Sweet and sour pork (gu lao rou) was, and probably still is, the dish that represented all Cantonese food for most westerners. If I see a westerner eat sweet and sour pork, I know that person is not much of a Chinese food gourmet. This was especially evident in North America although it may be different now (Mandy? Bee?). I've noticed that the westerners in Australia eat very authentic Chinese food and they hold their chopsticks better than my kids (for those who don't know, that means controlling the movement of the upper chopstick with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger while the bottom chopstick rests immoveable on your forth finger). I wonder if this dish was a creation by some Chinese chef on some foreign land far from China, you know the pen gui lao (cheat the westerners) kind of food.
Whatever the origin, sweet and sour pork is one delicious dish that is enjoyed here in casual, coffee-type restaurants and not in the larger establishments. Some good restaurants for this dish are Diamond Restaurant, the restaurant below Ang's Hotel, all those Beaufort-type restaurants including Man Tai and so on.
This is a dish that is so taken for granted that nobody (that means me) cooks it at home. I don't know why. For me, I'd not eat it often since the sauce has quite a bit of sugar although if I really am concerned about that, then I should first cut out all cakes. But, on to the recipe. My sons tell me this dish tasted just like the restaurants'. Impress your little ones with this colorful dish which makes use of any non-leaf veggies as long as they are colorful. I've used cucumbers (which are cheaper than bell peppers. Why are bell peppers so expensive here?), leftover pineapple, tomatoes and brown onions but for those of you who can easily get strawberries and kiwis, and even apples, those would be wonderful too.
Sweet N Sour Pork
300g pork shoulder (with a bit of fat)
1 medium brown onion
1 large tomato
1 cuke, or green bell pepper
1 red chili
8 T water
1 heaped T cornflour
2 T tomato ketchup
2 T fine sugar
1 t worchestershire sauce (optional)
1 T vinegar
1/2 t salt
a shake of msg/chicken stock powder
1. Lightly and randomly score the surface of the pork all over (to tenderize) and cut into 2 cm cubes. Add 1/2 t salt, some white pepper, 1 T cornflor, 1 egg white and 1/2 t sesame oil (optional) and mix well (using your hands to mix better) and leave 1/2 hour. Note: add 1/2 t 5-spice powder if like.
2. Cut all the veg into 1 1/2 cm cubes/slices. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Taste and season it if necesssary.
3. Heat 2 to 3 cups of oil until very hot. Coat each piece of pork with cornflour and drop into oil in 3 batches. Move the pork around so they don't stick together. Fry until light to medium brown and very crispy, and drain on paper towels. Place pork on serving plate.
4. Pour the oil away leaving about 1 T in the wok and add all the veg into the same wok (there'll be enough oil coating the wok but in restaurants, oil is added so the sauce will have a sheen). Fry until veg are half-done. Now add the sauce ingredients (give it a stir before adding into wok) and stir until sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the pork, or you can add the pork in and then dish out.
My little ba be goong (fussy guy) does not like crispy meat coated with sauce, so I had to serve the pork and sauce separately. The crispy pork is very good too without the sauce. In Jap restaurants, you'd be charged a bomb for the same thing which they call karaage.