Sweet & Sour Pork - (Savory)

From The Woks Of Life, a family-based site filled with Asian recipes and other tantalizing stuff.

Sweet & Savory Pork with Sesame and Cilantro

It really helps to gather and prep ALL of the ingredients together before you start the cooking process, and DON'T SKIP THE SECOND FRY of the dredged pork pieces. Also, for the frying, use a regular-sized saucepan and invest in a bottle of peanut oil before you start - and use all three cups of oil the recipe calls for, no matter how much you dislike the concept of deep-frying things; you'll be happy in the end.

Ingredients

For the pork and marinade:

  • 1 pound pork shoulder or pork tenderloin (450g, cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

For the sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 slices ginger (smashed)
  • 1 star anise
  • ¼ cup tomato ketchup
  • 1½ cups white vinegar (5% acidity or less)
  • ½ cup sugar

For dredging and frying the pork:

  • 3 cups canola oil (for frying)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • Dash of cream or buttermilk to extend the egg

For the rest of the dish:

  • Enough cooked rice to serve your eaters
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (cut into 1½-inch square pieces)
  • 1/2 red pepper (cut into 1½-inch square pieces)
  • 1/2 onion (cut into 1½-inch square pieces)
  • 8 ounce can of pineapple chunks (you'll use the juices from the can for the sauce)
  • Optional: diced tomatoes, chopped peanuts or pine nuts, or anything else you think might be tasty
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (mixed into a slurry with 2 teaspoons water)
  • 1 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

What To Do With The Ingredients

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together and add the pork. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. Next, make the sauce. Add 1 teaspoon of oil, ginger slices, and star anise to a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook until the ginger starts to caramelize (about 1 minute). Next, add the ketchup. When that starts to sizzle, stir constantly until the ketchup starts to caramelize (about 2 minutes). Take care not to burn the aromatics and ketchup--this step is essential to give the sauce a deeper, more complex flavor.
  3. Next, add the white vinegar, sugar, and the juice from the canned pineapple. Stir until the mixture starts to simmer and the sugar is dissolved. Turn to the lowest heat and let the sauce simmer and reduce until the sauce just starts to coat a spoon (about 30 minutes). The sauce needs this time for the flavors to meld. It can be cooled and stored at this time, and you can double or triple the amount and store the sauce away in the refrigerator for future meals.
  4. Heat 3 cups of high-temperature oil (peanut, grapeseed, sunflower, safflower, and canola oils all work, peanut oil is a potential allergen.) to 350ºF in a 1.5-quart saucepan for frying. (Always let the oil cool completely and use a fine mesh strainer to strain the oil before storing in the refrigerator for next time.)
  5. Mix together the dredging ingredients (flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper) in a shallow dish. Dredge the pork pieces in the flour mixture, dip into the egg, and then dredge with the flour again. Expanding the egg by adding a dash of cream or buttermilk can help.
  6. Fry the pieces in batches for about 2 to 3 minutes, or when they just start to get golden brown. Remove them from the oil and transfer to a sheet pan with a slotted spoon or spider.
  7. Once you’re ready to combine everything, refry the pork in batches to crisp up the coating. That's right, no kidding, you're going to fry the meat a second time––this prevents the pork from getting too soggy when added to the sauce. Do NOT skip this step.
  8. To a clean wok, add 1 tablespoon oil, the bell peppers, and onions. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, and add the sauce and the pineapple. Bring the mixture to a simmer to further thicken the sauce. At this time, you will likely need to add some cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce further. Add half first and stir for 15 seconds; then decide if you need more. Remember the sauce will thicken more as it cools in the plate.
  9. Taste the sauce and add water to it if it is too strong (too sweet or too sour). Once you have it adjusted to your taste and the desired thickness, especially if you added more water, proceed to the next step.
  10. Add the crispy fried pork to the sauce, and toss until the pieces are well-coated. Serve immediately over rice.