Home Sweet and Sour

Sometimes, I crave fried foods. But even when those cravings are at their strongest, I'm usually wondering how I can balance that crisp, golden food with something just a little healthier than takeout. And then, sometimes, I make something that's actually quite a lot better than takeout:

Sweet and sour pork no longer has to be restaurant food. My version has you marinating the pork for a bit to give it extra flavor. If you are running low on time or wish to avoid the ingredients in that step (if, for instance, you have a soy allergy), you can skip it. If you do, I highly recommend using pork tenderloin, as skipping the marinating step will mean you'll want a very tender cut of meat. One you have that done, the meat is breaded in a seasoned cornstarch mixture, pan-fried, and given a chance to drain away any excess oil. Then you sauté some vegetables (I like using way more than are included in your average box of takeout), and put together a simple sauce that doesn't include any ingredients that you can't pronounce. The meat, veggies, and some pineapple (I love it!) get tossed with the sauce and nestled on some hot rice and dinner is served:

You could save time during your dinner hour by marinating the pork in advance (or skipping that step and using pork tenderloin), chopping all of the vegetables in advance, and even putting all of the sauce ingredients in a resealable jar, shaking them, and storing the mixture in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. Just make sure you shake it well again before you add it to your hot pan. With just a little advance planning, you could have dinner on the table in about a half hour or so. That's a lot of sweet without any sour … except on your plate!

Sweet & Sour Pork

  • 1 pound lean pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons tamari (check the label to make sure it's gluten free; I use San-J)
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
  • ½ orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
  • ½ yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
For the sauce:
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a bowl, combine the pork, tamari, and brandy. Stir until the pork is well-coated and allow it to marinate for about 30 minutes. Drain well.

In a bowl, combine the cup of cornstarch, salt, and pepper to taste. Dredge the pork in the cornstarch mixture to fully coat.

In a pan over medium heat, heat enough oil to reach about 2-inches up the side of the pan. Add the pork cubes and cook, turning as needed, for about 6 to 10 minutes or until golden, crisp, and cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the pan to drain on a plate (you may wish to use a fine wire rack or paper towels for this). Do not overcrowd pan during frying, cook in batches to allow the pork pieces to crisp nicely. Pour off all about about a tablespoon of the oil remaining in the pan.

Replace the pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring regularly, for about 1 minute or until half done. Remove the vegetables from pan and drain using the same method utilized for the pork.

In the pan, add all of the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce mixture, whisking regularly, and bring to a boil. Continue to cook, whisking regularly, for about 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened.

Add the pineapple, vegetables, and pork to the pan and toss until everything is evenly coated with the sauce. Serve over hot rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes, plus marinating time