Vegetarian Sweet and Sour Pork
Sweet and Sour Pork can be found on the menu at just about any Chinese restaurant. I wanted to make use of the pineapple and ketchup sauce in a vegetarian dish for the herbivores in my house. I substituted tofu for the pork; you can also use seitan if you prefer (or meat if you're like me).
I used fresh pineapple to provide natural sweetness and a hint of tang to the sauce. I also added a little lime juice to brighten it up. To thicken the sauce, I dissolved a little cornstarch in water and added it to the mix. To this, just throw in a few carrots and enoki mushrooms and you're ready for a quick and easy dinner.
Yields: 61 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
1 fresh pineapple, peeled, halved, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1/3 cup water
5 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 package enoki mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
For the pineapple:
Reserve about 1 to 2 cups of pineapple chunks. In a blender or a mini-blender if you have one, blend the rest of the pineapple and the ginger. Add a little water if the blender doesn't flow smoothly. Strain the mixture through a medium mesh sieve and gather about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of liquid. If you only have a fine mesh strainer, add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of pineapple pulp.
For the vegetables:
Peel and cut the carrot into slices using a vegetable carving knife.
Separate the enoki mushrooms and cut in thirds.
In a wok, heat about 2 teaspoons of oil. Add the garlic. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, stir-fry carrots. When the color is translucent and shiny, season with sea salt. Add about 1 cup of pineapple juice and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. The carrot should be tender, yet still firm. Add bell peppers. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the enoki mushrooms. Stir for another minute. Transfer to a plate.
For the sauce:
Mix the tapioca starch, soy sauce, remaining brown sugar, ketchup, chili garlic sauce, vinegar, 1/3 cup water and chili garlic sauce. Set aside.
In the same wok, drizzle about 2 more teaspoons of oil. Add the pineapple chunks. Cook for a minute, then add the rest of the pineapple juice. Bring to a boil. Add the tapioca mixture and stir constantly to prevent the starch from sticking to the bottom of the wok. Continuously stir the broth as it will thicken very quickly.
Add the vegetables. Check the texture of the sauce; it should be thick and syrupy. If you find the sauce to be too thick, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water.
For the tofu:
Drain any liquid from the tofu. Pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the block of tofu into 1-inch thick pieces. Separate the pieces.
In another pan, heat the remaining oil for about 2 minutes. The key to a good fried tofu is to get little bubbles when the tofu is in contact with the oil. Don't overheat the oil; otherwise the tofu will get too browned and chewy. Just stick to the slightly jumping bubbles. Add the tofu one piece at a time, making sure the tofu pieces don't touch each other. Lower the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes; the tofu will start to pop and increase in volume. Flip each piece and cook about a minute longer. Pick up each tofu piece with wooden chopsticks with as little oil as possible and immediately dip the tofu into the sweet and sour sauce. The tofu will deflate instantaneously. Repeat until all the tofu pieces are ready. Finish with lime juice and black pepper.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice and eat with chopsticks!
I used tofu for this recipe but you can also substitute it with seitan for a crispy, chewier texture. I think seitan resemble meat a lot.
The preparation of the sunken tofu is pretty simple to execute. You just need to be very careful on the temperature of the canola oil when you fry the tofu so that it really triples in volume and deflates when it is dipped in the sweet and sour sauce and absorbs all its flavor.
To guarantee a good absorption of the sweet and sour sauce by the fried tofu, make sure you don't add too much oil to the mixture.
I absolutely love the Thanh Son tofu brand. If you live in the Bay Area, you have to try it. They sell in almost all the Asian markets in downtown San Jose and their main shop is on 2857 Senter Road, San Jose. It's a very little shop but everything is very good. Their factory makes the best tofu texture. They make fresh tofu daily. This is the perfect place for vegetarians. I get 2 to 3 pieces of fresh tofu every week. I also recommend trying their fried mushroom tofu cubes as well. They also serve other foods, it's very authentic.
Per David Lebovitz's advice, to make a smoother more spreadable product, add a tablespoon of light corn syrup to the sauce. I make the same application to my homemade caramel sauce and my marshmallow banana frosting.
You can add any other seasonal vegetable that you like such as broccoli, Chinese cabbage or baby corn.
I like the addition of ketchup, it brightens the color of the sweet and sour sauce. When I have time, I like to make my own ketchup. I'll post the recipe soon.
Pineapple is in season, so take advantage and make sweet and sour sauce with fresh pineapple.
Little reminder on how to cut a pineapple: Pineapple is very common in Asian cuisine, both in savory (such as canh chua) and sweet dishes. My mom taught me at early age how to cut a pineapple. There is a way to slice a pineapple without "wasting" it, as mom would say. First, the most important part is to use a very sharp chef's knife. Remove and discard the crown and cut off the base of the pineapple. Place the pineapple upright, then strip the skin off. The peel shouldn't be too thick; you should still be able to see the eyes of the fruit. Remove the eyes of the fruit 2 by 2 diagonally all around the pineapple, creating several spirals. Quickly rinse the fruit under running water to remove any of the peel. Horizontally slice the fruit into 1-1/2 inch disks. Voilà! You'll never buy canned pineapple again. If you like sweet treats, check out my pineapple parfait.
You can use the rest of the ginger-pineapple pulp/juice for a nice cocktail drink. Just add simple syrup, carbonated water and few mint leaves.
Serving suggestion: place the tofu bits and pineapple chunks in a few leaves of iceberg lettuce. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.
For a non-vegetarian version, you can brush ribs with this sweet and sour sauce. It's delicious.Published By: on July 25, 2009.