I fondly remember the times as a kid my family would get together with my uncles, aunties, and cousins at a local Chinese restaurant to celebrate someone’s birthday or other special occasion. At 8 years old I loved our family gatherings because eating out was something my family did not do very often. We never had a say with what the adults ordered, but they always decided to order the ever popular sweet and sour chicken for us.
Glazed in an overly sweet yet tangy unusual red sauce, this was my favorite dish to eat with sticky steamed rice. Little did I know as a kid, but this common menu item wasn’t a very authentic Chinese food. Many people would agree that this was a dish adapted to the Western palate (aka American Chinese food). Whatever you want to call it, it was sure delicious.
In my mid-twenties I was always curious about what exactly made the sauce so red. It wasn’t until I checked out a library book that I learned food coloring was added. The idea of adding food coloring to a savory dish like you would to a cupcake frosting seemed rather odd. However, it is how people identified with this dish.
Today I’m sharing with you my version of this dish minus the food coloring—which I still don’t get. This dish isn’t overly sweet and is, in my opinion, the right proportion of sweet and tang. With added pineapple juice and chunks, the sauce is wonderful and could easily be used as a stir-fry sauce for vegetables or other meats. You can always add more sweet (sugar) or tang (vinegar) for your own choosing.
Ordering take-out is fun, but learning how to make this easy dish at home will leave you feeling accomplished for just knowing how. And to me, anytime you learn to make a favorite restaurant dish at home it is a gift that keeps on giving.