Classic sweet-and-sour pork

Classic sweet-and-sour pork

Chinese Unchopped
20 mins
Cooking time
10 mins
Martin Poole

In the old days (way before the internet), sweet-and-sour was not red in colour at all, as it was predominantly made up of vinegar, sugar and dark soy sauce. However, with the heavy influence Western culture now has, the Cantonese have found that ketchup provides the perfect balance and wrapping consistency for this dish. Who’s to say this recipe upgrade isn’t just as authentic as the old ways? As with any culture as it changes and adapts, it doesn’t make its expressions any less authentic; it just makes them a product of the times.


Quantity Ingredient
300g pork shoulder steaks
200g cornflour, seasoned with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/2 onion, (optional)
1/2 green pepper, (optional)
vegetable oil, for frying

The marinade

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 egg

The sauce

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
4 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce


  1. Cut the meat into 2cm cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the marinade ingredients and, using your hands, massage the pieces until they are evenly coated, then add the seasoned cornflour and rub it into the meat. The meat will first start to stick together in clumps but will start to separate as you continue to rub it. Once all the meat has completely separated it is ready to be fried.
  2. Cut the onion and pepper, if using, into 2cm dice. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small prep bowl or ramekin.
  3. BUILD YOUR WOK CLOCK: place your pork dice at 12 o’clock, then arrange the onion and pepper, if using, and the sauce bowl clockwise around your plate.
  4. Half-fill a large pot, wok or deep-fryer with vegetable oil and heat to 180°C, or until the tip of a wooden chopstick or skewer starts to fizz after a second or so in the oil. Carefully add the marinated meat and deep-fry until golden brown, about 5–6 minutes. Remove the pieces carefully with a slotted spoon and drain well on a plate covered with kitchen paper.
  5. In a separate wok, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over a high heat until smoking-hot. Add the onion and pepper, if using, and stir-fry for 1 minute until the onions are lightly browned, then pour over the sauce and bring to a vigorous boil.
  6. Once boiling, add the pork pieces and toss through a few times to mix everything together. Serve immediately.


  • The key to a good sweet-and-sour is to ensure the meat is as crispy as possible and that there is just enough sauce to wrap around the meat, but not so much that the meat is swimming in it. If the sauce is not quite sticky or thick enough, continue to boil it in the wok for 30 seconds or so longer before adding the meat.
School of Wok
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