There probably isn’t another dish that epitomises Chinese food in Britain more than Chicken Sweet and Sour.
Served in a bright orange-reddish thick sauce, it’s sweet, sour, tangy, fruity. It’s so popular Uncle Ben sells it ready made in a Jar. In truth, the sauce is easy, the method is more difficult but only because of the chicken. Remember our Salt and Pepper Chicken recipe? The method is pretty much the same.
Unlike Japanese Katsu which is covered in shards of Panko Breadcrumbs, the Chinese method is low budget and can be done with super cheap and accessible ingredients. Let’s start!
Firstly – this was the sauce base (here is how it made – let me get back to you on quantities although trust me a lot of it is through taste). If you make this up, this is like cordial, but for sweet and sour. It is concentrated and you only need a bit. Alternatively you can buy jars of ready made Sweet and Sour sauce which is already thick.
Chicken – Breasts, boneless thighs – it’s up to you. My mother used about 2 breasts sliced but Chinese people are very frugal with their choice cuts of meat. Chicken breasts usually cost far too much in the UK for what it is (I saw a pack of 4 in Sainsburys for £8!).
1 White onion
1 Green Pepper
2-3 Pineapple Rings from a can (save about 4 tablespoons of juice, optional)
A few tablespoons of cornflour
A few tablespoons of custard powder
Salt and Pepper to season
Method – Preparing the chicken.
1. Cut the pepper, pineapple and onion into bitesized chunks. Not too small!
2. Cut the chicken into strips, this size:
3. We are going to crack 1 egg into the sliced chicken, add salt and pepper to season (white pepper) then put 3 tablespoons of custard powder into the chicken (keep it to hand in case it’s too ‘wet’ and needs more custard powder later).
4. Mix everything up well until it looks well covered by the light yellow coating. It should feel quite slimy!
5. When this is done, you need to pour some plain oil (like vegetable or sunflower) into a dry wok and get it really hot. You can use a deep fat fryer too (do people still have those?!). Fill the pan so it’s about 3-4 inches deep, no need to go overboard.
As always please be careful with hot oil.
Meanwhile pull out the chicken and cover it with cornflower until it has stuck to it so it looks like battered pieces of meat.
To check if the oil is hot enough put a bit of the flour in. You will see it sizzle and rise to the surface.
Drop the pieces of chicken into the oil gently – don’t throw it in from a distance because you are scared of the oil..this is more risky, honest.
Add more cornflour if you need it, and you may have to do it in two batches. By the time all the chicken is cooked (depending on how much chicken you used) it may be a bit cold but it’s ok as it’s cooked again later.
When the chicken is done it should look like this:
Method – Making the Sauce.
6. Clean the wok – you can just give it a quick wipe with paper towels.
Pour about 1/3 of the jar into the wok:
You want about this much in there:
Then – remember that pineapple juice? You can add it at this point if you want it more pineapple-y.
Mix up around 2 tablespoons of cornflour. Add it slowly – slowly – so it thickens up. You may need more later on.
Then add your pineapple, onion and pepper. Cook for about 2-3 minutes then add your chicken.
Cook for another 5 minutes – you want the pepper and onion to have some crunch and the chicken is piping hot.
Here is the finished dish with lots of sauce. Serve with rice:
Ta Da! A popular takeaway and restaurant dish, done!
Let me know if you make this and also what you think of it.