Sweet & Sour

No, this is not another post about travel in China and the good and bad – It’s a recipe from the road!!

There was this little restaurant near my Inn in the Shuhe district of Lijang.  This is in Yunnan China and I traveled to this south west corner of the country to hike the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

I didn’t know I was going to get a cooking lesson.


It just so happened that I ate at this wonderful restaurant every night I wasn’t on the trail.  It was a little family owned place not often frequented by tourists, especially western tourists.  I expressed in nods, thumbs up and my own version of Chinglish how much I loved their food.  It was true. Everything I ate was awesome.  Just like what we would think of as Chinese food in the States, only better.  It was fun too.  The chef would come out and talk to the everyone, tickle babies and make jokes and it really felt like a homey type place.  (Kind of like a Chinese Pandolifs… :).)

The night I was scheduled to leave on an overnight train to Kunming, I went by for an early dinner.  As usual, I was the only guest and this day, I was invited into the kitchen to make sweet and sour pork.  It was fun and a beautiful example about how food can break any cultural or language barriers we often perceive as insurmountable.


This day, we smiled, laughed, thumbs-upped until it hurt and ended up with an awesome meal before a 10 hour ride on the hard sleeper.

Sweet & Sour Pork

A note to begin, I say sweet & sour pork but chicken, tofu, beef or any hearty vegetable like potato would be awesome prepared in this manner.


  • Pork Tenderloin or Butt, trimmed, 6 ounces, sliced in strips
  • MSG 1 Teaspoon*
  • 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons Potato starch
  • Cold water, as needed
  • Ketchup 1/2 cup
  • 2 Tablesppons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed Red Pepper to taste
  • Sesame Seeds, Garnish
  • Scallions, roughly chopped, as Garnish
  • Vegetable Oil for Frying – about 3/4 cup


Combine pork, MSG, Kosher salt and egg white and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Add potato starch and stir until pork is evenly coated.  If mixture gets thick, add water until consistency seems light and airy rather than heavy or too thick.

Heat oil in wok or large frying pan to about 350 degrees.

Working in batches, lightly fry pork pieces, dropping into oil one at a time, until light cooked and crispy. Remove from oil and place on a towel lined plate.  Repeat until all pork has been lightly fried once.

Remove 3/4s of the oil from the pan.

Working in the same pan, add ketchup, sugar, red wine vinegar and cook with oil until bubbly and all ingredients are incorporated.  Return pork to pan and cook in the sauce over high heat until sauce is thick, bubbling and coating the crispy pork pieces.  Add a touch of salt and crushed red pepper to taste.

To serve, plate and garnish with sesame reds and scallions.

Smile & Enjoy with simply steamed rice.

*Yep, they use the shit out of MSG in China.  It is up to you if you choose to use it in your cooking or not – certainly not critical to this recipe.  It is usually not labaled MSG in stores but as a spice labeled something like flavor enhancer. Also, it is safe in general but it is still “chemicals” in your food. Read your ingredients on your spices with the thought in your mind if its listed first, what you are purchasing contains more of that ingredient than those which follow.  Never know, your favorite spice might just be MSG and you do not know it.

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2 Responses to “Sweet & Sour”

  1. mom
    November 27, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    That is so awesome! What a great experience for you. We will have to make this when you get home. Love mom:)

  2. Amber
    November 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    This made me laugh…chinglish, tickling babies, and using the shit out of MSG. Two thumbs up 😉

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