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.
Recipe: Sweet and Sour Chicken
Love Chinese take-out? Why not make this sweet and sour chicken recipe at home instead? Made with pineapple, onion, bell peppers, and chicken sauteed in a sweet and sour sauce, this dish is best served with steamed rice.
20 ounce can pineapple chunks in 100% pineapple juice
½ tablespoon corn starch
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce * use gluten-free tamari to make this dish gluten-free friendly.
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons corn starch
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped into ¾-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, stems and seeds removed. Chop into ¾-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed. Chop into ¾-inch pieces
4 cups steamed rice
Pour out the pineapple juice from the can into a small sauce pan.
Add the corn starch and whisk until the corn starch has dissolved.
Whisk in the brown sugar, cider vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, and ginger.
** You can add all the sauce ingredients to a blender to emulsify it, then cook on the stove top. This is my preferred method.
Heat the sauce pan on medium high heat. Allow the sauce to come to a low simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the sauce for 3-5 minutes until it thickens. Set the sauce aside.
Massage the chicken with the salt. Then transfer the chicken to a sealable container and bag. Add the cornstarch. Seal the container and shake until the chicken is coated.
Heat a wok or large frying pan on high heat. Add the oil followed by the chicken.
Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes until cooked through. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Remove the chicken to a plate or bowl.
Add the onions and bell peppers to the hot wok. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
Cook the vegetables for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the pineapple chunks, chicken, and sauce. Cook the stir-fry for 3 minutes.
Serve with steamed rice