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The Secret to Making the Best Sweet and Sour Pork: REVEALED

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How to Make the Best Tasting Sweet and Sour Pork (Chinese Style)

A guest recipe from Jennifer of “I’m Addicted to Cooking“.

Want to know the secret behind the best-tasting sweet & sour pork?  Do you spend hundreds of dollars in a Chinese restaurant just to be able to enjoy it?  No need, I’m going to share you my recipe that’s very easy to prepare, yet as delicious as the ones served in China!

Before anything else, this is a very popular Chinese dish not only in the United States but all over the world.  Likewise, if you’re living in the U.S., you’re probably aware that there are different versions of this recipe.  There’s one that’s more of a meatball laced with food coloring (the Chinese takeout kind).  Then there’s one that has real chunks of pork flavored with pineapple-vinegar sauce. 


However, just like with any other classic dishes, finding a go-to recipe isn’t that easy at all.  Think about it, the pork should be crispy, because this is how it will absorb the sauce.  So, what’s the secret for that?

A lot believe that this Chinese dish originated in the Guandong province.  However, considering the fact that the Cantonese have migrated to different places, and each place they went to developed their own version for it.

So, without further ado, here’s my recipe.

This version is the Cantonese “Gulou Yuk”.  Instead of tougher, fatty cuts of meat, we used pork tenderloin.  This is tender and tastier.  Also, the cornstarch in this recipe is just thin enough that the flavors of the sauce would be able to penetrate the meat.

Recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours
Number of Servings: 4-5 servings


You can use any pork chunks for a sweet and sour recipe, but I personally prefer pork tenderloin when making this dish.  My father used to work as a head chef in a restaurant, and it’s one of their secrets in achieving a tastier dish.

For the pork marinade, here’s what you’re going to need:

– 2 tablespoons of water
– 1 pound of pork tenderloin (cut them into bite-sized pieces)
– 1 teaspoon of garlic powder (you can also use granulated garlic)
– 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
– 1 teaspoon soy sauce
– 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder

For the sauce:

– 2 slices of ginger (smashed)
– 1 teaspoon of oil
– 1 star anise
– 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
– 1 1/2 cups vinegar
– 1/2 brown sugar

For dredging:

– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 3 cups of oil
– 1/4 cup cornstarch
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt
– 1 beaten egg
– 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

For stir frying:

– 1/2 green bell pepper (chopped into 1 1/2 square pieces)
– 1 tablespoon of oil
– 1/2 red bell pepper (chopped into 1 1/2 square pieces)
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 8 ounce of pineapple chunks– save the juice for the sauce
– 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons of water


Marinate the Pork

  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients, and mix them well until there are no lumps.
  2. After that, add the pork and leave it for about 30 minutes — so that the meat would absorb the flavor.

Make the Sauce

I took a cooking class in Beijing a few years back, and my mentor revealed that one of the secret ingredients, is a bottle of ‘Chinese’ ketchup.  What about the U.S. brand?  She’s against using that because it’s too sweet.  Also, I might add, she also mentioned that you should be using the best pots and pans when cooking.  That one isn’t that hard at all because there’s always a good number of pots and pans reviews.

  1. As you marinate the pork, you can prepare the sauce.
  2. Simply put a teaspoon of oil, star anise, and ginger slices in a small pan over medium-heat.
  3. Wait for the ginger to caramelize– this would take about one minute or so. Don’t forget to stir it constantly, so that the ginger won’t stick to the pan.
  4. Slowly add the ketchup and wait for it to gradually caramelize as well– this step is very important and it’s the key to getting the more complex flavor of the sauce.
  5. Next, slowly incorporate the vinegar, brown sugar, and pineapple juice.
  6. Stir until the sauce begins to simmer and make sure that the sugar is fully dissolved.
  7. Once it does, turn to low heat.
  8. Allow the sauce to simmer for a couple of minutes. Test if the sauce is done by using a spoon — see if it can already coat it. 

The good thing about this sauce is that it can be stored inside the fridge for a couple of days and you can use this for future meals. That means you’ll be able to save a lot of time, as you don’t have to make a new batch of sauce every time you decided to make this dish.

Frying the Pork

  1. Pour 3 cups of oil in a pot and wait for it to achieve the desired temperature.
  2. To test that, put a wooden spoon and see if it’ll ‘bubble.’ If it does, then you can now fry your pork-cutlets.
  3. As you wait, combine the dry ingredients and dredge the pork chunks.
  4. Mix beaten egg, cornstarch, and a pinch of sale and pepper to taste.
  5. Dip your dredged pork into your batter, and flour mixture again.
  6. Fry the batches of pork, but make sure there are still spaces on the pot, so that everything will be evenly cooked. It would probably take around 2-3 minutes to cook them, or just wait until they get golden brown.
  7. After that, use a paper towel to soak the excess oil.

Helpful Tip:  The key to prevent a soggy pork when mixed with sauce is by re-frying the pork before adding it to the prepared sauce.

Final Procedures

We’re almost done!

  1. In a clean wok, saute the remaining ingredients.
  2. Stir fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Let it simmer, and once the sauce thicken, you can now add the pork.
  4. Mix well until coated, then transfer to a plate and serve!
  5. You can always tweak this version until you achieve your desired taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

This dish is best served when hot.  So, make sure to gather all your family members when you’re about to serve the dish for them to enjoy its very wonderful taste!  Give it a try and you will see it’s not that difficult to make an authentic dish your family will surely love!

JenniferJennifer is a certified cook enthusiast and a legit photographer from Ohio, USA.  She is a food lover and thus makes blogs about it at ImAddictedToCooking, which include her own photos for the demonstration of how the recipes are made.  Contact her at @jenniferimaddi1.

The Chinese Quest welcomes original articles pertaining to the Chinese dining experience.  Your article should pertain to Chinese restaurants, Chinese food, recipes, etc.  For more information, please contact us.

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One comment

  1. Awesome! the pork looks yummy! great recipe. Keep it up, Jennifer.

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