Fist of Kitchen presents… Eat it: China!

Recooking "The Art of Chinese Cooking" by The Benedictine Sisters of Peking, 1956 | Remixed by Fist of Kitchen 2013

book version

Sweet & Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

This was a dish I feared as a kid. It always came up for my sister’s birthday. But, know what? This is one of my favorite things we’ve made so far. I crave it. The original recipe doesn’t call for fermented black bean, but I can’t imagine it without. Fermented black bean is initially repellent, but 10 seconds later you want more of it. There must be a German word for that.

Make the sauce ahead of time. The flavors need a chance to rest. We reduced the sugar in the original recipe—¾ c. was far too sweet. At the end of the original it says “More sugar may be added to suit the taste.” For the love of Augstus Gloop, don’t do it. White vinegar will suffice, but play around with black vinegar and others if you like. As for sugars, we made two versions: one with white sugar, and one with Turbinado sugar. As could be expected, the white sugar made a glassy, clear sauce, while the Turbinado made a cloudy sauce. The latter was also less sweet and thicker.

  • c. sugar
  • ¼ c. soy sauce
  • c. vinegar
  • c. water
  • 3 tbsp. potato starch
  • 2 tbsp. fermented black bean
  • 2 lb. pork, cubed
  • 2 tbsp. potato starch
  • 24 oz. bottle peanut or vegetable oil (for deep frying)
  • ¼ c. sliced onion
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil

Mix sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, water and cornstarch in a saucepan and heat slowly, stirring constantly until thick. This will happen seemingly suddenly in the end. About five minutes. Stir in the fermented black bean.

Placed cubed pork in a pot and add 1 cup cold water. Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. This initial braising enhances the pork flavor and tenderizes the meat. We used loin chops, but the original welcomes the use of spare ribs. I have a feeling we’ll be doing that soon.

Sweet and Sour Pork

In another pan, sauté the cucumbers (sliced into thin half-moons) and onions in 2 tbsp. oil until tender. If cucumber grosses you out, try bamboo shoots, cabbage, peppers, snow peas, beans—I recall years ago asking the owner of the Asian grocery in Milwaukee what a certain vegetable tasted like. He replied, “What?! It’s a vegetable! It tastes like nothing!”

Add 2 tbsp. potato starch and 2 tbsp. soy sauce to the pork and toss until evenly coated. Heat the frying oil in a deep kettle or deep fryer to 375°. Fry the pork in small batches until brown. Let the oil return to 375° before continuing. Place each batch on paper towels in a warm oven. Do be careful when frying.

Traditionally, the pork, cucumbers, onions and sauce would be combined. We decided to leave it deconstructed, served with fresh bean sprouts.

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