Remember “back in the day” when you could buy frozen “Chinese” meals—I want to say by Chun King, but I’m not sure my memory is that good. You could get a variety of “cooking bags” that you just tossed into a pot. One bag had rice and the other had the “entree”.
In my younger days I devoured more than a few of these “gourmet” offerings. (For those of you too young to remember, boiling bags are what we used “BM”—“Before Microwaves”).
How many times have so many of us gone to a “Chinese” restaurant and ordered Sweet and Sour Pork with it’s sweet, vinegary sauce glopped over stir fried pieces of pork and vegetables? Yeah, I still like to grab a double entrée at Panda Express of orange chicken and sweet and sour pork.
I’ve been using a wok for a long time and one of the recipes I’ve made frequently over the years is my version of Sweet and Sour Pork. It’s pretty simple, and it’s cheap. One of the other things I’ve liked about this and other oriental recipes is that you can take one good size pork chop—say ¾ pound and feed a family of four. That makes it inexpensive. And with sweet and sour, you’re also cooking vegetables but coating them in a sauce that will entice even finicky kids into eating it.
And, I can cook this recipe at home for about the same price as I would pay at Panda Express and definitely cheaper than what it would cost at a “sit down” Chinese restaurant. Here’s a hint on the meat—I buy a full pork loin usually at Costco and cut it into roasts and chops, but I reserve the “ends” or scrap for stir frying. It works great and saves money.
Serve this with steamed rice. Here’s Cheap Bastid’s Steamed Rice Recipe: http://www.cheap-bastid-cooks.com/steamed-rice/
Recipe: Sweet and Sour Pork
Summary: No need to get carry-out. Cook Cheap Bastid’ Sweet and Sour Pork at home. It’s easy, tasty and cheap!
- ¾ pound pork loin
- 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2/3 cup chopped bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped jalapeno
- ½ cup pineapple chunks drained (reserve juice)
- 1 can sliced water chestnuts drained
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 3-4 tbsp ketchup
- 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
- Reserved pineapple juice
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3-4 tbsp water
- Steamed Rice
- 1 ½ cup (appx) cooking oil
- First, get out your cutting board and chef’s knife along with a couple of bowls. Get out a sauce pan and your wok.
- Prep your steamed rice according the recipe.
- Cut the pork loin into approximate 1” by ½” by ¼ inch thick pieces. Put it into a bowl, add soy sauce and sprinkle cornstarch over it. Then mix it up really good and set it aside to marinade for a bit.
- Chop vegetables into about ¾” pieces and put into a medium bowl.
- Put a sauce pan on the stove with heat set at medium. Add the ketchup, soysauce, pineapple juice and vinegar. Bring it to temperature so it starts to simmer. Then make your cornstarch slurry and add to the mix. When it thickens remove from the heat and either set aside or transfer to a bowl.
- Put the wok on the stove’s large burner set to high. Add 1 ½ cup oil and let it heat. Fry the meat in about 3 batches until it’s golden (about 2 minutes each batch). Remove to dish lined with paper towel to drain.
- Pour off all but about 3 tbsp oil from the wok. Put back on the burner set to medium high.
- Add the vegetables and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the water chestnuts and stir everything together.
- Turn heat to medium and put the cooked pork into the mix and stir. Add the pineapple and the sauce. Stir well. Let everything come to temperature. Then turn off the heat and serve on a bed of rice.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
Culinary tradition: Chinese
My rating 5 stars: ★★★★★ 1 review(s)
This is tasty. You’ve got a bit of crunch in the pork and still have some “tooth” in the stir-fried vegetables and water chestnuts. And best of all, it’s inexpensive.
The Cheap Bastid Test: The meat cost about $1.80 (3/4 lb at $2.40/lb). I spent maybe $1 on the vegetables, $.50 on rice. The pineapple and water chestnuts were the most expensive at $1 each. The sauce was all stuff that was in the pantry or fridge and I used maybe $.30 of canola oil. Total for this meal: about $5.60 or $1.40 each for 4. Plus, the total price of the meal was about what Sweet and Sour pork costs for 1 person at Panda Express.
This is worth cooking and worth eating. Give it a try soon.
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!