Battered chicken is deep-fried, then tossed in a simple sweet-and-sour sauce to make Sweet and Sour Chicken. Many people who enjoy Chinese food but don’t live in China will be familiar with this dish. That is to say; it leans Western rather than Chinese.
Yet, who can resist the irresistible flavor of sweet and sour sauce on a crispy piece of fried chicken?
My dad was a professional chef for over 25 years, and like most of the recipes on the blog, I picked up this one from him.
I’ll let you in on a few of my trade secrets to ensure that your Sweet and Sour Chicken always tastes as good as it does when you order it at your favorite restaurant. If you want some advice from a pro, here they are:
- Meat color is a matter of taste; thighs and breasts can be used. I prefer chicken thighs because they have a more robust flavor and retain moisture.
- The marinating process for sweet and sour chicken, regardless of the cut of meat used, is crucial to setting your dish apart from others; incorporating water into the marinade keeps the chicken moist during the frying process, resulting in a super crisp coating that stays in place. This will be crucial when you add that delicious sweet and sour sauce.
- Drop the battered chicken pieces into the hot oil one by one. To fully cook the batter in just a few seconds, they should be lowered slowly into the oil at about a midway point. Once you’re ready, let the chicken loose in the oil. Following this method, your chicken won’t stick to the bottom of the pan or each other. Select a location in the oil separate from the other items you plan to fry.
- It is possible to reuse the oil for future stir-fry preparations by straining it through a fine-mesh strainer. This oil is used in Chinese restaurants because it preserves food and improves its flavor. Keep it refrigerated for up to two weeks, but no longer.
- For optimal crispiness, make the sweet and sour sauce as soon as you fry the chicken. If you want to jump on dinner, you can pre-cook your chicken and then re-fry it for a few minutes to crisp it up before serving. Make an effort to finish this dish in one sitting. If you’re making this part of a larger meal for the family, you can get the individual parts ready and throw everything together right before serving.
- The acid in the vinegar can eat away at the patina of a well-seasoned wok, so wash it as soon as you’re done cooking.
That’s all the time I have for the moment. There’s no time like the present to whip up a batch of this time-honored Sweet and Sour Chicken.
For the Sweet and Sour Sauce:
- 1/2 cup of hot water
- 1/4 tsp. of salt
- 2 tbsp. of sugar
- 1 tbsp. of ketchup
- 1/2 cup of pineapple juice (optional, reserved from canned pineapple)
- 3 tbsp. of rice wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
For the Chicken:
- 12 oz. of boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs
- 1-2 tbsp. of water
- 1/8 tsp. of garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. of onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. of sesame oil
- 1/8 tsp. of white pepper
- 1/2 tsp. of salt
For the Batter:
- 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. of cornstarch
- 3/4 tsp. of baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. of baking soda
- 2/3 cup of ice water
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil (or canola oil, plus more for frying)
For the Rest of the Dish:
- 2/3 cup of canned pineapple chunks(optional)
- 1 tbsp. of oil
- 1/4 cup of red onion (cut into 1-inch/2.5cm chunks)
- 1/4 cup of red bell pepper (cut into 1-inch/2.5cm chunks)
- 1/4 cup of green bell pepper (cut into 1-inch/2.5cm chunks)
- 2 tbsp. of cornstarch
- 2 tbsp. of water
Preparing the Sauce:
- Reserve 2/3 cup of the pineapple chunks and 1/2 cup of the pineapple juice from the can (if using). Putting aside.
- Mix the salt, sugar, and ketchup into the hot water. In a large bowl, combine the salt, sugar, and pineapple juice, and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar (if using). If you don’t have pineapple juice on hand, you can substitute 1/2 cup of water or chicken stock. In other words, put aside.
Marinating the Chicken:
- Make sure your chicken is evenly cooked by cutting it into 1 inch cubes and placing them in a bowl. Put in some white pepper, salt, sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. To ensure even coating, stir everything together and set it aside for 5 minutes. The chicken should drink up all of the liquid. A second mixing and 5-minute resting period may be necessary.
Making the Batter:
- Throw 2/3 cup of ice water into a bowl with the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in 1 tablespoon of oil and mix with a fork until a batter forms. Putting aside.
- To determine how much oil to use, consider the volume of the cooking vessel. More oil will be needed, but the chicken can be cooked in fewer batches if you use a larger pot. By switching to a smaller pot, fry the chicken in more batches but with less oil. The smaller the pot, the less oil we end up with to throw away. In a small saucepan, heat the oil until it reaches a temperature of 170 degrees Celsius, or 335 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add 5-6 pieces of chicken, marinated if desired, to the batter. Coat the chicken in the batter with a chopstick, fork, or your fingers, and then carefully drop it into the oil.
- Carefully flip the chicken with a slotted spoon to ensure even browning—Deep-fry for 2 minutes or until the batter is a pale golden and has developed a light crunch. You can use a slotted spoon to get them out of the oil and onto a rack or paper towel-lined plate to soak up any remaining grease.
- The red onion and peppers should be stir-fried in a wok with 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Quickly stir-fry for a minute.
- The sweet and sour sauce should be added next, and the mixture should be brought to a boil. Put the sauce on low heat and let it simmer.
- Cornstarch slurry can be made by mixing equal parts of cornstarch and water. When the sweet and sour sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, slowly drizzle in the slurry while stirring (you may not need all of the slurry). Immediately after reducing the heat, taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings (salt, vinegar, sugar) as needed.
- If using pineapple chunks, add them now and warm them while stirring. The chicken needs to be refried at this point so that it can achieve a nice, crisp texture. The oil should be heated to 335 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius), and the chicken should be fried in two batches for about 45 seconds each. The next step is to add the chicken to the sauce and toss it gently with a wok spatula until it is evenly coated. Start serving right away!