Main course

Sweet and sour chicken

This Chinese restaurant standard was originally developed for pork. It follows the principles of sweet and sour dishes that date back to the Tang Dynasty of 708 AD. It is said that the notion of sweet and sour was invented by Chancellor Wei Juyuan when he had a party for Emperor Zhongzong of Tang. On that day, Wei made the dish with pork ribs.

Emperor Zhongzong of Tang (656–710)

The recipe given here is adapted from The Woks of Life, and is absolutely glorious. Say goodbye to the thick, cloying sweet sauce sauce with snort-inducing amounts of vinegar turned out by standrad-issue Chinese takeaways. Say hello to a wonderfully balanced piece of home cooking.

Sweet and sour chicken

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By Ann Marie Eastmond Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 1 day


  • For the marinade:
  • 600g boneless chicken thighs, diced
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Half a tsp sesame oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • 150g hot water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 150ml juice reserved from a tin of pineapple
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • For the batter:
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150ml ice-cold water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • For the other bits:
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, chunked
  • 1 red pepper, chunked
  • 1 green pepper, chunked
  • 2 tbsp cornflour blended with 2 tbsp water
  • 140g canned pineapple, chunked
  • Oil for frying


To marinate the chicken


Combine all the ingredients in a bag with the chicken, season, seal and leave in the fridge overnight.

To make the batter:


Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the water and mix until smooth. Stir in the oil.

To make the sauce:


Combine all the ingredients and heat gently to dissolve the sugar.

To fry the chicken:


Coat the chicken pieces in the batter.


Heat the oil for frying in a large, deep-sided pan. Fry the chicken in batches until golden and set aside in a bowl lined with kitchen paper.

To finish the dish:


Heat some oil in a wok. Fry the vegetables oil softened. Add the sauce and then sir in the loosened cornflour. Add the pineapple and warm through. Finally add the fried chicken and coat everything with the sauce. Serve immediately.

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