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Further Forays into Wokitude: Sweet and Sour Chicken

May 10, 2007

Pineapples anyone?

After the initial swoons over my newly acquired wok, I kind of left it alone and untouched in the pantry for the past few months. What happened to my burning passion to perfect Chinese food? Like many burning passions, it was sudden and powerful and died a young death. Until last night. I had spent some time perusing my own archives, in a fit of vanity, and also to remember what some of the favorites were, when that old spark came back–the wok spark. And back I went to the myriad poorly designed Chinese cooking websites to discover a new recipe.

I was torn between General Tsao’s chicken, a Crystal favorite, and Sweet and Sour chicken, which seemed easier, and laziness won out. I ended up cobbling together two different recipes, and I didn’t fry the chicken, they way it’s usually done in take out joints, because I’ve been eating enough excess fats these days. But I have to say I impressed myself with its take out joint verisimilitude. And no, it’s not bright red. Because you know how they get it bright red? Food coloring.

There are a few websites I’ve started to rely on for Chinese recipes: about.com’s Chinese food page and chinesefood-recipes.com (come on, people, couldn’t you think of a better title than that?). If anyone knows of other resources out there, please do direct them my way. This Sweet and Sour recipe was devised by taking different bits from both of these sites’ recipes. Someday I would like to try it with the fried chicken pieces but last night my body just couldn’t take it.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

  • 2 T. corn or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb. chicken, cut into thin slices or 1-inch pieces (the pieces would probably be better for frying)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 10-ounce can of pineapple chunks (10-ounce cans aren’t easy to find; just use half a 20-ounce can)
  • about 1-2 c. prepared brown or white rice (I just started making it about 15 minutes before I started dinner prep, and the timing was perfect.)

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 c. reserved pineapple juice
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/8 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • about 1 or 2 T. lemon juice (the juice from half a lemon was just enough)
  • 1 rounded T. cornstarch, mixed with enough cold water to make a watery paste

I decided to make the sauce first, and let it sit while I stir fried everything else. The sauce will gelatinize a bit and thicken up, but don’t worry, because it will become normal again once you add it to the hot wok.

In a small sauce pan, heat the pineapple juice and water over medium heat. Slowly add the sugar, stirring constantly, until it dissolves. Then add the red wine vinegar and the lemon juice, and keep stirring. Then stir in the cornstarch slurry, and keep stirring until it’s thick and the cornstarch is well mixed. Remove it from the heat while you prepare everything else.

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken, and saute, stirring often, until it’s just cooked through. If you opted for thin slices, this should only take about three or four minutes. Remove the chicken from the heat to a paper towel-covered plate. Add just a smidge more oil, perhaps lower the heat a bit, and add the onions and green peppers. Saute these until the onions start to brown and caramelize just a little bit and the green peppers are softened. Then add the chicken and pineapple back in, along with the now weirdly thick and glistening sauce. Mix it all up very well, so the sauce covers everything, and cook it all together for another minute or two.

Maybe too many pineapples?

I might have created an uneven ratio of chicken to pineapple, so you might consider using a little less pineapple. Of course, I am crazy about pineapple, so it didn’t bother me too much. If you really, really want that red color, four or five drops of red food coloring should do it. I’m afraid of food coloring, so I left it out. You can also add a sliced carrot, but it needs to cook longer than the onions and green peppers, or you can blanch the carrots slices first. I had a carrot out on the counter, I just forgot it.

I really was a bit shocked at how easy it was, and how exactly right it tasted, minus that thick layer of egg and flour batter around the fried chicken bits that you get in restaurants. This felt a bit healthier, though if I’m really honest with myself, the high sugar content probably kicks any real healthy qualities right out the door. Regardless, experiment number three in Chinese food cookery is hereby declared a success. Huzzah.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 13, 2007 9:43 am

    Hi there, I like your blog! Nice recipe it looks yummy :) Feel free to visit my blog too :)

    Click here for jeenas food recipe blog :-)

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