A Retro Recipe for Sweet & Sour Pork (RRC#7)

I have a pretty big cookbook collection for someone of my age. I can’t help but look at them in every bookshop I go to, especially those ‘bargain’ tables that are piled high with $5 books!, I am a VIP member of the doubleday bookclub, I ask for them for gifts and I even advertised on freecycle once for people to give me any cookbooks they no longer needed, back when I first left home. If you are a student who loves cooking, but you don’t have money to buy cookbooks this is a great way to get some. I mean sure, most of them are older books and they come pre-loved with food splatters on the pages, but it is a good way to get some inspiration for cooking without spending a dollar. One lady gave me 3 huge boxes of books, way more than I could possibly need. I sorted through and chose the ones I liked best and sent the rest to the op shop.

One gem that I found in those boxes is a book called ‘The McCormick Spices of the World Cookbook’, I say book, but it is actually a little folder with dividers for different categories such as ‘How to Use Spices’, ‘Soups’, ‘Meats’, ‘Desserts’, etc. Which makes me wonder if this was a kind of promo where people bought McCormicks spices and sent away for the different categories to add to their little binder. From what I can tell the little folder is complete and it is in relatively good condition, with only a few snail eaten pages – Which is pretty good since the book was published in 1964!

This book has intruiged me since it fell into my hands a couple of years ago, but I haven’t made anything from it yet. So when I saw that Laura Rebecca had chosen the theme for Retro Recipe Challenge #7 to be a recipe with ‘International Flare’ I thought of this book straight away. It is definitely retro (the rules state it has to have been published before 1985), and the title of the book is ‘Spices of the World‘ so how could I go wrong? But what to make!? I read the book from cover to cover looking for something to cook. Disturbingly, I saw MSG listed as an ingredient in far too many of the recipes, which seems to show the books age a little. Do they even sell MSG in supermarkets anymore? I have never seen it!

I came accross this recipe for Sweet & Sour Pork in the ‘Meats’ section: it is free of MSG, I love sweet & sour sauce, and I don’t eat much pork – so I thought I would give it a go. I found it amusing that it required lean pork, which was then deep fried, but I suppose it is better than the alternative of ‘fat’ pork being deep fried.

My main problems involved the ingredients – I have never even heard of arrowroot before looking at this recipe (if you haven’t either it is a thickening agent, much like cornflour, but it keeps the sauce clear instead of turning it opaque like cornflour. I found it in the flour isle at my supermarket right next to the cornflour), shortening I had heard of in american recipes but didn’t quite know what to substitute (I ended up substituting a vegetable shortening called copha for it, but after making the recipe I think that any oil or fat could be used. Just use whatever you usually use for deep/shallow frying). It was very tasty, much better than bottled sweet & sour sauce for sure!

And yay! My camera has batteries again!!

Sweet & Sour Pork (Serves 4 – 6)

Sweet & Sour Pork

Cut 900g lean pork into small strips and place in a pan with 1C water & 6 whole cloves. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for 25 minutes, or until pork is tender. Drain, remove cloves and cool. While meat is cooking combine 1/4C butter, 1C brown sugar, 1/4C arrowroot, 1/4C soy sauce, 1/4C vinegar, 1 1/2C pineapple juice, 1/2tsp onion powder & 1/2tsp grated ginger in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly until thickened. Don’t turn your back on it as it thickens in a couple of minutes, trust me on this one – watch it like a hawk, or be prepared to dilute it with more soy sauce and pineapple juice when it over thickens! You can complete these steps in advance and keep them refrigerated separately until needed.

When ready, cut 1 green capsicum into large pieces, 1 carrot into thin discs and 1 onion into thin slices. Cook vegetables in a large pan with 2Tbsp butter for a few minutes until softened. While they are cooking mix together 2Tbsp soy sauce & 2Tbsp cornflour and use it to coat cooled pork. Heat 1/2C oil (or shortening or butter/margarine) and fry pork pieces until brown and crisp. Add pork and sweet & sour sauce to vegetables and mix together. Serve over rice.

Printable Recipe

7 thoughts on “A Retro Recipe for Sweet & Sour Pork (RRC#7)

  1. You know, you could certainly try it with the cornflour / cornstarch and probably be just fine. I’d be willing to guess that it’d work with tapioca flour as well, or with agar agar even, or okra, if you wanted to.

    Do you even taste the cloves in this? I routinely throw as many as a dozen cloves into the spice mill & add them to breads, so I can’t conceive of only using them for 25 minutes & then throwing them away.

    As always, though, food for thought. :)

  2. Ming – This wouldn’t be a every night kind of meal for me, but as you have probably noticed from reading around my blog, I don’t like to let my diabetes get in the way of me enjoying food.

    I count the carbohydrates in everything I eat and adjust my insulin doses accordingly. Last nights meal of sweet & sour pork did require quite a bit of extra insulin, probably double what I would usually take for dinner. But I like to look at it like this, my brother ( a non-diabetic) also ate this meal with me last night, in fact he probably ate three times as much as I did, his body just produced more insulin to cover the higher carbohydrate content, where as I had to inject it.

    I also try to combat the higher sugar content by eating more of the vegetables & pork rather than the sauce and filling up with rice. I use basmati rice as it has a lower GI than other rice and therefore helps to lower the GI of the meal overall.

    I am a strong believer that Type 1 Diabetics can eat anything in moderation, I just have to put quite a bit more thought into my food than most people do (counting carbohydrates, looking at GI values, balancing food over the day, etc).

  3. Davimack – Since I was making this for the first time I decided to give the arrowroot a go. Granted, it was quite easy to find at the supermarket, if it wasn’t I doubt I would have gone searching for it. It was also quite cheap so I figured it was worth the $1.50 to have a clear sauce, and there is plenty left to use in other dishes.

    On my container of arrowroot it states its ingredients as: tapioca and preservatives, so I’m guessing they are one and the same.

    As for the cloves, I was also dubious about only using 4 and not for very long. I don’t think I could taste them, I would probably try more next time.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  4. Yes – you’ve probably got primarily tapioca, a few silicates (as anti-caking agents), and a wee bit of arrowroot. As I understand, it used to be quite commonly used in tureens and the like, as it provides a harder gel than is possible with cornstarch or tapioca, and it provides a different type of gelatin than is present in gelatin (being primarily derived from animal bones, as opposed to the arrow-root plant’s … root).

    You can use the real deal as a replacement for animal-derived gelatin, if you’re interested in providing gelled dishes for the hard-core vegans.

What do you think?