01 September 2014

Sweet & Sour Pork with homemade sauce

Sweet & Sour Pork is said to be one of the Singaporean's favourite "zichar" 煮炒 dishes at coffee shops and personally my number one favourite dish since young =D

Part-fatty pork encased in a light starch batter and deep fried to a crisp; vegetables quick stir-fry and toss with the pork and a sweet, tangy sauce typically a blend of vinegar, ketchup, sugar and water. Totally love the texture and taste!

I read from this book "Ask the Foodie" by Chris Tan, that traditionally the sauce of this dish is a blend of fruit juices and puree such as tomato and plum, then during the final cooking stage, vegetables and fruits are added to enhance the natural flavours. While it's definitely easy to just use commercial sauces like ketchup, I decided to try making the sauce using as many natural ingredients as possible.

Actually I had a bag of over-ripened red plums as well as some leftover honey cherry tomatoes sitting in my fridge for a long time. So I decided to put them to good use else most probably they would end up in the bin. From the book, it was mentioned that haw flakes are sometimes added to sweet & sour sauce to enhance the overall taste. First I blended the plums with the cherry tomatoes, then sift to get rid of any skin and seeds and finally cook with haw flakes, grated ginger, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt. Viola, sweet and sour sauce. To my surprise, the sauce tastes very pleasant with a fruity nuance, slightly tangy and sweet, very light and best of all, fresh without any added preservatives or chemicals.

This sweet & sour sauce is in fact very versatile, can be used as a dipping sauce or as a base to cook other sweet & sour dishes like sweet & sour fish or chicken. Taste can be adjusted according to personal preference.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

  • 200g red plum, very ripe, de-seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 100g honey cherry tomato, cut into small pieces
  • 50g haw flakes (about 6 tubes), minced
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated young ginger
  • Pinch of sea salt
  1. Blend the red plum and tomato until smooth. Strain to get rid of skin and seeds.
  2. Place strained mixture into a small pot and cook using low heat.
  3. Add the minced haw flakes, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, ginger and salt.
  4. Cook until sugar and haw flakes are dissolved.
* Flavouring can be adjusted according to personal taste.
* Quantity is about 150-160g.
* Ideally the sauce should be used up immediately as the fruitiness lose flavour easily. It also cannot last long since there isn't preservatives. If necessary, balance can be stored in a sterilized glass jar and kept in fridge, and used within 3 days.

I used pork shoulder which is preferably well-marbled (fat is essential to this dish!). After marinating, coat with tapioca starch, and then deep fried 2 times, the 1st time at a lower temperature to cook the meat and 2nd time high temperature for the crisp texture (photo bottom left).

I've also attempted an air-fried version, where the pork was air-fried at 180 degree celsius for 9-10 mins, then 200 degree celsius for another 5-6 mins (photo bottom right).

The cooking stage - first stir fry the vegetables till onion is slightly translucent, then add the sauce and the pork. Toss quickly such that all the pork pieces are coated with the sauce. I didn't add any corn starch slurry coz the sauce I made is thick enough and I didn't think slurry is necessary. The idea here is to let the pork remain crispy instead of drenching in sauce and as a result turn soggy quickly.

Sweet & Sour Pork
(Serves 2-3)

  • 250g pork shoulder, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tsp chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • Dash of white pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g tapioca starch
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • Vegetables mix option (1) - 1 red onion, cut into wedges and 1/2 each red, yellow and green capsicum, cut into small pieces, 1 red chilli, cut into slices (optional)
  • Vegetables mix option  (2) - 1 red onion, cut into wedges, 1/2 cucumber, 1 tomato, 1/2 slice pineapple, all cut into cubes, 1 red chilli, cut into slices (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp sweet & sour sauce
  1. Marinate the pork pieces, and chill in fridge for at least 30 mins.
  2. Coat marinated pork with beaten egg then tapioca starch. Set aside for 4-5 mins till coating sets.
  3. Heat up oil in pot medium low heat. Deep fry the pork pieces for a few mins, until slightly browned, drain and set aside. Repeat till all pieces are fried.
  4. Turn up heat to high, and deep fry the pork pieces for the 2nd time, till pork pieces turn golden brown. Drain and set aside.
  5. Air-fry option: Fry pork pieces at 180 degree celsius for 9-10 mins, then fry 2nd time at 200 degree celsius for 5-6 mins till golden brown.
  6. In a frying pan, heat up fresh oil on medium heat, add red onion and fry till translucent, add remaining vegetables and quick stir-fry. Add the sauce.
  7. Turn up the heat, add the pork pieces and toss very quickly. Off heat and best serve hot.

This was the version using vegetables mix of tomato, cucumber, onion and pineapple, and chilli.

This version using tri-colour capsicum and and red onion. Vegetables choice is to your preference, I love both versions. Avoid overcrowding with too much vegetables coz the star here is the PORK.

And this was using air-fried pork, which tasted just as good (to me). But hubby felt that the air-fried version was not as fragrant as the deep-fried one and preferred the latter (yep, the more sinful one).

Anyways, I know that from now onwards, I can count on my own homemade sauce for all the sweet and sour dishes I'm going to cook. Give it a try, it's worth the effort =D

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