Monday, March 09, 2015

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Authentic Chinese cuisine is mostly bland, but we Indians especially living in the South make it more spicy and call that Indo-Chinese cuisine. Among the authentic Chinese delicacies, there are a few surprises, some dishes that are abundantly based on fruits. Pineapple, the tropical wonder fruit has the qualities of both vegetable and fruit because it is mostly fibrous and juicy, at the same time sweet and sour in taste. It is widely used in global cuisine. Chinese also have found a prime place for pineapple in one of the most wonderful dishes I have ever tasted, 'Sweet and Sour Chicken'.
I first tasted this dish in Mysore way back in 1979 when I was a regular at Shang-Hai restaurant in Shivarampet. The lady and her son who managed the restaurant found out that I am a Chinese cuisine buff and they recommended me many of the authentic dishes including Chicken with Cashewnuts and Veg, Hunan Chicken and this Sweet and Sour Chicken. I also started ordering that dish occasionally when I relocated to Bangalore, where I was mostly visiting Rice Bowl, Continental and Ginza around Brigade Road and Church Street. This is one dish that can be relished as it is or as main course dish with fried rice or noodles.

I first prepared this dish in 2009 but the recipe I followed was not authentic and I had not added pineapple juice then. I found a good recipe by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor recently but he recommended the baking method for chicken pieces, whereas I followed the deep frying method. I also made little changes in the ingredients and arrived at a fantastic recipe of my own eventually!

Then again, the lonely pineapple from our garden was employed in this preparation. That one was sufficient to make a summer cooler mocktail and a sweet dish as well. This easy to make dish requires some preparation like extracting pineapple juice, preparing chicken stock, marinating chicken and cutting pineapple fruit as well as handful of vegetables. Marinating chicken is not suggested in most of the recipes you find online or on books but I recommend this step for two reasons. One is, chicken pieces get tender and at the same time when you coat them in flour and deep fry them, they become evenly cooked and become crispy on the outside, soft and spongy inside. Even after you cook them with sauces and keep the leftover dish inside a fridge for a couple of days, the chicken pieces remain as succulent and tasty as freshly cooked!
Our friend Uma Shenoi is basically a lover of spicy and hot preparations but she authenticated this dish as too good. Even my choice is spicy food but I didn't add chilli sauce or other additives to make this spicy while consuming it. I just mix fried rice or noodle with this and enjoy my dinner. Hope you will also enjoy yours.


For the Fried Chicken: 
Boneless Chicken - 500Gms(One inch pieces)
White Vinegar - 2 Tsp
White Pepper powder - 1/2 Tsp
Salt - 1/4 Tsp
Corn Flour - 4-5 Tbsp(Reserve left over corn flour for making paste later) 
Refined Vegetable Oil - Sufficient for deep frying 

For the Sauce:
Ginger - 1" piece chopped
Garlic - 10 cloves peeled and chopped
Chicken Stock - 300Ml(Either boil bony waste pieces of chicken with chopped ginger pepper powder, one bay leaf in 1 Liter water for 15-20 minutes and strain it or use 2 Maggi Chicken cubes)
Unsweetened Pineapple Juice - About 200Ml(1 thick slice pineapple chopped, liquefied with 200ml water and strained)
Dark Soy sauce - 1 Tsp
Salt - To taste
White Pepper powder - 1 and half Tsp
Sugar - 1 Tsp
White Vinegar - 1 Tsp
Corn Flour - Leftover from chicken dusted for deep frying. Mix with some water to make a thin paste.

Vegetables:Spring Onion bulbs - 2-3 chopped
Onion - 1 medium cubed

Capsicum - Handful of 1" pieces
Red/Yellow Bell Pepper or Carrot Sliced - Handful of 1" pieces
Pineapple - Handful of 1" cubes)
Onion Shoot - 2-3 sprigs cut into 1" long piece
Wash pat dry and marinate the chicken pieces with salt, white pepper powder and vinegar for 1-2 hours in the fridge.
Heat oil in a wok and allow it to start fuming.
Reduce the heat to medium.
Dust the marinated chicken pieces in corn flour to coat them and deep fry 4-6 pieces at a time in hot oil till crisp and golden.
Allow to cool down on a colander lined with kitchen paper.
Heat a frying pan and add 1 Tsp oil from the wok.
Stir fry the onions, chopped spring onion bulbs and carrots on high flame slightly, followed by pineapple pieces, capsicum and bell peppers(if you are adding bell peppers) till crunchy, adding a pinch each of salt and white pepper powder.
Keep aside.
To the same pan, add one more tsp oil from the wok and fry chopped ginger, garlic and spring onion bulb.
Add pineapple juice and chicken stock.
Add dark soy sauce and bring to a boil.
Add salt, sugar and remaining white pepper powder.
Now add the corn flour paste and stir till the sauce starts to thicken.
Add the fried veggies and chicken pieces.
Allow to sizzle on full flame for 2-3 minutes till chicken pieces are well coated with the sauce.
Add vinegar and mix gently.
Finally garnish with chopped onion shoot and serve hot with fried rice or noodles. 
1. You can use the same fried chicken pieces to make a number of Chinese gravy based preparations like Hunan Chicken, Ginger Chicken, Garlic Chicken, Chicken with Cashewnuts and Veg, Chili Chicken or even Chicken Manchurian.
2. Vegetarians can make this dish with baby corn adding vegetable stock. Use one maggi vegetable cube for making stock.
3. Most of the Sweet and Sour Chicken recipes have added tomato sauce or ketchup but I don't prefer adding that directly. If you wish, you can always add it optionally while eating this.

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