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A Sweet and Sour Pork Recipe to Satisfy Your Takeout Cravings

Cantonese sweet and sour pork

Total time:30 mins

Servings:2 to 4

Total time:30 mins

Servings:2 to 4


You know that feeling you get when you sit down at an old favorite restaurant and open the menu? You’ve eaten your favorite foods so many times that you feel like you’re about to reunite with an old friend.

I felt the same kind of nostalgia-tinged belly rumble when I flipped through Kwoklyn Wan’s “The Complete Chinese Takeout Cookbook.”

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Page after page revealed a dish that I happily ate in Chinese restaurants as a child. So far I’ve made the Orange Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork (see recipe below), Fried Spring Rolls, and vegetable wonton soup. Each delivered exactly what I was looking for, a familiar and delicious bite from the past.

When I told Wan how the cookbook made me feel, he said it was exactly what he was looking for: “For anyone who picks up the book, it’s like opening their restaurant menu. favorite Chinese takeout and see it all in front of you.”

But, unlike this menu, the cookbook helps you recreate those flavors yourself: “It gives you the secrets of the menu. There are no more myths now. You really can create this menu at home.

Wan’s grandfather immigrated to the UK from China in the 1950s and settled in Leicester, opening a restaurant in 1962 which served Chinese food, but as ingredients were hard to come by he had to was mostly British food. Wan’s father, who married a Briton, worked there until he opened Leicester’s first Cantonese restaurant in 1978. The family remained in the restaurant business for years and as Wan and his brothers and sisters grew up, they all worked in these kitchens.

“I have never known life without my family cooking for other people,” Wan said in a phone call from the UK, where he was born and lives. “Not only did I eat and cook the food, but it was the food that put money on the table. These are the dishes that we sold to our Western customers. »

“It’s my childhood,” he said of the 200-recipe cookbook, which features 150 recipes from three previous cookbooks. “Every dish – I have memories of cooking those dishes.”

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“The first book [“Chinese Takeaway Cookbook”] was kind of like therapy, as I was writing down these recipes I could so clearly remember the music that was playing, the sights, the sounds. It was a way to reconnect with my childhood.

The book also includes 50 new recipes that are more like those you would find at an upscale Cantonese restaurant, he said. And, he said, he worked to make sure the book included lighter, healthier options as well.

Wan said his training as a chef would allow him to write about East Asian dishes – the ones that inspired many dishes served in restaurants like those run by his family, but that wasn’t what he wanted. he was looking for. He hoped his cookbooks would have a wide appeal because this food played an important role in the childhoods of so many people who grew up eating in restaurants opened by Chinese immigrants.

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“It’s kind of weird to think that we have these East Asian dishes that we all grew up with – white, black, Chinese – whatever your background, whether you’re grew up in america, in England or in Germany, you will have this memory. This food brings everyone together,” he said.

While working on his latest cookbook, Wan researched which dishes were still popular in Chinese takeout restaurants today. “It was like old friends coming back to the table and celebrating. The food people ordered in the 1980s, they still order today.

He remembers as a child he longed to hang out with his friends rather than work in a hot kitchen, but he said his siblings’ success was a direct result of being part of the family business.

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Wan, who is working on a new cookbook due out in early 2023, has served as a chef, restaurateur and Kung Fu instructor and had his own Amazon Prime cooking show, “Kwoklyn’s Chinese Takeaway Kitchen,” in 2021. His brother , Gok Wan, is a fashion consultant and TV celebrity, and his sister is a lawyer. His parents are retired.

“What we learned was a work ethic,” he said. “If you’re going to break boundaries and do things, you have to get up and do it. You cannot procrastinate.

“I’m a 49-year-old man now. The man I am now, I wouldn’t have changed anything – the life lesson we learned,” he said. “We always joke with our parents that it was a form of child labor, but we fully understand it now.”

Cantonese sweet and sour pork

Wan explains that the sweet and sour sauce that originated in China’s Hunan province was a “light mixture of vinegar and sugar with very little resemblance to the bright orange dish served in many restaurants today.” Wan’s recipe calls for a handful of pineapple chunks. We used about a cup, but you can adjust to your liking.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to three days.

REMARK: If you plan to serve the dish with rice, place the pot of rice on the stove before you start preparing the pork, and both should be ready around the same time. The amount of uncooked rice you will need to get about 2 cups of cooked rice will vary depending on the variety of rice you choose. For long-grain white rice, rinse ⅔ cup of rice until water runs clear. Then, place it in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ½ teaspoon of olive oil and toss to coat the rice. Add 1⅓ cup of water, a pinch of salt, if desired, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

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  • 1 cup orange juice (from about 4 oranges)
  • 1 cup (3 ounces) pineapple chunks, fresh or canned, preferably in juice, drained
  • ½ red bell pepper (3 ounces), seeded and coarsely chopped
  • ½ small onion (2 ounces), coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup
  • 6 tablespoons of water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 10 to 12 ounces pork loin, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • Cooked rice, to serve (see NOTE)

Prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the juice, pineapple, bell pepper, onion, vinegar, sugar, tomato paste and ketchup, until well combined. mixed and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small measuring cup, whisk together water and cornstarch until blended. Slowly add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cover and remove from heat.

Prepare the pork: Line a plate with a tea towel and place it near the stove.

Pour enough oil into a large saucepan for the pork nuggets to float and heat over medium-high heat until the oil registers 340 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by pouring in a little cornstarch; if it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.)

While the oil preheats, prepare two shallow bowls. In one, whisk together egg and salt; in the other, add the cornstarch. Add the pork to the egg and stir until each piece is well coated. Next, add the pork to the bowl of cornstarch, stirring until well coated.

When the oil is ready, use a slotted spoon to lower the pork into the oil and fry until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. (Internal temperature should be 170 degrees.) Remove pork and drain on prepared plate.

Arrange the pork on a serving dish, pour the sauce over it and serve with the rice on the side.

Per serving (1⅓ cup pork), based on 4

Calories: 446; Total fat: 12 g; Saturated fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 93mg; Sodium: 254mg; Carbohydrates: 62g; Dietary fiber: 16g; Sugar: 16g; Protein: 21g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Adapted from “The Complete Chinese Cookbook to Go” by Kwoklyn Wan (Hardie Grant, 2022).

Tested by Ann Maloney; questions by e-mail to

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