Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs are prepared with a classic sweet and sour sauce over fluffy white rice, for a trip down memory lane.
Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
This recipe is something I put together for a retro foods event with a blogging group.
I first ate Chinese food, or at least what we called Chinese food, back during the 1960’s when I was a kid. In those days, no one I knew ever had a wok. And what we did have was Mom being adventurous and buying the stacked component cans of La Choy dinners for chicken or beef chow mein or sometimes a boxed mix for pepper steak (you added your own meat). I loved any of it as I discovered early on that I had a real fondness for soy sauce. And the commercials for it didn’t hurt the appeal of it either as the La Choy dragon wound his bouncy tail around our hearts. Later as a teenager, I discovered I liked the sweet and sour chicken that came ready to heat from a can. As always, La Choy knew how to “Make Chinese food swing American.“
As I started writing this post, I even wondered if they still make those cans of stuff for home cooks (they do). Now I am not going to advocate that you run out and buy that stuff. But look at that, they still make it. Great to reminisce but…I may have cut my teeth on this stuff, but all in all I think we can skip a few steps from the old ready-to-serve.
Anyway, back to my story. As time went on, I discovered Chinese take-out. I was a big fan of sweet and sour pork as well as fried rice. And from those early days and love of the food, I tried various Chinese recipes I would come across here and there. And a few years later, I bought my first Chinese cookbook, which was Chinese Cookery by Rose Cheng and Michele Morris. I think I have made every recipe in that book ten times over. And with the variations on those recipes where I did my own thing, the food was endless.
So much so that I sort of gained a reputation in my family for being the Chinese cook. My mom was fast spreading the word. And once, when she was hospitalized and my uncle came up from Texas to see her, I cooked for him, and he told me it was the best Chinese food he ever ate.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that meal wasn’t Chinese. (Although I suppose I am busted now.)
But even during the mid to late 1980’s eating Chinese I guess really wasn’t all that common among families we knew. And after I met Bill (my better half, writer at Potable Pastime) whose family was eating Chinese all the time, we would go to many different Chinese restaurants as far as thirty miles away for a casual dinner. My idea of what that cuisine was really expanded beyond the limits of home cooked recipes and take-out from the hole in the wall down the road.
In the years since that time, my tastes for Chinese often extend to traditional fare including types of offal. It doesn’t get better than that. But even so, from time to time my heart longs for the old days and the old flavors. There aren’t many cooks out there who cook and have the same flavors. Although recently we came across an old-school restaurant over in Montgomery Ohio (Bon Chinese) that makes the definition of Hong Su Har (Shrimp in brown sauce, Hong Kong style). I have had it elsewhere when it did not taste even close, but this tasted as it should and I even passed up on ordering from the dim sum cart just to get it.
But my beginnings are entrenched in my early favorites, and of those the best for me was sweet and sour pork. That version often uses pork tenderloin which is marinated and then battered and quickly fried, to be served with the classic combination of pineapple, onion, carrots, and occasionally green pepper.
The sauce in this recipe uses a bit of tomato paste, which is how I learned to make it early on, although more authentic recipes for sweet and sour made sauce from a plum base. I do have a recipe for that type of sauce if you want to see it. It is very good with things like egg rolls and crab rangoon.
Chinese Plum Sauce (Sweet and Sour)
That sauce is made from fresh plums. I did another version of sweet and sour when I posted recipes at the old Recipezaar.
There was a contest for members to make a recipe in the fashion of Ready Steady Cook, where you create a recipe using five mandatory ingredients selection from among a diverse list of fifteen. That wasn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, as many of the ingredients just didn’t go together. That recipe placed second or something, I don’t recall. I had won the contest a couple of times, and when I didn’t, my recipes were usually among the finalists. Sometimes well deserved, sometimes just lucky, but I did enjoy having fun with creating recipes (as you can obviously tell by now). That recipe you can view here:
Asian Meatballs with Plum Sauce
I do hope you enjoy this little culinary excursion into the past. Cooking has always brought me joy and finding ways to recreate the old memories really is special to me and a way that I can hang on to the old days forever.
Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon mirin (seasoned rice wine)
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1/2 cup rice wine or dry sherry
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2-3 carrots, chopped (oblique cut)
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 cup pineapple chunks
- hot steamed rice (as needed)
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Stir together ingredients for meatballs until thoroughly combined.
- Shape by tablespoonfuls into compact meatballs and place on an oiled rack on a baking sheet.
- Bake meatballs for 35 minutes or until completely cooked through.
- While meatballs are baking, prepare rice, vegetables and sauce.
- To make sauce, stir together sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
- To make stir-fry, heat oil in a large wok skillet until hot.
- Add onion, carrots and green pepper and cook until crisp-tender.
- Stir in the baked meatballs and pineapple.
- When hot, stir in the sauce and gently heat until bubbly and heated through.
- Serve with rice.
from the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
You might also like:
Chinese Chicken with Black Pepper Sauce
Bourbon Street Chicken
Chinese Duck Fried Rice
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LaChoy – I haven’t thought about those products in ages. My parents would make some of those meals and I never really cared for them. It’s probably why I didn’t like Chinese Food until I actually had some in a Chinese restaurant.
This is much better than anything from a can. I shudder to think about canned bean sprouts now.
LACHOY!! Oh my!! When my mom would make that chop suey, We thought she was a real chinese chef!!! Oh the memories, Thinking back it only thing she serve buttered saltines with too, hmmm… Anyway, this looks so good!
I love sweet and sour anything! This recipe looks amazing!
Thanks! Everyone who has tried it seems to enjoy it quite a bit. Unless they are too afraid to tell me? LOL Nah….they are honest souls. 🙂
Oh I love love love this recipe! It’s so great that food can take us all back to our childhood!
I think it is one of those classic kinds of recipes! And much easier than modern breaded meat sweet and sour.
This recipe looks delicious! We started doing Chinese take-out around 1986, and I always looked forward to it 🙂 I think my husband (and I) will enjoy this recipe… can’t wait to try it!
I certainly is easy enough to make, and baking the meatballs keeps them from being greasy.
I love the idea of sweet and sour meatballs! I could easily inhale that whole dish!!!
I loved it as a kid and still do!
Well it may not be “real” Chinese but it sure sounds “real” delicious.
Definitely old-style Chinese American. 🙂
Oh I never thought of serving sweet and sour sauce with meatballs. Hubby looked over my shoulder and said, “Yes please”.
I think it originated back in the day when ground beef recipes were King.
Chinese food has certainly come a long way since then hasn’t it! 🙂 Love your recipe!
As a cuisine in restaurants, it has evolved over time. The canned stuff never did compare.
This looks awesome, going to try it soon!
I hope you enjoy it!
What a great recipe! The only Chinese food we used to eat growing up was Chicken Chow Mein and I hated it. It wasn’t until I got into my late teens that I ventured out and tried something else (Sweet and Sour Chicken or one) that I really enjoyed the different flavors. Thanks for sharing.
I really got into fried rice from the takeout places when I started going about on my own. Great memories!
We did Chung King Chicken Chow Mien at our house once a week! I like your sweet and sour meatballs idea for today’s supper!
I have always wondered how to make sweet and sour sauce because it’s one of my favorite things. I’m so glad to have this recipe!
There are a ton of different ways to make it, make sure to check out my sweet and sour sauce from fresh plums. The flavor is clear and not artificial at all! http://palatablepastime.com/2014/07/04/chinese-plum-sauce-sweet-and-sour/
Oh man, I think I had something like this a long time ago at a potluck, but I totally forgot about it! I love seeing these retro recipes brought back to life!
Thanks. We don’t make sweet and sour very often anymore, Don’t know why. It was great to revisit!
My mom thought she was making gourmet when she made this dish! And so did we! Though she never used the mirin or the fresh ginger, it was a yummy dish and this brings me back! Think I’ll have to give this one a try for my kids! YUM!
Lots of people back then used ground ginger (dry powder) and some still do, although as a spice it is quite inferior. But markets back then didn’t really carry fresh ginger. The things I can get now in the produce department at Kroger still surprises me! We have come a long way! And back then, the cooking wine, oh my goodness how awful! SO much salt! LOL
Ohhh I grew up eating La Choy all of the time! I would eat their chow mein noodles till they were coming out of my ears LOL I am in love with this dish and I know my guy will love it. He is a sucker for sweet and sour 🙂
What a trip down memory lane!! My parents ordered this dish in their Chinese take-out most weekends, and my sister and I just hated it! So we complained until they acquiesced and got us Taco Bell. Lol! However, today my tastes have matured, and I’d *highly* prefer your dish to Taco Bell any day! Looks awesome!
I was always happy my daughter liked this. Although she is a Taco Bell fan too as most kids are.
Woks must have gotten popular in the mid-80’s because my parents received three for their wedding! I love everything about this recipe and can’t wait to try it – next week!
I hope you enjoy!
This looks delicious
No , thank you think I have fallen in love with this blog. I am a big foodie.
Thanks so much!
Hi Miss Sue,
Let me just say, good job with the meatballs! They look delish!
To be fair, I’ve never had (nor have I heard of) the brand LaChoy before. I was born in 1999, and I’m 16 now, but my parents were both born in 1968, so I bet they had this growing up as kids during the 70’s.
Meatballs are actually pretty retro too, come to think of it… I mean, look at Swedish and “Porcupine” meatballs, they were all popular particularly in one decade or another. I think they were popular in the 50’s and 60’s in particular, those dishes…don’t you think.
It’s definitely an American brand, based out of San Francisco, I think and has a lot of popularity with other similar items like Rice-a-Roni.
Oh! I have had Rice-a-roni a couple times, but we’ve never referred it by its brand name, at home.
Really just a kind of pilaf- scratch recipes often mix the rice with orzo instead of vermicelli.