Sweet and sour pork is a Cantonese dish, and probably one of the most liked by foreigners and South Chinese people alike. As the ingredients are readily available in quite a few countries among the world, it does not require special local ingredients. The attractiveness of this dish comes from the crunchy and crispy pork pieces, coated with a sweet and sour sauce together with fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, pine apple, tomato and onions.  The origins go back to the Qing dynasty, when more foreigners in Guangzhou like the sweet and sour spare ribs. However, since the foreigners could not handle the bones as well as the Chinese, something that I have observed is true till today, Chinese chefs developed a similar recipe based on tender pork cuts.

The art of making sweet and sour pork

Making this dish requires only a few pointers. First select a lean piece of pork meat. The tenderloin being the best, but certainly not absolutely required to be that lean. Second, to obtain crispy pork pieces, deep fry them twice, first at lower temperatures, then briefly at a higher temperature. Third and final, do not cook the vegetables too long. The dish is best if the vegetables are also still somewhat crunchy. This way more vitamins are preserved and colors look brighter.

The taste of the sauce can be influenced by your own preference. I use a combination of tomato ketchup, Thai sweet chilly sauce and some wine vinegar. However, also chili sauce and plum sauce combinations are being used and of course rice vinegar is even more traditional.

Special equipment

  1. a wok or deep frying pan
  2. slotted spoon
Sweet and sour pork©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Sweet and Sour Pork (Gu Lao Rou)

Daniel Brouwer
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Total Time 44 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Cantonese
Servings 4


for the meat preparations

  • 1 lb pork meat, preferably lean
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1.5 tbsp shaoxing wine can be substituted by a dry sherry
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp tapioca starch can be substituted by corn starch
  • 1.1 pint (500 ml) vegetable oil for frying sunflower, peanut , rapeseed or similar

for the vegetables

  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper
  • 1 - 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/3 lb (150 g) pineapple

for the sauce

  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 3 tbsp Thai chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz (110 ml) water


Meat marination and frying

  • Cut the pork meat in pieces of 1 inch by 3/4 inch or thereabouts. Try to make them the same size, otherwise they will be unevenly cooked
  • Mix all the marinade ingredients, i.e. everything, except for the tapioca starch and the vegetable oil and mix in the pork pieces. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 25 min, but over night is even better
  • When it is time to prepare dinner, first bring the sauce together and cut all vegetables. Thereafter, bring 1.1 pint of vegetable oil to around 150 C (so medium warm). at the same time coat the pork pieces in the starch. When the oil is warm, fry the pork pieces in the oil, until golden. This may take several minutes.
  • Take the pieces out with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen paper.
  • Then warm the oil to hot (200 C) and refry the meat until crispy and a shade darker in color.
  • Let the meat drain on a kitchen paper towel.


  • Bring all ingredients together, stir so that also the sugar is dissolved, and set aside

Vegetables and bringing it together

  • cut the bell peppers in 1 by 3/4 inch size pieces, the onion and tomatoes in wedges of similar size
  • Stir fry the vegetables in 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil on high fire. Do not overcook! Better to under cook. Add the sauce and heat up until boiling, while stirring. The vegi's will be cooked a bit more. If the sauce is still too thin, add a little starch/water mixture and stir to thicken. Then add the deep fried pork pieces and immediately serve.


Method: deep frying
Food allergy & intolerance information: fish (oyster sauce), can be substituted by soy sauce or some salt; 
Keyword crispy pork, crunchy pork


In general: keeping the time between taking the pork out of the deep fryer and adding them to the vegetable/sauce mixture short, will keep your pork crispy.

You can make variations in the vegetables of course. The use of starchy dragon fruit is sometimes used.

Also the use of cucumber is sliced in ‘bricks’ is quite common.

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