Sweet and Sour Sauce
Sweet and sour is a generic term that encompasses many styles of sauce, cuisine and cooking methods. It originates from China, and is also popular in Europe and North America. Chinese cuisine
This style of using sauces is popular amongst Chinese who tie certain sauces to particular meats such as chili and soy for shrimp and vinegar
for goose. There are, however, some dishes, such as the Cantonese sweet and sour pork
or Loong har kow (sweet and sour lobster
balls), in which the meat is cooked and a sauce added to the wok before serving.
Not all dishes are cooked; some, such as "sweet and sour fruit and vegetable" salad from the eastern regions of China, also find their way in Chinese cuisine. This dish combines salad vegetables such as cucumber
, bell pepper
, and onion
with a mixture of pineapple
(or pear), vinegar, and sugar
to make a cold served dish.
In China traditionally the sauces are made from mixing sugar or honey with a sour liquid such as rice vinegar, soy sauce
, and spices such as ginger
. Sometimes a paste made from tomatoes is used but this is rare and normally restricted to western cooking.Western cuisine
Western cultures use sweet and sour sauce in two different ways. Dishes can either include the sauce as an ingredient in cooking or use the sauce as a pour-over or dipping sauce for the meal.
Chinese restaurants in Western countries commonly serve chicken
, or shrimp that has been battered and deep-fried, then served with a sweet and sour sauce poured over the meat. It is also common to find the sweet and sour sauce cooked with sliced green peppers, onions and pineapple before it is poured over the meat.
Many western dishes involve cooking the meat with a variety of ingredients to make a complete sweet and sour dish in the manner of the Gu lo yuk. The most popular dishes are those of pork and shrimp. In French cuisine, it has been developed contrary to traditional French cooking practices and preparation of sweet and sour sauce often involves immersing the food in a plentiful amount of sauce.
Common in Western sweet and sour sauce is the addition of fruits such as pineapple and vegetables such as sweet pepper and green onions. Traditional rice vinegar is becoming more readily available due to the increase in Asian food stores but a mixture of vinegar and dry sherry is often still used in sweet and sour dishes. Also common is the use of corn starch as thickener for the sauce and tomato ketchup to give a stronger red colour to the dish and to add a Western taste. Most supermarkets across Europe and America carry a range of prepared sweet and sour sauces either for adding to a stir-fry or for use as a dipping sauce.
Primarily in North America, sweet and sour sauce is available in small plastic packets or containers at Chinese take-out establishments for use as a dipping sauce.
A number of variations are used in barbecue cuisine, either home-made or prepared from a number of common brands.
Besides American Chinese restaurants, popular fast food restaurants such as McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's carry their own brand of sweet and sour sauce packets. These are commonly used as a dipping sauce for Chicken fingers and chicken nuggets.