Sweet and Sour Chicken

One of our greatest pleasures of travelling is of course, to experiment with new foods and new flavours. Like most of us, we were brought up on American-style starchy fried Chinese food with mild flavours and a common component; every dish had a lot of sugar. Well, were we surprised when we first tried Chinese food in Beijing, not in restaurants but on the streets, just like the locals. Honest, authentic flavors with fresh ingredients and very little sugar. Just like the first time we travelled to India and tasted their cuisine…what a discovery. Now I get it, I know now how it is supposed to taste and what it should look, feel and most importantly taste like. The beautiful thing is most restaurants in China have pictures next to their dishes, so you can pretty much navigate the menus somewhat safely. If not, we found so many people eager for the opportunity to speak English, such a relief. We loved the food of China, as it is so diverse and uncomplicated. There is very little ‘nouvelle’ cuisine unless you experiment with five star Hotel restaurants and even there, everything is pretty much recognizable and predictable, expect the presentation, which I must admit can be quite sophisticated. Here is a classic amongst all classics dishes. Sweet & Sour Chicken, a close cousin to General Tso, except for the acidity of the vinegar and a touch of sugar. This is a crowd pleaser as it combines all the five taste elements; sweet, sour, salty, spicy and umami with the addition of tomato ketchup. Try it, it is worth the extra efforts to pan fry the chicken before you soak it in a spicy sauce. If you want to go retro, simply add some fresh pineapple pieces. I prefer without as the acidity is what keeps you wanting more and more. This recipe can serve 6 people when accompanied with a steamed rice.

Serve 6
For the Sauce
2 Garlic cloves finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/4 Cup Rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Chilli flakes

For the chicken & Vegetables
1 Large onion cut in cubes
1 Large Red pepper cut in cubes
1 Large Green pepper cut in cubes
500 Gr. Chicken thighs cut in bite size
1/2 Cup of Corn Starch
1 1/2 Cup All purpose flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cup Water
1 Beaten egg
Vegetable oil – About a cup

For the sauce – Simply chop the garlic very fine and combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
For the chicken – Cut the chicken in bite size pieces and place in a plastic bag. Pour in the beaten egg and coat all the chicken pieces in the bag. Add the flour, corn starch, salt and the water and mix everything very well. Let the chicken marinate in the flour mixture for a minimum of 30 minutes.

In a fryer or heavy saucepan, heat the vegetable oil; about 3 centimetres until it reaches 175 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit. Fry a few pieces at a time, until brown and crispy. Once cooked to your liking, transfer them in an oven-safe dish and keep warm in the oven, while you attend to the rest of your chicken.
Once you have fried all your chicken, discard most of the oil, keeping the equivalent of two tablespoons and stir in all your vegetables. Cook the vegetables at high heat, until the onions start to brown at the edges.
Stir the chicken back in the pan and pour the sauce mixture and mix everything to make sure every piece of chicken is covered with a little bit of sauce.
Several recipes call for cornstarch to thicken the sauce, I found the sauce will thicken quickly enough with the addition of tomato ketchup.
Serve hot and with a steamed rice and vegetable of your choice.

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