Sweet and Sour Pork (咕噜肉或古老肉 Gu lu Rou / Gu Lao Rou)
May 9, 2020
I mentioned Sweet & Sour Pork in a previous post when I shared the recipe for Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs. They have similar English names, but their Chinese names are completely different. They also have different taste and texture.
Sweet & Sour Pork is one of those dishes that is perhaps more popular outside of China. It originated from China’s Canton or Guangdong province during the imperial Qing dynasty. Because the Cantonese were the earliest immigrants from China to the West, and because people in the West especially like the sweet and sour taste, this Chinese dish became widespread and popular in the US and Europe. I actually think the popularity of Sweet & Sour Pork in the West might actually be what led Chinese American food down the sweet and sour path.
This dish requires first double frying the pork meat then stir-frying all the veggies, fruits, and fried pork together in a sweet and sour sauce. When selecting the meat, pork belly is preferred to leaner pork cuts. After double frying, pork belly becomes a bit crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. However, you can also use leaner pork meat cuts, such as shoulder or tenderloin. If using non pork belly meat, make sure to dip all the meat first in an egg mixture and then coat it with corn starch.
The sweet and sour sauce is traditionally made from rock candy, dried preserved plums, hawthorn, and vinegar. But in the modern days, thanks to the invention of ketchup, it’s much less time consuming to make the sauce.
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 30 min
Serving: 4-6 people family style
- 0.8-1 pound (about 400g) skinless pork belly1
- 1 red or green bell pepper
- 0.4 pound (about 200g) pineapple (either fresh or canned)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 1 chopped green onion
- 2 -3 cups vegetable oil
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- Gather all the ingredients. Chop the pineapple and bell pepper into ~1 inch (2.5 cm) long sized pieces. Cut the pork belly or pork tenderloin into 0.6-1 inch (2-2.5 cm) long cubes and put them in a deep bowl or large plate. (I like to hammer the pork belly before doing this.) Add the ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper to the pork cubes and mix well. Then evenly coat the pork cubes with the 3 tablespoons of corn starch. If using pork tenderloin or other lean pork meat, after the pork is well mixed with salt and pepper, beat an egg and dip the pork meat first in the egg mixture before coating with corn starch.
- Add 2 cups of vegetable oil2 into a small sauce pan and turn the heat to medium high. When the oil temperature reaches 350 °F (175 °C) degree, add the pork belly cubes slowly into the hot oil. 3 (If you have no thermometer, stick a wooden chopstick into the oil. If bubbles start forming around the chopstick and then float up, the oil should be ready).
- Fry the pork meat for 1-2 minutes until pale golden. Then immediately transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel. Allow the oil in the sauce pan to rise to 350 °F (175 °C) again. Then add the pork cubes back into oil to fry for a second time. Transfer them to a plate lined with new paper towel after 1-2 minutes. The color of the fried pork cubes after double frying should be a shade darker than the first time.
- Heat a skillet with medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil that was left from frying. When the oil is getting hot, add the green onion pieces. After about 10-15 seconds, when the green onion’s fragrance is released, add the chopped bell pepper and immediately toss and stir. Transfer the bell pepper pieces onto a plate when they are only about 80% cooked.
- In a small bowl, prepare the sauce mixture by combining all the sauce ingredients: ¼ cup ketchup, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 2 tablespoon water. Add the leftover amount of corn starch from coating the pork meat and mix well.
- In the same skillet at medium-high heat, add another 1 tablespoon of oil from the oil that was left over from frying. While the oil is warm but not hot, pour the sauce mixture into the skillet. Quickly toss and stir to prevent splattering; about 30 seconds.
- While the sauce is hot, add the chopped pineapple, 80% cooked bell pepper chunks, and double fried pork cubes all at once to the sauce skillet. Immediately toss and stir for about 1-2 minutes until all the pork cubes are evenly coated with sauce. This final step needs to be done fast to ensure the pork remain tender and crisp.
- Transfer to a large plate and serve.
- Most Asian and some non-Asian grocery stores sell pork belly and pork tenderloin. I bought mine from Costco.
- The amount of oil used depends on the size of the sauce pan. I usually use a small sauce pan to limit the amount of oil used for frying.
- You can fry the meat in two batches to prevent overcrowding.