Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and Sour Pork

5 stars

This is the best sweet and sour pork that no take-away outlets or Chinese restaurant can offer. Big chunky succulent meat coated with tangy gravy and super crispy for the extra crunch. The addition of lychees gives the dish a delicious fruitiness to it.

Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 20 mins


咕老肉, 咕嚕肉


Nutrition per Serving

472 kcal
57 g
17 g
24 g

Sweet and sour pork is one of the most common dishes found in Asian/Chinese restaurants throughout the world. The dish is so well received that it is available in typical Asian take-away restaurants as well as authentic Chinese restaurants. Each of these restaurants has its own twist to the dish but will however retain the delicious components of the tangy gravy and the crunchy meat. The signature tangy sauce has a balance of sourish and sweetness while the meat is deep-fried. Understandably, both adults and children enjoy the dish tremendously.

The history

Known as Gū Lǎo Ròu or Gu Lu Yuk literally translates to ‘ancient meat’ in Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese. The dish is said to have started during the Qing Dynasty in Guangdong. We are familiar with the dish being cooked with boneless meat. It actually originated from sweet and sour pork ribs but foreigners in Guangdong were not used to eating meat with bones attached. That prompted the chefs into working on a different version of the dish which turned into what we are familiar with today.

As to why it is called ‘ancient meat’, it is still unclear. There are several folk tales regarding the name. One of it is related to the strong smell of the tangy gravy which always makes the people around salivate. The sound of ‘gu lu’ is associated with the act of swallowing the saliva as they anticipate for the food. The other reasoning which makes more sense lies in the long history of the dish, hence referring it to ‘ancient meat’.

The perfect batter

While sweet and sour pork may be easy to prepare, the perfect dish calls for crispy pork. To ensure a crispy layer coating the meat, attention needs to be paid to the batter and the frying process.

The batter consists of egg white, corn flour and self-raising flour. Using only egg white works better compared to using the whole egg in ensuring that the crust sticks to the meat during and after frying. The crust turns out much lighter and airy. The other important ingredient is self-raising flour. Of course, plain wheat flour may be used but the addition of self-raising flour makes the crust fluffs up a little during deep frying.

Corn flour which is a type of starch makes the crust extra crispy when used in deep frying.You can also substitute with tapioca flour.

When mixing the ingredients, ensure that the flour and egg are properly mixed before coating the meat chunks. The consistency of the batter should look like this:

Sweet Sour Pork Batter
Sweet Sour Pork Batter

Tips to avoid soggy crust

The oil must be heated up at 180 degrees Celsius/355 degrees Fahrenheit before frying the meat. Use either a thermometer or a wooden chopstick to check if the oil is ready. There are bubbles appearing around the chopstick if the oil is ready.

Don't crowd the pan when frying. Once the meat chunks are fried, remove and place them on a cooling rack with a piece of kitchen paper below to catch the excess oil. Placing them directly on kitchen paper for a long time may cause the crust to turn soggy due to the vapour that is released and trapped between the pieces of meat and kitchen paper as they cool down.


Since the gravy has quite intense flavours, no marinade for the meat is needed.

The addition of fruits

It is not unusual to have fruits in the dish. The most usual combination has got to be pineapple for its sweetness and tartness. In this recipe, lychees are used for their juiciness. For an uncommon but also tasty combination, try fresh strawberries if they are in season.

Lychee for sweet and sour pork
Lychee for sweet and sour pork

Other type of meat besides pork

For those who do not eat or enjoy pork, sweet and sour chicken is another variation of the dish. Feel free to opt for chicken breast or chicken thigh. In fact, white fishes such as cod, halibut or seabass go really well for this recipe too.

Plum sauce substitute

Plum sauce is a rather crucial ingredient in the dish. Since the perfect gravy needs to have a good balance of sweetness and sourness, the piquant plum sauce gives an extra kick to the gravy.


1 tbsp
2 tbsp
white vinegar
2 1⁄2 tbsp
1⁄2 tbsp
soy sauce
4 tbsp
1 tbsp
plum sauce
1 1⁄2 tbsp
lychee syrup
yellow onion(s)
garlic clove(s)
2 1⁄2 tbsp
corn flour
1 tbsp
self-raising flour
egg white(s)
200 g
1⁄2 tbsp

Steps to Prepare

Sweet and Sour Pork Step 1

Step 1 of 5

    • 1 tbsp water
    • 2 tbsp white vinegar
    • 2 1⁄2 tbsp sugar
    • 1⁄2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 4 tbsp ketchup
    • 1 tbsp plum sauce
    • 1 1⁄2 tbsp lychee syrup

Mix water, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, plum sauce and lychee syrup (from canned lychees) in a bowl. Set aside lychees in another bowl.

Sweet and Sour Pork Step 2

Step 2 of 5

    • 0.33 capsicum(s)
    • 1 yellow onion(s)
    • 1 garlic clove(s)

Chop capsicum and onion into bite-sized pieces. Mince garlic.

Sweet and Sour Pork Step 3

Step 3 of 5

    • 2 1⁄2 tbsp corn flour
    • 1 tbsp self-raising flour
    • 1 egg white(s)

Mix cornflour and self-raising flour evenly. Then, stir egg white into the flour until batter is smooth.

Sweet and Sour Pork Step 4

Step 4 of 5

    • 200 g pork
    • oil

Cut pork into bite-sized pieces and add to the batter. Meanwhile, heat oil in a pot at medium temperature. Coat pork pieces with batter and fry them until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Caution: Do not overcrowd the pot when frying.

Sweet and Sour Pork Step 5

Step 5 of 5

    • 1⁄2 tbsp oil

In a pan, heat oil over medium temperature. Then, sauté minced garlic until fragrant. Add capsicum and onion to the pan to sauté for a few seconds before adding gravy. Increase heat to medium-high temperature and allow gravy to thicken. Once gravy thickens, add lychees to sauté for another 30 seconds. Turn off the stove and stir in fried pork. Serve immediately.

Published: October 25, 2019

6 Discussions

a year ago

Helena Cheah

Wow. How on earth you know I want to make this dish? Kakakakaka “3”

a year ago


Natural mind-reading abilities. Haha!

a year ago

Helena Cheah


a year ago

Helena Cheah

Grace, you are the best!

a year ago


Yum. One of my favourites :) Grace, you mentioned that to substitute lychee we could use strawberry or pineapple. I have pineapple juice in the fridge. Can I use that? Terima Kaseh Danke shun :)

a year ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Pineapple syrup from the can is the most fitting. The juice is a possible substitute. If you have pineapple chunks, those are the best!

10 months ago


Have canned pineapple. Will try that. Terima kasha :)

7 months ago

Randy Mendoza

Thanks for this Grace. Love this version. Goodbye to Putien's Sweet and Sour Pork.

7 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

We had Putien's sweet and sour pork in mind when developing the recipe. ;) Happy to know you love this!

7 months ago

Randy Mendoza

The whole family loved it! Thank you for this. I am now a fan of this site :)

7 months ago

Linda Voon

No lychee juice, can I substitute with long an juice?

7 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Sure, use longan instead of lychees or pineapples.

5 months ago

Jill W

I don’t have plum sauce and canned fruits, what may I substitute those 2 with? And measurement please

5 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Use the same amount of plum marmalade or any other tangy-sweet marmalade. Skip the fruits.

5 months ago

Jill W

Is ketchup ok?

4 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

There is already ketchup is the recipe. You can skip plum sauce and fruits if you don't have them.

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