Monday, March 4, 2013

Not bad, except for the pork

...and pork is kind of an important part of sweet and sour pork, (p131) wouldn't you say?

Sweet and sour pork, the well-known mainstay of Chinese takeaways: I wouldn't think it's a particularly authentic Chinese dish, but it's almost synonymous with Chinese food in New Zealand. It's hard to see why this dish is so popular, since it's very greasy and often has chewy gristly bits. It is, in fact, the sort of food that seems good at the first bite but goes downhill from there.

I had high hopes that a homemade Edmonds version would be considerably more appetising (and digestible) than one from a local greasy shop. I only had to try it to find out.

The first step was to fry onion and garlic in oil, then remove it from the pan while I browned my pork. The specified cut was pork pieces, cut into 2cm cubes. I'm no expert on pork, but I'd always figured this is the sort of meat you'd cook quickly in a stir-fry or something. Instead, the instructions were to return the onions and garlic to the pan with the browned meat, add chicken stock and simmer for half an hour, 'or until meat is tender'.

I couldn't see how cooking it that way would do anything but make the pork tougher. Well, what do I know? I shrugged and followed the recipe, making use of the simmering time to prepare my other ingredients.

After thirty minutes, I removed the lid and added drained pineapple pieces, chopped capsicum and cucumber, baby corn, mushrooms, tomato sauce, ginger, brown sugar and vinegar. This mixture had to cook for a further five minutes, and it was at this stage that I realised I was supposed to serve it with rice or noodles. I quickly boiled a jug and cooked some noodles, by which time the sweet and sour pork was almost ready.

The final step was to stir cornflour into the reserved pineapple juice, and add that to the pan. A minute or two more on the heat for the sauce to thicken, and my meal was ready. It looked good in the pan; I couldn't wait to see what it tasted like.

I was right about the pork. I'm not sure if something different was meant by 'pork pieces' back in 1998 when this book was printed, but the standard pork pieces you get these days do not take well to long cooking: they were like little pieces of rubber.

The rest of the dish was nice enough - it wasn't the best sweet and sour sauce I'd ever tasted, (I liked this one better) but it was ok. I think it leant too much towards 'sweet' and my preference is for a little more 'sour'. Still, lots of people have a sweeter tooth than I do for these things, so if you can find a way of cooking the pork a bit more gently, this might be the dish for you.


  1. I tried this recipe with diced pork (the kind that specifies slow cooking on the packet) in my slow cooker, and it worked really well.
    Apart from the fact it took ALL day, rather than 20-30 minutes!
    I've also adjusted the quantities of some of the ingredients along the way. Ended up far less sweet than the packet mixes Maggi or Kan-tong offer.
    But if I was doing it stove-top, I would use stir-fry cut pork and cook the meat for only a couple of minutes. I think you are right, its the cut of meat that isn't quite right for it.

    (and can I just say, I'm gutted I only just found your blog when it seems you are about finished!)

  2. Hey, thanks for the tips - the slow cooked diced pork sounds like an excellent substitution. I find that Edmonds recipes generally hold up quite well to alterations and substitutions, so you can quite often change whatever you don't like or don't have, and still end up with something decent. And yes, I am nearly done - but there's plenty here for you to browse through if you're interested!


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