Sweet and Sour Chicken

This recipe is an excellent find in my exploration of oriental food. I did make a few adjustments from the source of the recipe, especially since the recipe is for sweet and sour pork, but I'm just not a big pork fan.


This dish comes from The Essential Chinese Cookbook: 50 Delicious Recipes, With Step-By-Step Photographs, which at first glance has recipes with readily available ingredients, and also has beautiful photography of the dishes.

The recipe is fairly simple but a little procedural:
8 oz chicken (or pork)
4 oz bamboo shoots
1 bell pepper (green in the recipe, I use red)
2 scallions
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 T brandy ( I use apple juice as a sub)
1 egg, beaten
1 T cornstarch
3 T flour
2 C pineapple chunks in juice
oil for deep frying (peanut is best)

Sauce:
3 T vinegar
3 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 T tomato paste
1 T soy sauce
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil

Cut chicken into small cubes. Cut bell pepper into small chunks. Cut onions in 1 inch lengths.
Marinade chicken in brandy and salt for about 15 minutes. Add beaten egg and cornstarch, blend well.

Heat oil in wok or saucepan. Coat each piece of chicken with flour and deep fry for 3 minutes. Remove wok from heat but leave chicken in oil for 2 minutes. Remove and drain (chicken). Bring oil back to heat and fry the chicken again with the bamboo shoots for 2 minutes. Remove and drain.

Pour out oil leaving about 1 T. Add scallions, peppers. Mix sauce ingredients, add a little pineapple juice and add to wok. Stir until thickened. Add the chicken, bamboo shoots, and pineapple.

So, after re-reading and typing an abridged version of the directions, I realize I made this wrong, and while the food I ended up making was good, I think if I had properly followed the directions it would have been exceptional.

I started off pretty well. The marinaded chicken was dredged in flour and deep fried for 3 minutes or so and remained in the oil off the heat for 2 minutes.

It was the "remove and drain" part right here where I went wrong. Apparently, after the chicken drains it goes back into the reheated oil with the bamboo shoots for another couple of minutes. I thought remove and drain meant remove chicken, drain oil, and so I did.

Now, because I got that part wrong, a few sentences in the directions didn't make much sense, so I just said screw it and started adding ingredients to stir-fry. The peppers and onions, the sauce, about 2-3 T of pineapple juice, and of course, the pineapple.

While I may have made a mistake in the preparation of this, it turned out really good. We also had fun eating with chopsticks - for Lily it was the first she had ever heard of them, so it was educational for her as well.

We really enjoyed this dish to the point where I'll definitely take another crack at it to make it properly. I think what I'd do differently is use white rice rather than brown rice because the nuttiness of the brown rice just didn't go well with the sweet and sour flavor of the chicken and vegetables. To be honest, I wouldn't serve this on top of rice, but maybe rice as a side. The dish can stand alone without rice.

Another thing I'd do different, and this is because of my procedural mistake, is change the order in which I stir fry the ingredients. Bell pepper, onion, and especially pineapple are fantastic when stir fried, however the way in which I prepared this dish the chicken was already in the wok and was absorbing most of the heat. The veggies and pineapple didn't get that nice brown carmelization that make them tender-crisp and sweet, and the coating of the chicken was starting to fall off because of all the additional folding to get everything heated through evenly.

Anyhow, this dish had excellent flavor despite the cooking mistakes, and I'll definitely revisit this one soon because I love sweet and sour chicken.

By the way, if you have a Chinese or Thai recipe for me to try I'd love to see it. Please nothing too funky though!

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