu’s cookbook my grandmother had bought years and years ago. Oil. The answer is oil. And lots of it. Nearly every dish is either double fried or “blanched” in oil. No wonder I feel like a greasy, yet satisfied and happy, lardo when I leave.

Lucky for me, the book has some fantastic pork recipes. Christian has been requesting I make something from the book, so during my weekly grocery list/menu planning session, I decided to flip through. The sweet and sour pork caught my eye. The double frying on the other hand did not. So, I tried to make a slightly less greasy version of this tasty dish, while not losing its general integrity.

The result? Mmmmmmmmm. What is not to love about homemade sweet and sour sauce (sans the food coloring though – ick) and crispy pork? To eliminate the massive amounts of oil, I ended up using the technique I employed for the Vietnamese Grilled Pork I made the other week – pounded it thin and broiled. By doing so, I achieved the crispy feel of the pork, only in thin strips instead of oil-laden fried chunks.

Below is the recipe I adapted from the Chef Chu’s cookbook. The sweet and sour sauce recipe makes more than you need for the pork, so keep some in the fridge or freeze it. I’m sure it will be used up with chicken, shrimp, veggies or whatever. The sauce recipe I included below has 2 changes from the original – 1) I minced the ginger and kept it in the sauce. If you don’t want to do this, just crush the big piece of ginger and remove it when you remove the rinds. 2) I did not include food coloring, which I feel is totally unnecessary.

Sweet and Sour Pork (sauce and pork adapted from Chef Chu’s Distinctive Cuisine of China cookbook)

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 thumb-size chunk of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • Cornstarch paste (see pork portion of recipe)

Squeeze juice from orange and lemon into a saucepan. Drop in rinds and ginger. Stir in ketchup, sugar, vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and remove the rinds. The total recipe should make 1 quart.

Sweet and Sour Pork

  • 1 to 1 1/2  cups sweet and sour sauce
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, sliced into strips and pounded very thin
  • 1 tsp dry sherry
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite size squares
  • 1/4 small white onion, cut into bite size squares
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • Cornstarch paste (2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp water)

Combine pork, sherry, garlic powder, salt and five-spice together and let stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

Broil the pork until browned and crispy on both sides, about 10 minutes per side (this will vary depending on thickness of the pork, so keep an eye on it).

Heat a frying pan or wok over high heat for 1 minute. Add 2 tbsp oil and then the sweet and sour sauce, vegetables and pineapple. Bring to a boil and thicken with 2 tbsp of cornstarch paste. Add pork, mix well, and serve. Optionally, you can choose not to mix the pork into the vegetable/sauce mixture and place the crispy pork on top once plated. Serve with steamed rice.

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One Response to “Day Twenty: Sweet and Sour Pork”

  1. Virginia Martinez February 9, 2011 at 11:24 PM #

    You are amazing. I love getting these updates.

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