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Chinese Food - Sweet and Sour Sauce

Sweet and sour - it's a combination indelibly linked to Chinese cuisine. Who hasn't ordered a dish flavored with sweet and sour sauce from a Chinese take-out at one time or another?  

According to sources, the Cantonese probably originally came up with the idea of merging these two very different flavors, although it is unclear when the idea originated or what led to its invention.  One source states that pork flavored with sweet and sour sauce was actually created to satisfy foreign tastes.  Whether or not that is true, sweet and sour dishes remain very popular in China. Sweet and sour pork is a popular treat on Chinese New Year's Eve: since the Cantonese word for sour sounds like the word for grandchildren, families believe that serving this dish will help ensure that they have more grandchildren in the New Year. 

While most of us are familiar with sweet and sour pork, sweet and sour sauce is used to flavor a number of stir-fried meats, such as beef and chicken.  It also makes an excellent dipping sauce. The "sweet" in sweet and sour sauce comes from either white or brown sugar.   As for the "sour," this is achieved by adding vinegar.  More authentic recipes generally call for either rice wine - such as Shao Hsing - or rice vinegar.  Made from a combination of glutinous rice, millet, a special yeast, and local mineral water, Shao Hsing rice wine tastes like dry sherry.  By contrast, rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and is sweeter than regular wine vinegar. A few recipes call for Chinkiang vinegar - a black vinegar with a distinctive flavor named after a city in eastern China. Ketchup is commonly used to give sweet and sour sauce its unusual color.

There's nothing wrong with varying the quantities of sugar and/or vinegar in the recipe to either increase or reduce the sweetness of the sauce.  In fact, differences in the flavor of sweet and sour dishes are found throughout China, with Cantonese dishes tending to be sweeter than those found in other regions.  Below are some recipes for you to try. 

Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipes:
Sweet and Sour Sauce - can be poured over a dish or used as a dipping sauce
Sweet and Sour Sauce - made with vinegar and Worcestershire sauce
Pineapple Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce - the sauce is made with pineapple and brown sugar
Sweet and Sour Chicken With Lemon
Sweet and Sour Chicken With Black Rice Vinegar
Sweet and Sour Fish
Sweet and Sour Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham) - sweet and sour, Vietnamese-style
Sweet and Sour Pork, Cantonese Style
Sweet and Sour Pork With Dark Soy Sauce
Sweet and Sour Tofu - a great idea from one of our readers
Sweet and Sour Vegetables - a simple way to liven up Oriental-style frozen vegetables

How to Store Chinese Sauce and Seasonings



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How to Make Sweet and Sour Chicken

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