When you go out to eat or have a take away from your local Chinese Restaurant you will most likely be eating a Cantonese style meal. The recipes are often not the most authentic and are Cantonese cuisine adapted for Western tastes, which is a huge shame as Cantonese is revered in China as one of the most celebrated national styles of cooking. In the eighteenth century, the Qing Dynasty allowed the Guangdong region, home to the Cantonese, to be opened to the first foreign traders and natives from the area were amongst the first immigrants to settle in the United Kingdom and America exporting their traditions and food.
Cantonese cuisine is all about simple dishes, letting the flavour of the key ingredients stand out, using fish and seafood from the region’s coast and the abundant agricultural produce. The key additional flavours in Cantonese cooking are the ‘trinity’ of scallions or spring onions, ginger and garlic, with the addition of rice wine and soy sauce. Spices and herbs are only used in moderation although fresh coriander is used as a garnish, perhaps the most popular is Chinese Five Spice. The key method of cooking is stir-frying in a wok.
The most abused Cantonese recipe is the probably Sweet and Sour with cannon ball sized lumps of stodgy, deep-fried dough floating in over-sweet, violent orange coloured, gloopy sauces and don’t even get me started on pineapple. The following recipe is I hope a little more authentic and delicate, although I am not so sure about the fried egg, I had this in a great little restaurant in China Town, and it is a delicious addition! The joy of many, but not quite all, Chinese recipes is they are very quick and easy and once you have a few key staples in your cupboard you have any number of dishes available to you. Enjoy.
Cantonese ( Sweet and Sour ) Pork serves 4
AS ALWAYS A NOTE OF CAUTION BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FRYING IN HOT OIL.
1 Carrot, peeled and cut into fine strips
1 Red Pepper, diced
A small bunch of Spring Onions, washed and very finely sliced
1 small Red Chilli, finely sliced ( you can omit this but I like a little kick of Chilli )
6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed
½ piece of Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
A good pinch of Chinese Five Spice
1 tablespoon Corn Flour ( approximately )
100 ml quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
2 tablespoon Rice Wine
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
A small bunch of Coriander to Garnish
for the fried Pork
500 gr Pork Loin, skin removed, washed and diced
2 Egg Whites
Juice of 1 Lemon
60 gr Cornflour
Sea Salt and Cayenne Pepper
1.5 litres Vegetable Oil
For the sauce heat the vegetable oil in a wok and stir-fry the carrots, garlic and ginger for two to three minutes then add the pepper. In a small pan, heat the chicken stock, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, cloves and Chinese five spice and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes then thicken with the cornflour mixed with a little water and the tomato puree. After another five minutes simmering, strain into the wok and set on a very low heat.
For the pork, sieve the cornflour into a large bowl and add a generous amount of salt and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites and lemon juice. Then dip the pork cubes into the corn flour, the egg whites and back into the corn flour. In your wok or a large heavy bottomed pan heat the oil to 160°C / 320 F using a thermometer to check. If you do not have a thermometer have a few cubes of stale white bread to hand. Place in a bread cube in the oil if it rises to the surface and cooks to a golden brown in a couple of minutes the oil is hot enough.
Fry the pork in batches carefully lowering into the hot oil, for around six to eight minutes or until the batter is crisp and golden, turning from time to time with a large slotted spoon. When the pork is cooked using the slotted spoon remove from the hot oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep hot in a warm oven. When all the pork is cooked place into the hot sauce with the finely sliced spring onions. Stir and then serve with steamed rice and garnish with fresh coriander ( add an egg if you are feeling adventurous ).