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Looking to create your favourite Chinese takeaway meal at home? Look no further than this sweet and sour chicken Hong Kong style. While it does require quite a few ingredients and a little time to prepare, it will not disappoint and is every bit as good as you’ll find in a restaurant.
What is it?
Sweet and sour sauce is thought to have originated in the Henan province in China. However, the traditional sauce is likely unrecognisable compared to the sweet and sour sauce you know today which has been heavily evolved for Western tastes. In fact, sweet and sour sauce is more popular in the west than it is in Asia, and you are unlikely to find it in a traditional Chinese restaurant.
The sauce is made from both sweet and sour ingredients, as the name suggests. In this recipe (which is reminiscent of what you will find in UK Chinese takeaways) the sour comes from vinegar and the sweet from pineapple juice, sugar and ketchup.
Sweet and sour chicken Hong Kong style refers to the dish in which the chicken or meat is deep-fried in a thin layer of batter before cooking. This is opposed to the standard preparation of sweet and sour chicken, in which the chicken is encased in a thick batter, so they are effectively chicken balls. And the sauce is often served separately. You might also see this type of preparation referred to as ‘Cantonese style’
What can I serve it with?
As with any classic Chinese takeaway, some egg-fried rice or plain steamed basmati is a must! If you want to make the meal into more of a banquet you could also add some sides – great if you are feeding a crowd. Some ideas include:
- Salt and pepper prawns
- Pak choi with oyster sauce
- Stir-fried morning glory (ok so this is technically Thai, but it goes really well)
Can you freeze it?
This recipe is best when eaten straight after cooking. Over time the batter on the chicken will soften so it won’t be as crisp. However, you can keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to 3 months safely.
When reheating make sure to defrost thoroughly and reheat on the hob/stove or in the microwave.
How to make it like a restaurant (tips)
If you want to get a restaurant-worthy result, here are a few tips you can follow:
- Use thigh meat – while I do list chicken breast in the recipe as it’s a little lighter, thigh meat will give you an even more tender and juicy result.
- Cut all your vegetables to roughly the same size, so they cook at the same time.
- Add a scatter of sesame seeds over the top before serving, to add a little extra visual pizazz.
- Don’t overfill the oil with the chicken when you fry it. This will reduce the temperature of the oil and you won’t have as crispy a result.
- If you cook the chicken in batches then allow the oil to return to temperature before adding each new batch.
- To get really crispy chicken you need to make sure all the pieces are very dry and dusty with the cornflour/cornstarch – so don’t be perturbed by how much there is!
For a full list of ingredients with measurements jump to the printable recipe card.
There are a lot of ingredients for this sweet and sour chicken recipe – but it does come together really easily. It helps to look at it as 3 separate parts – the battered chicken, the sauce, and the main stir-fry.
For the fried chicken
- Oil – you can use any oil with a high smoke point for frying. Vegetable, sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil are all good options. Just don’t use olive oil!
- Sesame Oil
- Egg, beaten
- Shaoxing wine – or Mirin also works well. If you can’t find either you can replace it with dry sherry or cooking sherry. Or you can omit it completely as it simply adds a little extra flavour dimension, but it isn’t essential.
- Chicken breast – cut into bite-sized pieces
- Cornflour/cornstarch – quite a lot of it!
For the sauce
- Pineapple juice
- Light brown sugar
- Dark soy sauce
- White vinegar
- Cider vinegar
For the stir fry
- Tinned pineapple
- Onion – brown or white – cut into large pieces
- Red and green pepper (capsicum) – diced
For full detailed steps with recipe tips jump to the printable recipe card.
- First, make the marinade. Mix together the Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and egg and season well. Mix in the diced chicken. Leave while you prepare everything else.
- Make the sauce by mixing all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl
- Add the cornflour/cornstarch into the bowl with the chicken. Mix everything together until all the individual chicken pieces are well coated.
- Heat the oil for frying until 180C/350F. Add the individual chicken pieces and cook for around 5 minutes until cooked through and light golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Heat the oil for the stir-frying in a wok or large frying pan/skillet. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes and then add the pepper and pineapple and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the sauce and bring to a boil. Then add the chicken and toss or stir everything together.
- Serve over steamed or egg fried rice and with some sesame seeds scattered over.
Looking for more great Chinese-inspired recipes?
- Cumin lamb
- Mandarin orange chicken
- Salt and pepper prawns
- Salt and pepper chicken
- Pak choi with oyster sauce
- Honey chilli chicken
- Hoisin duck wraps
- Fakeaway chicken chow mein
Products that work well for this recipe
Carbon Steel Wok
3 Pack Professional Fine Mesh Strainer
Chopstick Helper – for Adults (2 pieces)
Make your favourite Chinese takeaway in your own home! This sweet and sour chicken Hong Kong style is just as good as you’ll find in your fave restaurant.
The default recipe serves 4.
To prepare the chicken
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp shaoxing wine – see note 1
- 400g / 14oz chicken breast, sliced into bite-sized pieces – see note 2
- 120g / 1 cup cornflour/cornstarch – see note 3
- Vegetable oil – enough to half fill a large pan (you can save and reuse the oil for frying in future) – see note 4
For the sauce
- 125ml / 1/2 cup ketchup
- 125ml / 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 65g / 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
For the stir fry
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, cut into thick slices
- 1 red pepper, cut into large pices
- 1 green pepper, cut into large pieces – see note 5
- 140g / 5oz drained tinned pineapple, sliced into thick pieces
- Mix together the eggs, mirin and sesame oil in a large bowl and then add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Season well and set aside for 10-20 minutes (see note 6)
- While the chicken is marinading make the sweet and sour sauce by mixing together all the sauce ingredients. Make sure you have all the vegetables prepared at this stage for the stir fry so that you can follow the rest of the recipe steps as quickly as possible.
- Add the cornflour/cornstarch into the bowl with the chicken and use your hands to coat evenly and to make sure each piece is separated (see note 7).
- Heat the oil for frying in a large pan or wok. Bring to around 180C/350F. (see note 8 for tips to check if the oil is hot enough)
- Add the chicken to the batter and cook for around 6 minutes, until the pieces are a light golden colour and the chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove with a strainer or slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. (see note 9)
- Next, make the stirfry. Heat a wok or frying pan/skillet over high heat. Add the onion to the pan and toss or stir to break upa ll the pieces and coat in the oil. Cook for around 1 minute before adding the peppers and pineapple.
- Cook the vegetables for a further 2-3 minutes (you want them to remain crisp) before adding the sweet and sour sauce and heating it until it is bubbling.
- Add the chicken and toss or stir everything together.
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately
- Serve with egg fried or steamed rice and with a pinch of toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over.
- You can substitute the shaoxing wine with mirin or dry or cooking sherry. Or you can omit it completely as it just adds a little extra flavour.
- While I tend to use breast meat as it’s lighter, thigh meat can be substituted and gives an even more tender and juicy result.
- In a pinch, you could use plain flour, but you won’t get the same crispy result as you will with cornflour/cornstarch so I don’t recommend it.
- You can use any oil that has a high smoke point – sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil also work well.
- Be sure to cook the vegetables to the same size, so they cook at the same time.
- Prepare the chicken before you start to make anything else for the dish so you can give it maximum time to marinade which will help it become juicier.
- Warning – it will look like a lot of cornflour/cornstarch – but this is essential to make sure that you get super crispy batter.
- To make sure that the oil is hot enough you can drop a little of the batter into the oil and if it immediately bubbles and simmers it’s hot enough. You can also dip in some wooden chopsticks or the end of a wooden spoon and if it fizzes then the oil is good to go.
- When frying make sure to not fill the oil over halfway in the pan for safety – if you need more then use a bigger pan.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan as the more chicken you add the more you will reduce the temperature of the oil. Work in small batches.
- This recipe is best when eaten straight away, as the batter on the chicken will soften if you keep it. However, you can keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days and you can freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating and warm through on the hob/stove or in the microwave.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Hob / Stove
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 750
- Fat: 45g
- Carbohydrates: 62g
- Protein: 28g
Keywords: dinner, chinese, chicken, indulgent, fakeaway, asian