A traditional Chinese sweet and sour pork recipe (Cantonese Style) made with crispy pork, pineapple, peppers and onions tossed in a sticky sweet and sour sauce – better than takeout!
Sweet and sour pork doesn’t need an introduction. It’s an internationally famous dish and most cultures have a different spin on it, which I think is absolutely fantastic! Koreans have Tangsuyuk, Japanese have Subuta, the Caribbeans also have their version as well – and I’m sure there are plenty more versions out there! The more the merrier I say. 🙂
This version of sweet and sour pork is the Cantonese version I grew up with. The Cantonese version has pineapple in it and it has a bit more of a balance between the sweet and sour flavor, whereas the American Chinese version is a bit on the sweeter side. If you prefer your sweet and sour pork more on the sweeter side, you can add 1-2 additional tablespoons of sugar to the sauce during the cooking process. Other than that, there isn’t much of a difference between the two – both are delicious either way. 🙂
Sweet and sour pork is definitely one of my favorite dishes. I like my pork super crispy in sweet and sour pork so I make the sauce slightly thicker so that thickness coats the pork but doesn’t make it soggy. A thinner sauce tends to make the crispy batter soggier, quicker. For the sweet and sticky sweet and sour sauce, I’m a huge fan of the balance of both sweet and sour so it’s a 50/50 mix of vinegar and sugar to create that with a bit of soy to take the edge off the sharp vinegar.
For this sweet and sour pork recipe, you can find all the ingredients at your local grocery store.
What Cut of Pork Works Best for Sweet and Sour Pork?
For sweet and sour pork, I like to use pork shoulders (or pork butt) because of the marbling of fat within the meat. The fat marbling makes the bite-sized pieces tender, moist and flavorful. If you are looking for a healthier or leaner alternative, you can use pork tenderloin but it might turn out slightly less tender and less moist since it is leaner.
Fresh Pineapple vs Canned Pineapple
I personally find that fresh pineapple tastes amazing in this dish, mostly because it has a lot more flavor and is a lot juicier than canned pineapple but that doesn’t mean canned pineapple can’t be used 🙂
I know that cutting a fresh pineapple is time-consuming, so in a pinch, I will use canned pineapple. So this is completely your preference whether you want to use fresh pineapple or canned pineapples! If you have the time, try using fresh pineapple, if you’re pressed for time then go for the canned stuff.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
For my sweet and sour sauce, I like to use tomato paste instead of ketchup because I find that tomato paste has a lot more flavor than ketchup and it has a lot more umami than ketchup does as well. The bonus to tomato paste is it gives a natural bright sharp red color to the dish as well.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Grating Onion, Garlic and Ginger into the Marinade for Additional Flavor
To give any type of meat that is going to be deep fried or grilled an added flavor boost, I highly recommend grating in fresh garlic, onion, and ginger to marinate the meat in. If you have a small food processor it may be a bit easier to blitz it all together but using hand grater is a lot easier to clean and it is more convenient. The grated aromatics also gives the meat extra substance for the corn starch to stick which makes crispier bite-sized pork when you are deep frying it.
How To Get Crispier Pork
To get crispy pork, corn starch is the only ingredient I use. I don’t use eggs as a binder in this at all because I find that it makes the pork slightly gummy and not crispy enough. I also find that it prevents the corn starch from sticking to the meat so that the crispy batter slides right off after it’s been deep fried.
The grated ginger, garlic and onion marinade also gives me enough moisture to bind the corn starch to the meat without sacrificing crispiness. This is the same method that I use in my Sweet & Sticky Crispy Beef recipe and it works amazingly in both these recipes.
To prepare the pork for deep frying, it is an easy 2 step process.
Step 1: Take half the corn starch and mix it throughout the meat. Use your fingers to separate the meat and make sure that each piece of meat is coated during this step. When corn starch gets moisture on it, it can be a bit tricky to work with since it acts very gluey, which is why it is easier if you slightly separate the meat before you do this step. It is crucial that you let it sit for at least 5 minutes after you have coated the meat. You will notice that the corn starch will start to look moist and gummy – this is good you want that to happen. It is what will form the crispy batter and stick to the meat better.
Step 2: Once the corn starch has absorbed the moisture from the meat and the marinade, add the rest of the corn starch in and coat the meat again and let it rest for another 5 minutes or so. You want the second round of corn starch to absorb the rest of the moisture. After that, you’re good to deep fry it!
A traditional Chinese sweet and sour pork recipe (Cantonese Style) made with crispy pork, pineapples, peppers & onions tossed in a sticky sweet and sour sauce
Fruits and Veggies
- 1 cup pineapple (highly recommend using fresh pineapple, but canned pineapple works too)
- 1 pepper (any color, cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1/2 white onion (cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1 lb pork shoulder (cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 onion (small, grated)
- 4–5 slices ginger (grated)
- 3 cloves garlic (grated)
- 1 cup potato starch (divided in 1/2) (can be substituted with corn starch, but it won’t be as crispy)
Sweet & Sour Sauce
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Corn Starch Slurry (To Thicken Sauce)
- Cut the onions and peppers in 1 inch chunks and set aside
- If you are using fresh pineapple, core and peel it and then cut them into 1 inch chunks and set aside. If you are using canned pineapple, drain it and cut them into 1 inch chunks if you are using pineapple rings. Put them in a bowl and set aside.
Marinating the Pork
- Cut the pork into 1 inch chunks and place it in a bowl.
- Grate ginger, garlic and an onion and place it in the bowl with the meat.
- Add soy sauce to the bowl and mix everything very well.
- Let it marinate for 1 hour.
Battering & Deep Frying the Pork
- Once the meat has finished marinating, in the bowl or plate – separate the meat slightly so they are not clump together.
- Add half the corn starch over the meat and gently toss it in the corn starch until each piece has been coated with corn starch. Let it rest for 5 minutes until the corn starch has absorbed the marinade and moisture, and the batter looks gummy and moist.
- Add in the rest of the corn starch and gently toss it again to coat each piece of meat. Let it rest for10 minutes until it has absorbed the rest of the moisture.
- If you are using a deep fryer, set the temperature to 350F (180C) and wait for the oil to get to temp. If you are using a frying pan, set the heat to medium heat and make sure there is at least 1 inch of oil in the pan.
- Add the meat in when the oil is hot, careful not to overcrowd the pan. (Depending on how big your pan is, you may need to do it in 2 batches). Cook the meat for approximately 5 minutes until it is crispy and browned.
- Remove the crispy pork and let it drain on a rack or a plate with something absorbent like newspaper or paper bag and set aside.
Putting It Together
- In a clean frying pan, add in 2-3 tablespoons of oil, and set the stove to medium heat.
- Add in the tomato paste when the oil is hot and toast the tomato paste for 1-2 minutes until the oil has turned orange
- Add in the white vinegar, water, sugar and soy sauce and mix well and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch in cold water. Slowly pour it into the sauce but make sure you are constantly stirring it so it doesn’t clump.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add in the peppers, pineapples and onions and cook it for 1-2 minutes. Use your spatula to separate the onion chunks into smaller pieces.
- Add in the crispy pork and coat each piece with the sweet and sour sauce once the meat has all been coated, turn off the heat.
- Plate it and serve with rice! Enjoy! 🙂
- Serving Size: 1 Serving
- Calories: 441 cal
- Sugar: 32g
- Sodium: 1002mg
- Fat: 13g
- Carbohydrates: 75g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 8g
- Cholesterol: 74mg
Keywords: Sweet and Sour Pork, Cantonese style sweet and sour pork, Chinese sweet and sour pork
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