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Now You Know: Different Versions of Sweet and Sour Pork in China

We’re all familiar with Sweet and Sour Pork. It’s a beloved dish that is available in many Chinese restaurants, and at this point, you would think that you’ve tried every possible version of it. That’s what I thought as well, but during my deepdive into a series of cooking tutorials on YouTube, I found out that the Sweet and Sour Pork that we know today isn’t exactly the most authentic way to make it. In fact, the orange sauce-drenched pork served with pineapple chunks and bell peppers is actually a version that the Chinese diaspora communities created to suit the foreigners’ taste palette, but there are many other versions of Sweet and Sour Pork in China. 

 

Dong Bei Guo Bao Rou 东北鍋包肉

Guo Bao Rou is the most common sweet and sour dish found in the Northeastern part of China. When you see pictures of it, you wouldn’t immediately think of it as Sweet and Sour Pork. The sauce isn’t as vibrant orange as sweet and sour tends to be, and that’s because it does not usually contain ketchup. Instead, it is made with a mixture of sugar and white vinegar, so it is sweet and sour in the most basic sense. Both Chinese Cooking Demystified and Kind of Cooking shows you how to make Guo Bao Rou, although the former is more traditional, while the latter adds a few more ingredients to elevate the dish. 

Photo from The Woks of Life

Gu Lou Yuk 咕嚕肉

Gu Lou Yuk is Cantonese-style Sweet and Sour Pork, and it resembles the Westernized version the most because the sauce also contains ketchup and is typically served with bell peppers and pineapple. However, the traditional version of Gu Lou Yuk uses hawberry jam instead of ketchup to give the sauce its tangy flavor. Chinese Cooking Demystified has another tutorial that shows you how to make it, but since hawberries are difficult to find outside of China, Chef Lucas Sin of New York also has a video on how to make sweet and sour sauce with haw flakes.  

Photo from Tara’s Multicultural Table

 

Tang Cu Li Ji 糖醋里脊

Tang Cu Li Ji is Szechuan-style Sweet and Sour Pork. It is made with pork tenderloin that has been cut into strips instead of chunks, and the main difference is that the sauce has a darker color because it contains black vinegar. It’s also less sweet compared to the Americanized version. Tasty has a video that further elaborates on the differences of Tang Cu Li Ji and the typical Sweet and Sour Pork and also shows you a more home cook-friendly recipe. 

Screenshot from Tasty’s Video

Lychee Pork 荔枝肉

Lychee Pork is one of the signature dishes of Fujianese cuisine. It’s technically a version of Sweet and Sour Pork, except the sauce is made with 红曲酒糟  or red yeast rice wine that gives it a bright red color, making it look more like tocino. It’s also served with water chestnuts. Contrary to its name, it does not actually contain lychees, and it’s only called as such because the pork pieces resemble lychee skins once they curl up in the fryer and are slathered in red glaze. Here is another tutorial from Chinese Cooking Demystified

Photo from xlbcr.com

 

Did you know about all the different versions of Sweet and Sour Pork? Tell us which one you want to try the most!

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