Sweet and Sour Pork (咕嚕肉)

Sweet and Sour Pork (咕嚕肉)
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Ah... Sweet and Sour Pork or gu lou juk in Cantonese. Who would ever want to turn down such sweet, tangy, crunchy, and succulent dish? Even if you're vegan, I'm sure there're vegan versions of a sweet and sour dish out there. Another dish in Hong Kong that's just like sweet and sour pork is called 生炒排骨. It uses spare ribs instead of the leaner pork tenderloin. An authentic sweet and sour pork dish serves with green and red bell peppers, onions, and chucks of pineapples. Other places and cultures may cook it differently – where have you had your favorite sweet and sour pork or any other sweet and sour dishes?

Almost every sweet and sour pork recipe I came across has their own "secret" ingredients for the sauce. There're also many versions of the marinate, frying batter, or breading - light coating to heavy coating – really depends on how you like it. So after going through a bunch of sweet and sour pork recipes, I came up with this one. I threw in a tiny bit of Huy Fong's chili garlic sauce to the sweet and sour sauce in hopes that it'll add a tiny kick to the bite. And it did just that. Now, let's talk about the pineapple for a second here. Although, 99.9% of the time you'll find canned pineapple in sweet and sour pork, you're more than welcome to use fresh pineapple (which I love).

There are many ways to tenderize pork, and what I like to do is to use a little bit of whole milk to marinate the meat. Lactic acid in milk tenderize the meat without toughening (like when using vinegar or citrus juices). The calcium activates enzymes in the meat to break down the protein. You don't need a whole lot of milk, using 1/3 cup of it for every pound of meat would do the job. For best result, you can let it marinate over night but 2 hours should be enough.

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Sweet and Sour Pork (咕嚕肉)

Serves: 3-4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a multicourse (Chinese) meal

You'll need:

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 rings of canned pineapple (juice reserved)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • cooked jasmine rice

Batter:

  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water

Sauce:

  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp plum sauce
  • 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp Huy Fong’s chili garlic sauce (optional)

Approach:

  1. Place pork tenderloin cubes in a medium mixing bowl. Add milk, salt, and white pepper powder. Stir well, cover, and let it sit in the fridge and marinate for 2 hours (or overnight for best result).
  2. Remove pork from the fridge, and let it return to room temperature while you get the frying batter, vegetable, and sauce ready; about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Prep the bell peppers and onion by cutting them into small pieces. Cut each pineapple ring into 6 small pieces. Mince the garlic. Set aside.
  4. Mix together ingredients for the sauce (chili garlic sauce optional). In another mixing bowl, mix together ingredients for the batter.
    *To avoid getting lumps of corn starch when mixing it in sauces, always dilute it with a liquid first then combine with all the other ingredients.
  5. Heat 2 cups of vegetable or canola oil in a wok or a sauce pan to 350°F. Use a cooking thermometer to maintain the temperature throughout the frying process.
  6. Stir pork cubes in the batter and coat well. Working in batches, fry pork cubes until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove pork cubes with a slotted spoon or a long pair of chopsticks onto a plate lined with paper towel. (Cut the first couple pieces to see how cooked the meat is, that should give you a better idea of how long exactly each batch needs based on the cookware you have.)
  7. Using another wok or frying pan, in medium-high heat, cook the minced garlic with 1 tbsp of oil for 15 seconds until fragrant. Stir in bell peppers and onions, pineapples, and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the sweet and sour sauce, continue to cook for another 30 seconds. Place fried pork cubes in the pan, and stir gently until everything is well-coated.
  8. Serve with hot jasmine rice.