Sweet and Sour Chicken: Discover A Global Culinary Journey

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Sweet and sour chicken is a beloved dish that has captured the hearts and palates of people around the world. With its irresistible combination of tangy and sweet flavors, this culinary masterpiece has a rich history, intriguing origins, and numerous international variations that have made it a staple in global cuisine.

The Origins of Sweet and Sour Chicken

The origins of this dish can be traced back to China. During the Qing Dynasty, early versions of the sweet and sour sauce were found in Guangdong and Fujian dishes. It was of course a pork dish and the sauce consisted of rice vinegar, sugar, and hawthorn berry jam. The Chinese have long been known for their culinary ingenuity, and sweet and sour sauces were a common way to add a burst of flavor to various dishes.

Over time, the concept of sweet and sour sauces spread beyond China’s borders, reaching neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. These countries put their own unique spin on the dish, incorporating local ingredients and flavors to create their versions of sweet and sour.

sweet and sour chicken
One of our favorite Chinese dishes

The Journey of Sweet and Sour Sauce

As trade routes expanded and globalization took hold, sweet and sour made its way to the Western world. It gained popularity in the United States during the mid-20th century when Chinese cuisine began to flourish in American cities. American-Chinese restaurants started serving sweet and sour, adapting the dish to suit the Western palate by adding vegetables such as bell peppers and pineapple.

Today, sweet and sour pork and chicken can be found in Chinese restaurants worldwide, with each region putting its own unique twist on the dish. From the sweet and sour chicken balls in the United Kingdom to the crispy sweet and sour chicken in Australia, this dish has truly become a global sensation.

International Variations of Sweet and Sour Chicken

While the essence of this fantastic chicken dish remains the same, each country has added its own flair to the dish. Let’s take a closer look at some of the international variations:

1. Thailand: Pad Priew Wan Gai

In Thailand, sweet and sour chicken is known as Pad Priew Wan Gai. It features a delightful balance of flavors, combining the sweetness of pineapple with the tanginess of tamarind and vinegar. Thai cuisine is renowned for its vibrant and aromatic dishes, and Pad Priew Wan Gai is no exception.

2. United Kingdom: Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls

In the United Kingdom, sweet and sour chicken takes the form of bite-sized chicken balls coated in a crispy batter. This variation is often served with a side of sweet and sour sauce and has become a popular dish in Chinese takeaways and restaurants across the country.

3. Australia: Crispy Sweet and Sour Chicken

Australian cuisine puts its own spin on sweet and sour chicken by adding a crispy touch. The chicken is deep-fried to perfection, creating a crunchy texture that pairs perfectly with the tangy and sweet sauce. It’s a favorite among Australians and visitors alike.

4. United States: American-Chinese Sweet and Sour

In the United States, American-Chinese restaurants have adapted sweet and sour to cater to local tastes. The dish often includes a medley of colorful vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and carrots, along with the signature sweet and sour sauce. It’s a staple on Chinese takeout menus across the nation.

Superb Sweet And Sour Chicken

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Recipe by HolisticJB Course: MainCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Medium, Intermediate


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Sweet and sour chicken is fast becoming even more popular than its traditional pork cousin! And for good reason, it is a dish that you can serve quickly and easily, and it is delicious! It’s simplicity is a key factor for success. Simple fried chicken cubes that are coated in a crispy batter and then stir fried with a mouthwatering sweet and sour sauce.

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  • General Ingredients
  • 8 oz. chicken breast; boneless and skinless

  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing Chinese Rice Wine

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 green capsicum

  • 1 small tomato

  • 3 spring onions

  • 2 cups Oil

  • Batter Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour

  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • Sweet And Sour Sauce Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp ketchup

  • 2 Tbsp chili sauce

  • 2 tsp plum sauce

  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/4 tsp Chinese rice vinegar

  • 1/2 tsp Oyster sauce

  • 1 Tbsp sugar

  • 3 Tbsp water

  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch

  • 1 Pinch white pepper


  • Cut the chicken breast into bite-size cubes.
  • Place the chicken into a small bowl and add the Rice Wine. Mix well and let marinate for 10-15 minutes.
  • While the chicken marinades, Mix the Sweet and Sour sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Prepare the Batter. Sift the flour, cornstarch and baking powder into a bowl and add the water. Mix well.
  • Add the chicken to the batter mixture.
  • Heat up cooking oil in a wok. Once the oil is hot deep fry the chicken cubes. Don’t overcrowd the oil, or it may cool down, better to cook the chicken in batches. Transferring the fried chicken onto a plate with paper towels will soak up the excess oil.
  • Pour the oil into a bowl, leaving around 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok.
  • Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the sliced green capsicum and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  • Take the sweet and sour sauce you prepared earlier and add it to the wok. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Now add the chicken pieces, tomatoes and chopped spring onion. Turn the ingredients so they are covered in the sauce.
  • Serve immediately with steamed white rice.


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  • If you don’t enjoy spicy food, you can replace the chili sauce with ketchup for your sweet and sour sauce.
  • You can substitute chicken for pork if you wish

Nutrition Facts

  • Serving Size: 1g
  • Calories: 1208kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 28g
  • Protein: 20g
  • Fat: 114g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 101g
  • Trans Fat: 1g
  • Cholesterol: 48mg
  • Sodium: 413mg
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 9g

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The Timeless Appeal of Sweet and Sour Chicken

What makes this tangy chicken dish so universally loved? Perhaps it’s the harmonious balance of flavors or the versatility of the dish, allowing for endless variations. Sweet and sour chicken has stood the test of time, captivating taste buds and transcending cultural boundaries.

Whether you enjoy it in a bustling Chinese restaurant or prepare it in the comfort of your own kitchen, sweet and sour chicken is a dish that brings people together. Its rich history, diverse origins, and international variations make it a true culinary gem that continues to delight food enthusiasts worldwide.

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After living in Malaysia and Brunei, and travelling throughout South East Asia, I fell in love with the countries, the people and the amazing cuisine. Now I want to share that passion through the recipes that deliver Hawker Style, authentic flavors of Asia.

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