In Chinese cuisine, there are many sweet and sour dishes which are differentiated by regions or areas in China where these originate, or by dialect clan – for example, Cantonese, Hainanese, Szechuan, and so on. I am always amazed at how these taste distinctly different from each other, but are all so flavourful and are, in essence, authentic sweet and sour flavours.
The Cantonese are well known for their fine cuisine, and undoubtedly, when it comes to sweet and sour dishes, I think most of us have indelible impressions of the Cantonese version, which tends to be delightfully more sweet than sour.
Needless to say, there are so many good, and great, recipes one can try. Having experimented with many, I have stuck with just one or two recipes over the years. Here is one that you can start with – this is my go-to recipe for any dish – pork, fish, prawns or even tofu – that calls for a sweet and sour sauce.
I think what makes this fabulous is the use of a premium quality plum sauce, like that which you pour into, and toss with raw fish and grated vegetables in Yu Sheng, a specialty dish served at many Chinese New Year festive gatherings. The warm flavours of the plum sauce, combined with the citrus undertones of lemon juice and honey-like sweetness of brown sugar, adds breadth and depth of flavours, offsetting the tartness of the tomato and chilli sauces. The result is a perfectly balanced sweet and sour sauce.
In preparing sweet and sour fish, I always use fresh red snapper, though commonly, garoupa or grouper is often used. Not all fish are suitable, taste-wise, with sweet and sour sauce. Usually, white-fleshed fish with very subtle or mild flavours are good options.
This recipe serves 3 to 4 persons.
SWEET AND SOUR FISH RECIPE
300 gm fresh Red Snapper fillet,
skin removed, cut into 5-mm thick slices
Corn Flour, for coating
Vegetable Oil, for frying
1/2 Large Onion, diced
1/2 Green Pepper, diced
1/2 Red Pepper, diced
1/2 Yellow Pepper, diced
1 Tomato (optional),
seeds removed, diced
50 gm fresh Pineapple or
canned slices, diced
For the Sauce:
5 tbsp Tomato Sauce (Ketchup)
3 tbsp Plum Sauce
3 tbsp Chilli Sauce
1 tbsp Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Sea Salt
1. Mix all sauce ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil. Turn off heat, set aside.
2. Pat fish slices thoroughly dry with paper towels. Place into a deep bowl with enough corn flour to coat fish evenly, all over. Shake off excess flour. Discard leftover flour.
3. Fill a wok to 1/4 depth with oil and heat up till hot. Fry the fish in two batches, constantly stirring and separating fish slices in hot oil with a wok chan or stainless steel ladle. Deep fry till fish slices turn golden brown and just begin to crisp at the edges. Remove, drain onto paper towels. Let oil heat up again, before frying the second batch.
4. Pour out oil, leaving 2 to 3 tbsp in the wok and heat up over medium fire. When hot, add diced onion and peppers, fry for about a minute. Add diced pineapple and tomato, stir fry for another 15 to 20 seconds, then add the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add 2 to 3 tbsp water (the sauce should still be slightly thick and sticky, not watery), stir quickly to mix well. Put in fried fish slices all at once, quickly toss for another 20 seconds to coat fish all over with sauce. Turn off heat, dish out onto serving plate. Serve immediately.