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Hong Kong Style Sweet and Sour Chicken

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Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken is one of our favorite Chinese takeaway meals. Learn how to cook this easy recipe at home; it’s super quick and easy!

bowl with hong kong style chicken sweet sour.

How about making a Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken dish tonight? It’s easier than you might think. The recipe uses simple ingredients which you might already have in your fridge, freezer, and cupboard, and it’s quite quick to make.

Check out these Asian-inspired Pork Belly Bites as well.

The best thing about this sweet and sour chicken recipe? You can deep fry or shallow fry the chicken pieces; it’s up to you.

What is Hong Kong-style food?

The term Hong Kong-style describes Cantonese-style dishes served in Chinese restaurants outside China, mainly in Western Europe and the US. They are not original Chinese food recipes; they are recreated to fulfill the expectations of a European/American palate.

Differences between deep-frying and shallow frying

  • The coating method is different and uses slightly different ingredients.
  • Deep frying is more authentic; the tender meat pieces are coated in a crispy golden batter.
  • Shallow frying is healthier, less messy, and uses less oil and cornstarch. The chicken pieces are just as tender and delicious, but they are not coated with the eggy batter, just with a light crispy coating.

Recipe ingredients

listed ingredients for making sweet and sour chicken on the table.

For the chicken:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Chicken breast fillets also work fine, but I find thighs better.
  • You will also need salt, black pepper, cornstarch, and vegetable oil.
  • To shallow fry the meat, you will need ¼ cup cornstarch and 1/3 cup vegetable oil + 1 tablespoon sesame oil.
  • To deep-fry the chicken, you will need two eggs, about 1 cup (150 g) cornstarch, and 2 ½ cups vegetable oil.
listed ingredients for making sweet and sour sauce.

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For the sweet and sour sauce: chicken stock, brown sugar, ketchup, rice vinegar, juice from the can of pineapple, tomato paste, and light soy sauce. And a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce once you add it to the vegetables.

For the vegetables: Two large bell peppers (one red and one green pepper), 2 onions, 1 cup pineapple chunks or pineapple rings (from a can), and three garlic cloves.

For the garnish: Sesame seeds and green onions.

Step-by-step instructions

Prepare ingredients

  • Vegetables: Chop the peppers and onions and set them aside in a bowl. Chop the pineapple and the garlic and set them aside in a separate bowl.
  • Sauce: Mix the sauce ingredients (except cornstarch) in a small saucepan.
  • Chicken: Cut the thighs into bite-size pieces. Place the pieces into a large bowl.
bowls with chopped vegetables, pineapple and chicken.

Cook the sauce

  • Heat gently until it simmers, stirring until it is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Set it aside (2).
simmering sweet sour sauce in a small pan on a wooden board.

How to fry battered chicken?

  • Beat the eggs well with a fork. Pour over the chicken pieces and mix to coat. Lift, discarding any excess egg.
  • Coat chicken: Place in another mixing bowl. Add the cornstarch and mix to coat again. Add more starch; if necessary, the pieces must be well coated and dry. Before frying, shake the pieces lightly to remove any excess cornstarch.
  • Heat 2 ½ cups (600 ml) of vegetable oil to 350°F (180°C) in a deep pan or wok.
  • Deep fry the chicken pieces in the hot oil in 2 or 3 batches, moving them around in the pan so they can cook on all sides.  Cook them for 3-4 minutes or until golden and cooked through (3,4).
  • Check by cutting one piece in the middle. Lift with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large plate or baking tray lined with paper towels to help remove the excess fat. They should lie in a single layer.

How to shallow fry the chicken?

  • Mix the meat pieces with sesame oil, salt, pepper, and only ¼ cup of cornstarch.
  • Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a large saucepan or wok.
  • Fry the pieces in small batches for about 4-5 minutes or until golden and cooked. Stir often to ensure that they are cooked on all sides (5).
  • Check by cutting one piece of chicken in the middle. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels (6).

Cook the vegetables

  • Heat one tablespoon of oil. Stir fry the peppers and the onions for 3 minutes. Add the pineapple and the garlic and stir fry for another minute (7).
  • Add the sweet and sour sauce and bring to a boil.
  • Thicken sauce: In the meantime, mix one teaspoon of cornstarch with 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk the slurry into the sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes until slightly thicker.

Serve

  • Add the fried chicken pieces to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Sprinkle the dish with sesame seeds and green onion rings and serve immediately.

Expert tips

  • It’s preferable to use chicken thigh meat. While breast pieces are tender and taste great, the thighs are juicier and more flavorful.
  • The temperature of the oil: If you don’t have a thermometer to check the oil’s temperature, stick the end of a wooden spoon or skewer into the oil. If bubbles are forming around the stick, the oil is ready for frying.
  • If the oil bubbles hard, it’s too hot. In this case, turn off the heat, and wait for a few minutes. Turn on the heat, check again and start deep-frying.
  • Fry the battered pieces in 2 or 3 batches. If you overcrowd the pot, the oil will lose the temperature, and the pieces will not be crispy enough.
hong kong sweet and sour chicken in a bowl.

Recipe FAQ

Cornstarch or cornflour?

There is a bit of confusion about what is what. Cornstarch (US) is the squeaky, white, and fine powder extracted from the endosperm of the corn kernels (pure starch). It’s called cornflour (without the space between corn and flour) in the UK.
In the US, corn flour (note the space) is extracted from the entire corn kernels and is often yellow. This product is called maize flour in the UK.
Read this article explaining the difference between the two products.

Deep or shallow frying?

My choice is shallow frying; I can’t be bothered with frying anything too often. It’s messy and uses too much oil. I admit that the battered bits of meat are delicious (like most anything that’s been deep-fried).

How to store?

Sweet and sour chicken is best served immediately. However, you can refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes until hot or in a saucepan. If reheating on the stovetop, add a splash of water to loosen the sauce and stir often.
You can also freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months. However, after defrosting and reheating, the battered chicken will not be crisp anymore.

How to serve it?

Either with cooked white rice (Basmati or Jasmine rice) or Chinese-style noodles.

close up bowl of sweet sour chicken and vegetables.

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bowl of chicken and vegetables with sweet sour sauce and sesame seeds on top.

Hong Kong Style Sweet and Sour Chicken

Hong Kong-style sweet and sour chicken is one of our favorite Chinese takeaway meals. Learn how to cook it at home; it’s super quick and easy!
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 654kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

  • 1 wok or deeper saucepan for deep-frying
  • 1 Large pan for frying
  • 1 Small saucepan for the sauce

Ingredients  

Vegetables:

  • 1 red bell pepper large
  • 1 green bell pepper large
  • 2 onions medium
  • 3 garlic cloves large
  • 1 cup pineapple pieces from a can 5.5 oz/ 150 g
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sweet and sour sauce:

  • 2/3 cup chicken stock 150 ml
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pineapple juice from the can
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water cold

Chicken:

  • 1 lb chicken thighs boneless, skinless Note 2
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Deep-fried chicken version:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cornstarch 150 g, more if necessary
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable oil 600 ml

Shallow fried chicken version:

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ¼ cup cornstarch 1.5 oz/ 40 g
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil 3 fl.oz/ 80 ml

Garnish

  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1-2 green onions

Instructions

Preparations:

  • Vegetables: Chop the peppers and onions and set them aside in a bowl. Chop the pineapple into smaller pieces and chop the garlic finely. Set them aside in another bowl.
  • Sauce: Mix chicken stock, brown sugar, ketchup, rice vinegar, pineapple juice, sesame oil, tomato sauce, and soy sauce in a small saucepan.
  • Chicken: Cut the thighs into bite-size pieces. Place the pieces into a bowl. Season them with salt and pepper.

Cook

  • Sauce: Heat the sauce gently until it simmers, stirring it until it is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Set it aside.

Deep-fried chicken:

  • Beat the eggs with a fork. Pour over the chicken pieces and mix to coat. Lift, discard any excess egg, and place the chicken into another bowl.
  • Coat chicken: Add the cornstarch and mix to coat again. Add more starch if necessary; the pieces must be well coated and dry. Before frying, shake the pieces lightly to remove any excess cornstarch.
  • Heat 2 ½ cups (600 ml) of vegetable oil to 350°F (180°C) in a deep pan or wok (Note 3).
  • Deep fry the chicken pieces in 2 or 3 batches, moving them around in the pan so they can cook on all sides. Cook them for 3-4 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Check by cutting one piece in the middle. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to help remove the excess fat.

Shallow fried chicken:

  • Mix the pieces with sesame oil, salt, pepper, and only ¼ cup of cornstarch.
  • Fry chicken: Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a large saucepan or wok. Fry the pieces in two batches for about 5-6 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Stir often to ensure that they are cooked on all sides. Check by cutting one piece in the middle. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.

Vegetables:

  • Cook vegetables: Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Stir fry the peppers and the onions for 3 minutes. Add the pineapple and the garlic and stir fry for another minute.
  • Add the sweet and sour sauce and bring to a boil.
  • Thicken sauce: In the meantime, mix one teaspoon of cornstarch with 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk the mixture into the sauce and stir well until thickened.

Serve:

  • Add the cooked chicken to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Sprinkle the dish with sesame seeds and green onion rings and serve immediately.

Notes

  1. The nutrition is calculated for shallow fried chicken.
  2. It’s preferable to use chicken thigh meat. While breast pieces are tender and taste great, the thighs are juicier.
  3. Oil temperature: If you don’t have a thermometer to check the oil’s temperature, stick the end of a wooden spoon or skewer into the oil. If bubbles are forming around the stick, the oil is ready for frying.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 654kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 17g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 856mg | Potassium: 668mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 1295IU | Vitamin C: 75mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 2mg
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