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Sweet and sour pork is a Chinese dish that combines cubes of cooked pork with fruits and vegetables to create a meal that is both sweet and sour. Considered to be one of the staples in many Chinese restaurants, sweet and sour pork is an example of Chinese food that has been adapted over the years to include elements that are in line with Western tastes while still preserving some of the integrity of the original recipes. While sweet and sour pork is found on the menu at just about any Chinese restaurant, it is also possible to prepare the dish at home with relatively little trouble.
The main ingredient for sweet and sour pork is pork loin or pork butt that have been cut into cubes. Often, the pork is marinated for a period of time before the actual preparation process begins. The marinade is usually composed of ingredients such as soy sauce, chopped green onions, sugar, salt, and egg whites.
After marinating the meat for an hour or so, the next step in creating sweet and sour pork is cooking the pork. This is accomplished by removing the cubes from the marinade and coating them with a thin layer of corn starch. The cubes are fried in a small amount of oil and set aside to drain.
To compliment the meat, a range of vegetables are also prepared for use. These include white onions that are into wedges, chopped celery, and sliced bell peppers. In order to add another layer of sweetness to the sweet and sour pork, chunks of pineapple are added to the mix. If desired a mixture of red and yellow bell pepper slices can also be used.
All these ingredients are stir-fried in a sauce that has both sweet and sour qualities. The basic sauce is made with soy sauce, sugar, apple cider vinegar, ketchup and a small amount of water. After the sauce has reached a boil, reduce the heat and mix in the pork, vegetables, and pineapple. To finish off the sauce and reach the right consistency, add a little more water and some cornstarch. The sauce will slowly thicken and cling to the vegetables as they become somewhat tender.
Sweet and sour pork is often served along with fried rice, although many Chinese restaurants also offer the option of enjoying the recipe with white rice. When making sweet and sour pork at home, it is not unusual to spoon the pork, vegetables, and pineapple chunks over the top of the rice. The end result is a colorful dish that packs a lot of flavor and is sure to be a pleasant change from the usual dinnertime fare.
I always thought of the sweet and sour dishes as being a good gateway into Chinese food. There's nothing too exotic about battered, deep fried meat, pineapple or rice. Some people stop there and never try any other kind of Chinese food, but most people will eat that.
I've seen parents with picky children take several pieces of sweet and sour chicken from the buffet and tell their kids they were chicken nuggets, from a famous fast food place. Sweet and sour pork, chicken or shrimp are usually pretty easy to sell.
Most of the sweet and sour pork that I've seen in Chinese restaurants has a fairly thick batter and is fried, rather like a pork nugget. The red sweet and sour sauce is also a standard on most Chinese buffets, too. The sweet and sour pork I've eaten usually has the red sauce on the side, but was not cooked in that sauce.
The red sauce is equally tasty on egg rolls and spring rolls. It can also help dampen the heat if you use a little on a very spicy dish.
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