If you’ve even kind of been paying attention, and definitely if you’ve ever dated me or been a member of my family, you probably already know that sweet & sour chicken is my hands down, all mood, all occasion, all time favorite thing to put inside me.
My mom thinks I would serve it at my wedding.
And she is correct.
I would also 100% order it as part of my last meal if I were on death row.
(For some reason I think it’s important for all people to know what they would eat on death row. Don’t ask?)
It’s not just the chicken; I love Chinese food in general (and before you get all, “You know that’s not real Chinese food, right?” up in my face: yes, of course I know. You’re not my only snobby friend.) because it contains all my favorite food groups: Fried and Sweet 😉
I am definitely not one of those people who is deterred by deep fried things. Perhaps we can thank nostalgia for this; some of the most prominent memories of my childhood involve cruising around town late at night with my mom and sister, cradling greasy paper bags of food truck fries in our laps. Or stopping at McDonald’s for a snack of happy meals (McNuggets all. the. way.) after an evening of intense grocery shopping, and throwing the trash out the car window (sorry, boyfriend who is a police officer) on the drive home so as to hide the evidence from our dad.
On beach days, emerging from the icy cold bitter death trappy ocean and tearing into endless bags of plain rippled potato chips around a beat-up picnic table as we waited impatiently for our hot dogs to roast on the BBQ. In our car, parked on the side of the street in a nearby beach town, digging into a feed of golden fried clams at least once every summer. Being greeted off the school bus with a plateful of crispy, crackling, golden, salty home fries cradled upon paper towel, rendered translucent with grease…
But none of this really holds a candle to the ever-coveted standard combo plate from our (yours, everyone’s) local Chinese restaurant: sweet & sour chicken (or chicken balls, as they are endearingly called in most places), fried rice, and an egg roll. That heavenly trifecta. But the shining star, for me, IMHO, is the chicken ball.
Of course, like many things in life that seem wonderful until you have questioned them, the chicken ball has the potential to instantly become unpalatable if you a) think about it at all or b) look at it at all. In most cases it boils down to little more than a tiny chunk of dry chicken-shaped stuff tucked into an half-inch thick cocoon of flavorless fried bread, and coated in a neon red sauce that tastes kind of like… red-flavored corn syrup?
Score one for the power of nostalgia.
Anyway, chicken balls: I just can’t quit you, even though you’re kind of appalling.
Thus, considering that I am always trying to find ways to lighten up my favorite dishes so that more of them can enter me (I meant for that to sound sexual), this recipe was actually one of the first that I attempted when I started my blog. It just took me a while to actually write about it, because I wanted to be able to honor the chicken ball as intentionally as possible.
It turns out that these are not really balls, and that’s definitely a good thing because haven’t we all had enough balls in our mouths to last a lifetime? Isn’t it time for us to stand up and request a part of the chicken that doesn’t make us blush when we have to order it?
Enter: the sweet & sour breast chunk. I was seeking more of a “faux authentic Chinese” feel and attempting to emulate my ALL TIME FAVE sweet & sour chicken from Fan’s restaurant in Dartmouth, NS. (Go there, now. I would take their sweet & sour chicken to PROM if I could. Hey chicken balls from Fans: call me).
In the end, I wouldn’t say that the recipe is 100% exact, but it’s definitely close enough to satisfy. Immensely.
Succulent, tender, juicy pieces of real chicken (as organic and free-range as you want it to be! I got mine from Wal-Mart tho), fried perfectly crisp on the outside, then caramelized for ages in a gets-better-as-it-bakes gooey, sticky, sweet, multi-dimensional sauce.
If you even sort of enjoy take-out Chinese food, you will want to marry this chicken.
FYI: I’m in no form of denial about this recipe being really “healthy.” It actually contains quite a bit of refined sugar (which I’m going to attempt to replace with other sweeteners, some day, but for now I will just encourage you to believe that sugar’s negative health effects are nullified when it melts) as well as ketchup, and the chicken is fried, y’all… Look, there’s no way around it. If you want sweet & sour chicken, there WILL be oil & sugar involved. But hopefully in this recipe I have used much less than would the standard take-out shop, not to mention much less breading, no weird preservatives or MSG, and I believe that when you only use 1/4 cup of oil in the pan, it can be considered “lightly pan fried”, which sounds like it’s worlds better for you than “deep fried,” even though it’s probably not? Also…it’s gluten free? I think?
But anyway, if you only eat stuff like this like once a month, and otherwise mostly fill your body with nutrient dense whole foods (like…caramel apples?) you’ll be fine. Maybe.
And if you’re not fine, at least you’ll die happy.
And if you don’t die happy, you will definitely die. Eventually. We all will. xo
If you attempting my Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe, be sure to take a photo and tag me @onlinefoodblog on Instagram or Twitter. I would love nothing more than to see your creations!
For the chicken: salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1/2 cup cornstarch 2 large eggs, beaten 1/4 cup oil (I used avocado oil) Sweet and Sour Sauce Ingredients 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 1/4 cup ketchup 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder I served this with Quinoa fried rice.
How to make Sweet and Sour Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 cup sugar
Try out our Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe and post your results below in the comments…
For the chicken:
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil (I used avocado oil)
Sweet and Sour Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
I served this with Quinoa fried rice.