Sweet and sour pork can really be quite elegant and flavorful, and it has little relationship to the vile fluorescent orange goo you get in what we call Food Court Chinese Cuisine. The dish goes back into the 18th century China and is part of traditional Cantonese cuisine. It spread to the United States as Chinese immigrated to become gold miners and work on the railroads. Once these jobs were completed, many turned to cooking as a trade.
Curiously, the well known, but little understood dish Chop Suey may have in fact been a version of sweet and sour pork. Chop Suey’s history is so checked and confused that some have written that it was invented in America by Chinese immigrant cooks and others have asserted that it was so common in China that it was considered a national dish. Probably neither of those stories quite true either.
And while chop suey seems to have celery, bean sprouts and maybe pork, chicken, gizzards or tripe, sweet and sour pork is always made with pork, and a sweet, but vinegary sauce, usually including pineapple and fresh stir-fried vegetables.
We make our chop suey with fresh boneless pork chops and usually use canned pineapple chunks, including the pineapple juice. You could use fresh pineapple instead, but you will need some pineapple juice as well. And you can find a related recipe for sweet and sour chicken here.
The vegetables that you use in sweet and sour pork are a variable as New England weather, but we usually include onions and mushrooms. We have started using grape or cherry tomatoes, but a cut up whole tomato works pretty well, too. And you can use green, red or orange peppers as well. Some recipes add snow peas as well.
• 1 1/2 lb pork, cut into cubes
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 2-3 Tb olive oil
• 1/2 cup white vinegar
• 1 cup pineapple juice (from the canned pineapple_
• 1 Tb cornstarch mixed in 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 2 Tb sherry
• 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or use soy sauce)
• 1 cup cubed pineapple
• 1/2 cup slice celery
• 1 onion, sliced thin
• 1 green or red pepper sliced
• 10 grape tomatoes, halved
• 1/2 lb mushrooms
• 1 Tb catsup
• Red food coloring (optional)
1. Start the rice cooking. It should take 25 minutes (white) or 30 minutes (brown)
2. Shake the cubed pork with the 1/4 cup cornstarch to coat. Shake off the excess cornstarch in a sieve or colander.
3. Heat the olive oil and brown the pork a few pieces at a time. Be care not to overcook it. It only takes a few minutes.
4. Mix the pineapple juice, sugar and vinegar together and add the Worcestershire. Add the sherry and cornstarch/water mixture and stir together.
5. Heat more olive oil and brown the mushrooms. Add the celery, onion and pepper and stir fry until just softened.
6. Add the pork, pineapple chunks and the grape tomatoes and stir until heated through.
7. Add the sauce mixture and heat until thickened.
8. Serve over rice.
You can see our preparation pictures here.