When I was young, my mom was a waitress. Heck, when I grew up, my mom was still a waitress. She was the typical divorced woman of her generation. She was undereducated yet street smart from years of living on the south side of Chicago. That in itself was rather a feat considering she was a child of the depression who grew up in very rural Alabama. She never had a “good” job but always managed to keep us fed. It may have been mayo sandwiches or ketchup sandwiches at times, but we ate. The restaurant she worked at for over 20 years was fairly popular and well known in the Chicago area. It was named the Tropical Hut and was known for it’s Polynesian food, which was a big thing back in the 60’s as people were expanding their foodie taste buds beyond burgers and baked potatoes. Thing is, other than a duck dish they had that I loved (we of course went there for every family event. Why do people do that anyway? Work someplace and then go back then when NOT working? :-P) the main food I recall from there was their club sandwich. Mom would bring it home cold at night to eat but half the time it ended up going to one or the other of us kids. I loved them.
Point being, when I was young, my main experience with food from other cultures was a club sandwich from a Polynesian restaurant in the Midwest. Go figure. While my taste buds have grown a bit more sophisticated as I’ve aged, I have to confess that I still love all the Americanized versions of Asian foods, from which some of the Polynesian foods can branch off. One that I love that you will never find on the menu of any authentic Chinese restaurant is Sweet & Sour Pork. Deep fried pork thrown together with an overly sweet yet tangy sauce with pineapple in it, then put on rice. Sounds rather gross, ehh? But in reality, it’s soooooo darn yummy. I mean, the words deep fried should tip you off right away. I’ve said before; you could probably deep fry a shoe and it would taste good.
This is the version I’ve been making for years. Authentic? Nope. Just mine. Though like I said, what is authentic with this dish ANYWAY? Back when I first started making it, I honestly didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as sweet and sour pork lol. I just took the sauce recipe from some meatballs I loved, chopped up some pork, battered it, fried it and thought it seemed Asian enough to deserve rice as the base. Isn’t it amazing what we come up with, thinking we are so original only to find out later (or sooner now that you can google a recipe in 3 seconds) that many others have been making it for years?
This is a good version, mine though it may be. Nothing weird, nothing unusual, fairly standard as it goes. But I wanted to post it for those who may be thinking that this is a hard dish to make. It’s not. If you can fry food and combine sauce ingredients, you can make Sweet And Sour Pork.
Sweet And Sour Pork
- 2 eggs 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 3 pounds boneless pork loin, cubed into about 1 inch pieces
- about 4 cups canola or vegetable oil, heated to 355 degrees
- 1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
- 1 8 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- 2/3 cup chopped green pepper
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 cups cooked rice (I like this served with Jasmine or Basmati but use your favorite)
- Start your sauce first- In a large pot, combine the pineapple with it’s juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the green pepper and onions and simmer covered for another five minutes. Set aside and keep warm
- Start your oil heating while you prepare the batter, which is easy peasy.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, milk and soy sauce.
- While your oil heats (large pot), take about half the pork cubes and put them into the batter. Stir around to get them well coated.
- When the oil has reached 355 degrees, carefully toss in (make sure your hands are fairly close to the oil… tossing from far up because it seems safer actually isn’t. It will just make the oil splatter all over you.) pieces of the pork. Do about 12 pieces at a time. You don’t want to overcrowd or the oil temp drops and you end up with greasy pork.
- Cook for about 4 minutes or until a nice dark golden brown. You’ll probably have to stir them around to get both sides browned.
- Using a wide slotted spoon or even better, a metal skimmer, lift out your pork and lay in a paper towel lined bowl.
- Keep cooking until it’s all done then you can either toss it with the sauce or, as I prefer to do, serve all the components separately so everyone can fix it the way they like it. Like here, my daughter loves a lot of sauce, I prefer less.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and serve with soy sauce
What a wonderful story and it made me laugh. Your version would be lovely, I’m sure 🙂
Thanks Maureen 🙂
Authentic or not – it sounds delicious! …and your mom is a hero!
Yeah, she was, Ann 🙂
The closest thing to Chinese food we had growing up in Iowa was egg foo yung…I have a feeling they’ve never heard of that in China! Your sweet and sour pork looks terrific 🙂
Heh… sounds like similar experiences, Liz. Now however, I’m craving egg foo yung :-p
My mom would make a similar dish but she adapted it to the microwave and made it with chunked pieces of ham! How authentic is that? Loved the story.
Lol… gotta love the mom versions of foods. We get so used to them it takes us aback when we try the real things later, like “wait… that’s NOT right! My mom did it better!”
You’re hilarious!! Love the story!
I live very close to the south side of Chicago, but I don’t know of that restaurant. Then again, I moved here in the early 90’s. 🙂
Sweet and sour pork is so good, and it needs to make it to my face real, real soon!
Kate, it’s not there anymore unfortunately. There were two- one in Hyde park and then the one my mom worked at was in Stoney Island. They both closed in the late nineties