Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sweet & Sour -whatever-

Sweet and sour is a very versatile dish.  You can use a variety of meats, such as chicken, shrimp, or pork (not sure beef would be good - but, to be honest, I've never tried it).  It's also a good way to use of vegetables as just about anything can go into a sweet & sour dinner.

 Living on a gulf coast state, we regularly get shrimp on sale in our local grocery stores.  This week, our local Tom Thumb had shrimp for $2.99/lb (in 2 lb bags).  It was the small (51-60/lb) shrimp - but that's perfect for a sweet & sour.

I found a good sweet & sour recipe in a Thai cookbook recently - which I, of course, have modified to my own tastes.  The trick to a good sweet & sour is to have a variety of colors in the vegetables.  I like to include the following colors:  red, green, yellow, orange, white

  • Rice
  • 1 - 1½ lbs of meat (chicken, pork, or shrimp)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • oil
  • 1 cup cashews (optional)
  • Variety of vegetables cut into bite sized pieces, such as
    • pineapple chunks, 1 can *
    • onion *
    • bell pepper *
    • carrot *
    • water chestnuts, 1 can
    • bamboo shoots, 1 can
    • snow peas
    • sugar peas
    • cucumber
    • celery
    • mushrooms
    • tomato
* a 'must have' vegetable - in my own most humble of opinions
Sweet & Sour sauce ingredients
  • 1 cup stock (see note 1)
  • 6 Tbl vinegar (nothing fancy, cider vinegar is just fine)
  • 6 Tbl sugar (I prefer brown, but white will suffice)
  • 4 Tbl ketchup (or catsup, whichever name you prefer)
  • Tbl juice from pineapple chunks (if using shrimp, can substitute with 2 Tbl Thai fish sauce, if desired)
  • Tbl oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbl corn starch
  • Tbl chili sauce (see note 6)
  • 1 Tbl grated ginger
  1. Start cooking rice.  While rice is cooking, cut up vegetables
  2. If using shrimp, peel and devein it and save the shells (see note 1). If using chicken or pork then cut into bite sized cubes.
  3. Mince garlic and mix with meat and let sit until ready to cook (can even be done a few hours ahead of time)
  4. Add a couple Tbl oil to wok and saute the vegetables.  Different vegetables require different amounts of cooking time; so, I suggest adding them in the following order, sauteing each for a minute or so until adding the next (if not using a particular vegetable then just skip it).  That way, the first vegetables added get cooked longer
    • carrot
    • celery + bell pepper + onion
    • mushroom + cucumber
    • tomato + snow peas + sugar peas
    • water chestnuts + bamboo shoots + pineapple chunks (just enough to heat through)
  5. Remove vegetables to a serving bowl
  6. Add a bit more oil to wok and saute meat until cooked through
  7. Add sweet & sour sauce and cook until thickened
  8. Add vegetables back to wok and stir until all is coated
  9. Remove to serving bowl
  10. Service with rice
  11. Go vegetate on the couch after having eaten too much because it tasted so good
  1. If using chicken or pork then use 1 cup chicken stock. If using shrimp, put shrimp shells in a small sauce pan along with about 1½ - 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Then let simmer for a bit to reduce (and concentrate the flavor).  Turn off and let cool with shells in water (which will maximize the amount of flavor in the water).   Strain and add 1 cup of the shrimp stock to the sweet & sour sauce.
  2. Don't skimp on the vegetables - use a cup or two of each.  Makes it more healthy.
  3. I prefer canola oil, but any vegetable oil will suffice
  4. Personally, I don't like the taste of green bell peppers; so, I always use red, yellow, or orange.
  5. A trick I learned from Rachel Ray (Food Network) is to buy fresh ginger, peel it and then freeze it in a small ziplock baggie.  You can then just take it out of the freezer and just grate however much you need.  Being frozen, it grates up nice and fine.
  6. For the chili sauce, I use Sriracha sauce - which my children refer to as "rooster sauce" because of the picture of a chicken on the bottle.

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