Remember clipping recipes out of newspapers? This recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken has at least a 43 year history. A friend’s mom clipped it out of the newspaper many years ago, then passed it on to her daughter, who made it for 26 years before she shared it with me 17 years ago. And everyone just keeps making it.
It is simple enough to throw together when belatedly looking for dinner options, but special enough to fix for company. We always serve it with rice and a green vegetable, but the sweet and sour sauce is the star. To make things even better, it saves very well for leftovers.
I get the chicken roasting first, basically following this method, but typically only use the oil, salt, and pepper for this dinner, since any other flavor will either fight with or be overshadowed by the sweet and sour sauce.
Then, I start the rice. We have never been inspired to get a rice cooker, but just use the ratio of 1.5 cups of water to every cup of dry rice. I also add some salt and pepper to the mix. As is standard, I bring it to a boil (already covered with a lid), then promptly turn it down to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes. Finally, I fluff it with a fork and recover while I work on the rest of dinner.
Of course, the vegetable prep varies with my mood and what is available. But I will probably get those started one way or another before I start on the sauce.
Ah, the sauce! This recipe makes enough sauce for 3 – 4 pounds of chicken thighs, depending on how much you like. If you want to be able to stir without spilling, I recommend at least a 6 cup pan.
Mix the dry ingredients first, doing your best to break up chunks of brown sugar and make sure the cornstarch is blended in. This will make the thickening process go much more smoothly. You can try an equivalent of fresh ginger root and garlic, but it is harder to get them chopped small enough to blend well. The dry ingredients are:
- 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ginger root powder
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
The liquid ingredients will mix in easily at this point, but I save the pineapple and it’s juice until after the first 3 liquids have dissolved the dry sugar mix. A flat wire whip is a good tool for doing all of this efficiently.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- One 20 ounce can of pineapple tidbits in real juice
Once all the liquids are stirred in, cook it while stirring, with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula, over medium heat until it thickens. It doesn’t have to be stirred constantly at first, but more constant stirring becomes important as it gets closer to the thickening point. As it gets close to being done, it turns a darker, almost translucent brown.
Here is an easily printable pdf of the recipe, including basics about how to cook the chicken and rice: Simple Sweet and Sour Roasted Chicken
The original recipe said to put the sauce over the chicken when the chicken was partially cooked, then finish cooking, but also said to pour off the chicken juices to “keep from watering down the sauce.” We like the chicken skin and we like it crisp, plus we don’t like to waste chicken broth (my husband saves everything later for soup), so I finish roasting the chicken all the way, then we each just add the sauce to the rice and chicken on our plates as we each like it.
The sauce can jell a bit in the refrigerator, so when using it for leftovers you might want to heat it separately and stir it smooth again. However, it doesn’t taste any different if I just put some on my plate with everything and heat it all together in the microwave, so I save myself time and dirty dishes and do that. The sauce also works well atop the type of main dish fried rice my husband often makes with leftovers. May this recipe be enjoyed for another 50 years!