Recipe - Sweet & Sour Chicken

[Recipe was first posted in December 2010] I remember the history of this recipe well. It was my attempt in college to make a dish that my mom made at home often. The trouble was that I didn't know what went into the sweet and sour sauce she made, so it was all guesswork. I ended up with something a tad different from hers but still quite tasty. Now, if you have seen my recent recipe work where I try to make everything from scratch, you might be scolding me for not making all of this from scratch. Assuredly there is a way to do that but I wanted to recreate this in a manner that would be quick and simple for the fledging cook. After all, this is from when I first started cooking.

I like how the two components of this dish intersect (I'm not counting rice as one of the components, though I would suggest serving this on it) with one part being saucy and sour while another is crunchy and savory. This came from a time when innovation based on a college budget was key, so instant mashed potato flakes became my "breading" for the chicken. Interestingly enough, it actually worked out well so that the flakes crisped on the outside when fried while staying moist and soft on the inside due to the starchiness. I've used this style of frying up chicken many a time now. Give this sweet and sour chicken recipe a shot yourself!
Step 1: Ingredients (yields 3-4 servings)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 can (8-10 oz) pineapple rings, chunked and juice reserved
  • 4 medium Roma tomatoes, chunked (about 2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chunked (about 1 cup)
  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, 1" pieces
  • 1 cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 4 oz. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in water 
Step 2: Preparing vegetables
In a large saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, beef broth, and pineapple juice on medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Prepare all vegetables accordingly - see photos for references on "chunked" description. Once water has boiled, add in all vegetables.

Step 3: Preparing chicken
Cut the chicken breasts up into smaller pieces between 1"-2" wide. Coat pieces in garlic salt and potato flakes. Start a large skillet with enough oil to coat the bottom. When hot enough (oil is shimmery but not smoking), add chicken. Make sure not to crowd the skillet lest you end up steaming the meat instead of frying. Fry on the first side until the meat is mostly white with just a pink top and then flip. Remove once golden brown.

Step 4: Finishing
Dissolve cornstarch into a small bowl with water. Add ketchup and cornstarch into the saucepan mixture and stir. You'll notice that the sauce will quickly thicken. Adjust to your liking if needed. Serve over rice with crispy chicken pieces or even on top of the chicken.

Photography by Duc Duong.