Sweet and Sour Chicken is an easy homemade recipe. It also fits the categories of “Family Favorites” and “Best Chicken Recipes.” As a stir fry dish, it makes a quick and tasty supper meal with vegetables, fruit and low-fat chicken. It’s a healthy meal – what more to ask for. The sweet and sour sauce is an original one that I’ve adapted from many attempts over the years; this is one that I really like.
This is a quick supper meal; make it in the time to cook the long grain rice. The vegetables are stir fried and the chicken is “fried”. The long grain rice can be steaming while the rest of the preparation is going on. The sauce involves combining and heating a few ingredients. Then everything is combined and heated. It makes an entire meal.
Vegetables and Fruits – Creative Possibilities
Sweet and Sour Chicken is a recipe that can be adapted to what ever vegetables and fruits a person has on hand. I always include onions, garlic, bell peppers and mandarin oranges. This time I added carrots and tomatoes; usually I’ll add pineapple tidbits or chunks.
There is a wide variety of ingredients that taste good with this recipe. I’ve added broccoli flowerettes, snow peas, celery, red peppers, water chestnuts. Some of the frozen oriental vegetable mixes can be substituted for the fresh vegetables. It is easy to use your imagination.
For the chicken, I usually purchase chicken tenderloin strips-either fresh or frozen. It takes a little time to cut out the ligament that runs through each piece, but it is not too hard using a sharp knife. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts can also be used; cut them it bite size pieces. However, I find that chicken tenderloin strips are usually less expensive and more tender. (I guess the reason for the name.) The chicken pieces are marinated in garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and soy sauce and then coated with cornstarch.
“Frying” the Chicken
Many recipes call for deep frying the battered chicken pieces. This adds alot of fat, defeating the purpose of creating a low-fat dish. I have come up with a technique to brown and cook the chicken without adding too much fat. Many years ago when I worked for food-related catalog company, I was asked to evaluate a heavy, teflon-coated iron skillet. It has turned out to be one of my favorite cooking pieces. It holds the heat well and the non-stick surface allows food to be cooked in minimum of oil.
To cook the chicken, I heat the skillet to medium heat (not high) and add a small amount of oil. Then I place the chicken pieces in the skillet in one layer. Cook until crispy and brown on one side. I use a spatula to flip the chicken pieces over and cook on the other side, adding a little more oil if needed. I avoid stirring or moving the chicken as the batter will not adhere to the chicken and it will probably burn.
Simple Sweet and Sour Sauce
The sweet and sour sauce is my favorite part of the dish. Mine is easy to make. I use the juice of the mandarin oranges and pineapples (if using these) to measure one cup. Then I add catsup, brown sugar, cider vinegar and a chicken bouillon cube.
This is cooked to boiling and then thickened with a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water.
Then I pour some of the sauce into the cornstarch to warm it up – this way it won’t clump.
Return the sauce to the stove and heat to thick and bubbly. That’s it! I use equal parts of brown sugar and cider vinegar. The sauce is not too sweet or too sour and not too salty. It does make alot of sauce.
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 cups water
Add the rice and salt to the water in a small pot with tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low and steam, covered, for one half hour, until the rice is cooked and fluffy.
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut in chunks
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 bell pepper, cut in chunks
- 1 cup baby carrots, cut in chunks
Add oil and heat a large heavy, non-stick skillet to medium high heat. Add the vegetables and stir fry until tender, about 10 minutes. If needed, reduce heat to medium to avoid burning the vegetables, stir occasionally. Remove the vegetables from skillet and set aside.
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenderloin pieces (or chicken breast pieces)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch (approximately)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (or more)
Use a sharp knife to remove the ligament that runs through the chicken tenderloin pieces and cut in chunks. In medium, non-metal bowel, add the chicken, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper and stir to combine. Add enough soy sauce to coat. Then add enough cornstarch to coat the pieces. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in heavy, non-stick skillet to medium heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer. Cook on medium heat about 5 minutes until crispy and brown. Use a spatula and turn over, scraping up the coating, add the second Tbsp of oil and cook on the other side until cooked through. Set aside. Meanwhile, make the sweet and sour sauce:
- 1 11-oz can of mandarin orange segments with juice, reserve fruit; measure juice drained from mandarin oranges (and pineapple) to make 1 cup. Add water if needed.
- 1/2 cup catsup
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch plus 1/3 cup cold water
Add juice from mandarin oranges, catsup, cider vinegar and brown sugar to medium sauce pan. Cook on medium high heat and stir until boiling. Remove from heat. Combine the cornstarch with the cold water and stir to dissolve. Slowly stir some of the hot sauce into the cornstarch and stir, so that it doesn’t clump. Add back the the sauce in the pot. Return to medium high heat and stir constantly until bubbly.
- 1 tomato, cut in chunks
Add the sweet and sour sauce and cooked vegetables to the cooked chicken. Heat to bubbly on medium heat. Add in reserved mandarin oranges and tomato and heat. Serve over hot cooked rice. Serves 3.