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Fried Pork in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Preparation Time

10 minutes

Cooking Time

20 minutes

Servings

4

The dish is a classic example of adapting food to a different palate - the recipe is a different take on the renowned 'sweet and sour pork' dish that has been commonly found in restaurants in both Canton, China, and Sydney, Australia. This recipe, unlike the one served at most restaurants, keeps the fried pork separate from the sweet and sour sauce to retain the crispiness of the pork until ready to be eaten.

Food History

Name:

Albert Kin Yee, an ex-chef of Fairfield's Bamboo Cove in the 1980s. The recipe was in his family twenty years prior since he was a teenager in the 1960s. It is now a family favourite at the fortnightly dinner. The story of how he discovered the recipe of the notorious 'sweet and sour sauce' has been transcribed below from an oral interview.

Personal History of the Recipe:

"There was an old chef in the restaurant who didn't want to share the secret to making the sauce. My brothers and I tried to make it but it never tasted right, so to find out the recipe, I hid in a cabinet we used for storage and watched the old chef cooking. I stood there for maybe an hour in that cramped cabinet, watching and waiting. I finally saw him making it, and you never would have guessed what the secret ingredient was... Worcestershire sauce. Now everyone else's tastes like sticky tomato soup, but my one... everyone knows its sweet and sour."

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Historical Overview

The ‘sweet and sour pork’ dish, as it is enjoyed today is an adapted recipe from fried pork with sugar and vinegar sauce that has its origins in both Guangzhou and Hong Kong in the nineteenth-century. The pineapples that were imported to be used in sweetening and lightening the sauce’s flavour were introduced with the dish’s customisation to a western palate where a sauce made of vinegar is considered strong, and at times, pungent. It has since grown in popularity with it becoming a staple of both Chinese-Australian and Chinese-American cuisine. It is a clear product of an adaptation of traditional food to survive and flourish in a new and vastly different context.

Controversy

The 'sweet and sour pork' dish has been subject to controversy in the community for its 'authenticity' as real cultural cuisine, and the 'whitewashing' it has endured in its time in Australia. It is true that the current, popularised rendition of the dish is the product of adaptations and evolutions made over a long period of time to suit the westernised palate. This however, does not mean that sweet and sour pork is not representative of our culture at all. Rather, it demonstrates the histories of the early immigration wave and details the ways in which they came to adapt to their changing context in a country so different from their own. The sweet and sour flavour has been widely popular with it being found in menus since the 1900s, and many restauranteurs, from the 1900s and 2000s, can attribute some part of their success to the fame of sweet and sour dishes. The 'inauthenticity' that is argued is generally made from a comparison to the ways in which it was cooked in earlier generations, but it needs to be understood that even with the changes, the sweet and sour pork celebrates history of our predecessors and their traditions, rather than diminishing and disregarding it.

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A menu from the Canton Tower Café, used in the 1930s. Sweet and sour dim sims were their specialty. Sweet and sour schnapper is also available in the right column.

Ingredients

  • 300g Pork Fillet - other boneless cuts of pork are also alternatives.

  • Cornflour, Self-Raising Flour, and Plain Flour - these are mixed into the coating mixture.

  • Yellow Food Colouring - only a single droplet is needed in the coating mixture.

  • Cooking Oil - any oil suitable for deep-frying, e.g. canola, rice bran, etc.

  • Can of Pineapples - can be either slices or pieces for flavouring the sauce.

  • Tomato Sauce - the red colour and savoury taste of the sauce comes from this.

  • Worcestershire Sauce - this gives the sauce an extra kick.

  • Sugar (optional) - this is to sweeten the sauce according to preference.

Preparation

10 MINUTES

Cooking

20 MINUTES

1. ​Mixture: Mix two tablespoons of cornflour, two tablespoons of self-raising flour, and one tablespoon of plain flour in a mixing bowl.

 

2. Consistency: Thicken the mixture by adding small increments of water and whisking. The mixture must remain a gooey texture - do not turn this into a liquid! Pour one droplet of yellow food colouring and mix this in.

3. Pork Pieces: Chop the pork into small strips, and throw the pork into the bowl with the coating mixture. Ensure all pieces of pork are coated with the mixture.

1. ​Deep-Fry: Add cooking oil to a pot, and heat until oil is ready for deep-frying. Place a piece of pork gently inside (do not throw), and see if it sizzles. Deep-fry all pork pieces and place into a bowl.

2. Sweet and Sour Sauce: Add half a can of chopped pineapples into a small saucepan on low heat. Add tomato sauce and stir until the mixture is a light-red. Add sugar to sweeten if preferred, or cornflour to thicken if preferred. Pour sauce into a small bowl.

Additional Cooking Notes

  • It is best eaten on the same day, but if eaten for leftovers, an air-fryer will bring back the crispiness of the pork pieces.

  • If the mixture is too diluted, you can add cornflour to thicken it.

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