Sweet and sour is a popular Chinese dish in many parts of the world, commonly prepared with chicken, pork or simply a variety of crunchy, tasty and colorful vegetables. There are occasions, however, when some versions of this dish can be a little bit too sweet, sickly and slightly off-putting. One way of tackling this potential problem is to add some spice to the dish, in this instance in the form of a red chili. You could use chili powder instead if you prefer. The rice served as an accompaniment to the sweet and sour is also spiced up a little bit with the addition of some cinnamon and ginger to add a further little twist to this established combination.
Spicy sweet and sour pork served on a bed of cinnamon and ginger spiced boiled rice
There are a great many recipes around the Web and in cookbooks for homemade sweet and sour sauce. While this is an option you could explore if you wish, be aware that many of them do not particularly resemble in taste the product you will be likely to buy in supermarkets or be served in restaurants. If you do want to stick with authenticity, it really is better in most instances to buy the sauce rather than to try preparing your own.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- ¾ pound pork shoulder meat
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound jar of sweet and sour cooking sauce
- 1½ cups fresh chicken stock
- ½ red bell pepper
- ½ green bell pepper
- ½ yellow bell pepper
- 1 medium size and strength red chili
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
- 1 cup basmati or long grain rice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
The pork shoulder used in this recipe came in the form of two steaks. It may be that you buy it already chopped but if not you should begin by cutting it up in to chunks of around one inch.
Pour the vegetable oil in to a large pot and put it on to a medium heat. Add the pork and season with some salt and pepper.
Stir the pork around with a wooden spoon for two or three minutes until all the pieces of meat are evenly sealed and browned.
There are a great many different types of sweet and sour sauce on the market. In order to find the right brand to suit your tastes, you could ask around, read the ingredients lists or simply conduct a bit of experimentation.
Pour the chicken stock and the sweet and sour sauce in to the pot with the sealed pork. Stir well and turn up the heat until the liquid just reaches a simmer. Cover the pot and adjust the heat to achieve as gentle a simmer as you can for an initial two hours. Stir well every fifteen to twenty minutes and monitor the liquid level. If necessary, you can add a little boiling water or more stock as required.
The exact combination of peppers can be varied if you wish. This selection was made to afford the dish maximum color combinations and greatest presentation. It would also be possible to add a wide variety of different vegetables instead of or as well as the peppers. Take care only not to add anything that will cook overly quickly and become mushy, such as most root vegetables
Cut all the seeds and encasing membranes out of the bell pepper halves. Slice to a thickness of around half an inch. Cut the top from the chili and moderately finely slice in to discs. If you prefer - or if you are using a particularly hot variety of chili - you could cut the chili in half length ways and scrape the seeds and membranes from it before you add it to the pot. This would reduce the levels of spice and heat.
Add the peppers to the simmering pork and stir extremely well to ensure everything is fully and evenly combined.
Bring the combination back to a gentle simmer, cover again and cook in this way for one further hour, continuing to give it a stir on a regular basis and to keep an eye on the liquid level.
When the cooking time is up, turn off the heat under the pot and add the freshly chopped cilantro. Stir well, cover again and move the pot to a cool part of your stove top for the pork to rest while you prepare the rice accompaniment.
Put the half teaspoons of cinnamon and ginger in to a pot along with a similar amount of salt. Pour in plenty of water and bring the water to a rolling boil. As with pasta, it is by cooking the rice in what may seem like an excess of water to dilute the starch that you prevent the grains sticking together.
Wash the rice in a fine sieve at your sink under running cold water to get rid of any dust and excess starch.
When the spiced water is boiling, add the rice, stir very well and reduce the heat as is necessary to achieve a gentle to moderate simmer for ten minutes.
When it is cooked, drain the rice through a sieve at your sink. Let it steam off for two or three minutes to ensure it is not served too moist, something which can lead to small watery puddles forming around the edges of the plates.
Spoon the rice in to deep serving plates and spread it out evenly to form suitable serving beds for the spicy sweet and sour pork. Use a large serving spoon to transfer the pork on to the top of the rice. Serve immediately, perhaps accompanied by a dish of prawn crackers to share.