As a child, the most exotic food we ever got to eat was Chinese. There was a Chinese restaurant a short walk away from my parent's house called the International. In fact, it's still there although it's half the size it used to be and now does a lot of "all you can eat" food most of the time, although it's still good.
Going for a Chinese was a real treat as there were six of us to feed in the family. I used to love sweet and sour until one Christmas, when I was about 8, I went there and got sick after eating it. It could have just been a bug but after that, I didn't eat it for a long time.
I never tried making it at home ever as I assumed, for some reason, that it would be difficult to do. A couple of years ago, I got the book Chinese Food Made Easy by Ching-He Huang after seeing the TV series. I tried her Sweet & Sour Pork recipe but I was disappointed. It was a bit long winded and I really didn't like the flavour - it had way too much lime in it for me. I wanted it to be more like restaurant or take away fare.
A while later, I bought this fantastic book by Gill Holcombe. I thoroughly recommend if you are trying to feed a family on a budget. There was a recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken in the book. I tried it and I couldn't believe how easy it was to make - and with pretty basic ingredients that you'll have at home or can get hold of easily. It can be adapted to use with pork which needs a little more cooking, or I'm guessing large prawns, which may need much less. We ate this last night for our tea and the kids loved it. They had it with some couscous which makes for easy preparation as I pour boiling water over it and leave it on the side, we had ours with rice.
I've made a few tweaks to it after making this a few times and here's how I make it.
Sweet & Sour Chicken
4 chicken breast fillets or 5 chicken thigh fillets, skin removed, cut into chunks or strips
Plain flour or cornflour
1 tbsp oil (not olive)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 peppers, any combination of red, orange or yellow, deseeded and chopped into small pieces.
1 tin of pineapple rings or chunks in juice
2 tbsp vinegar (malt, white or white wine, tho I have used red wine)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 rounded tbsp sugar (brown or white)
1. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a little plain flour or cornflour to coat. Heat the oil in a pan or wok. Fry the chicken until golden all over. Turn the heat down and add the onions and peppers.
2. If using pineapple rings, cut up 3 or 4 rings into small chunks then add them to the pan. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, tomato puree, sugar and the juice from the tin of pineapple and stir well. I find at this point, you need to turn the heat up so that the sauce bubbles a bit as it seems to help to mix the sauce thoroughly - the tomato puree needs to dissolve properly, I think.
3. Turn the heat right down, cover with a lid and simmer for around 10 minutes. If the sauce seems a bit too thin, leave the lid off and allow it to reduce and thicken the sauce. Season.
As ever, do let me know if you try the recipe and what you thought of it by leaving a comment. Happy cooking as ever!