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Sharing the family secret recipes: the BEST Sweet and Sour Pork you’ll ever eat

May 8, 2012

Growing up, I remember my Dad cooking three things.  Chocolate Cornflake cakes (and with four children in the house and four lots of parties to cater for, it felt like he was always making them).  Fried ‘breakfasts’, although, much to the amusement of my friend Kerry, we often ate these for our Sunday evening meal.  Note how I didn’t say ‘dinner’ or ‘tea’…I can’t bear to begin that debate right now.  And Chinese; or more to the point, his Sweet and Sour Pork dish.

Now, I’m not a fan of those spongy balls you get from the takeaway with that gloopy, insipid orange sauce.  It might be that you think there is nothing wrong with that and you are shaking your fist with rage at me as you read this on the screen.  If that’s the case, do calm down.  I’m sure it’s probably all very nice, but it certainly doesn’t compare to my Dad’s Sweet and Sour Pork.

In fact, when we’d ‘graduated’ from birthday parties of friends feasting on Pink and Whites and YoYos, Dad’s Wok-waving skills increased in demand at the same rate that the Choco Cornflake service declined.  Well, almost – my aforementioned friend Kerry still goes on about them frequently. Dad, maybe you could knock her up a batch for old time’s sake?  Yes, we soon had gangs of hungry, gangly teenagers queueing up at the door to swap Pass the Parcel for a set of chopsticks.  As we grew up and moved out, the demand lessened somewhat, but if there was any hint of a sibling returning home for “The Pork”, we’d all come crashing back in force like a pack of deranged and starving scavengers, making sure we got our share of the porky nectar. The recipe serves four, but I’ve seen times when Dad had to quintuple the recipe, just to stop the potential violence that might break out if one of us felt like we hadn’t had our fill.

In recent days, it’s a bit different – I can cook well enough myself, so I got hold of a copy of the recipe and am now able to delight the Man About the House with his very own share of my growing up feast.  But it would appear old habits not only die hard but are passed down the line.  I find myself cooking up three or four times the quantities in the recipe and there are only two of us in the house!  Both the freezer and my friends love me for it.

Want to share the love in your household?  Here’s how:

Health warning…this recipe is not healthy. And it takes quite a bit of effort. But who gives a shit – it tastes like food from the Gods!

Serves 4, or two greedy buggers.  Dish it up with rice or noodles.

200g Pork, not too lean.  Shoulder is good
100g Bamboo Shoots and Water Chestnuts (or one of those smallish tins)
1 Green Pepper, cored and seeded
Spring Onion
1 teaspoon Salt
1 and a half tablespoons Brandy 
Egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Cornflour

Oil for deep-frying
3 tablespoons Plain Flour 

For the sauce:
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
3 tablespoons Vinegar
3 tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Tomato Puree
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Cornflour 

1. Cut the pork into about 24 small cubes, trimming off any large bits of fat.

2. Cut the green pepper and bamboo shoots into small strips of the same size.  Halve the water chestnuts.  Cut the spring onion in one inch lengths.

3. Mix together the pork, salt and brandy and marinate for 15 minutes.  Mix together the beaten egg and the cornflour and add it to the pork.  Mix well.

4. Mix together the sauce ingredients.

5. Heat enough oil in a wok to deep-fry the pork (if you’ve multiplied the recipe, you’ll need to do the frying in batches).  Coat the meat with the flour and deep-fry for three minutes.  Then remove the wok from the heat and leave the pork in the oil for a further two minutes.  Remove with a perforated spoon.

6. Heat the oil again.  Re-fry the meat with the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts for two minutes, then remove and drain on kitchen paper.

7. Pour off the excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon in the wok.  Add the spring onion and green pepper and fry for a minute.  Add the sauce and stir until it thickens.  Don’t leave it unattended at this stage otherwise your sauce will over-reduce.

8. Chuck the pork, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts into the sauce, stirring to give everything a good coating.  Make sure it’s all nice and hot before serving.

Now tell me this isn’t one of the yummiest things you’ve ever tasted!


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