The ultimate sweet and sour sauce, according to Lucas Sin

Make any sweet and sour sauce! For most of my culinary career, I’ve made sweet and sour sauce at a 1:1 ratio between vinegar and sugar. The two are combined, boiled, and reduced.

But obviously it shouldn’t end there; this recipe is an exercise in intuitive cooking. Sweet and sour, at its core, is a mother sauce that can be taken into any direction, into the orbit of Filipino agre dulce, French gastrique, Italian agrodolce, Cantonese sweet and sour, and Northeastern Chinese guo bao rou.

Other than the construction of the sauce, in the video below, we’ll demonstrate three applications and variations on sweet and sour:

1) With SPRING ROLLS, layered with fresh and dried fruits for dipping

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 rolls Haw flakes (hawthorn candy)
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup Chinese red vinegar
5 pieces dried hibiscus
1 piece salted plum
2 pieces strawberries, sliced

In a small pot, combine vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add haw flakes (hawthorn candy), pineapple juice, Chinese red vinegar, hibiscus, salted plum, and strawberries. Continue to boil and reduce to thick consistency, about 7 min. Strain. Set aside.

Prepare the spring rolls according to package instructions. Serve with prepared sweet and sour dipping sauce.

2) In an HERB SALAD, bolstered with lime, ginger, and fish sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
6 pieces fresh lychee, peeled and pitted
1/4-inch knob ginger, sliced

1 handful cilantro
1 handful Thai Basil
2 radishes, sliced thinly
1 endive, washed and separated
1/2 Fuji apple, sliced thinly and soaked
1/4 cup peanuts, roasted
2 tablespoons fried shallots
1/4 long red chili, sliced thin

In a small pot, combine vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add fish sauce, lime juice, lychee, and ginger. Simmer for 5 minutes until the flavors have infused. Turn off the heat. Strain if desired and add lime zest.

In a bowl, combine all the herbs and ingredients. Toss with sweet and sour sauce.

3) In a stir-fried SWEET AND SOUR PORK from Northeastern China — aka, the recipe that follows. — Food52

Watch this recipe

Guo Bao Rou (Plus Bonus Sweet and Sour Recipes) from Lucas Sin


4 servings

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

30 minutes


Sweet and Sour Sauce:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or rice wine vinegar

Crispy Pork:

  • 1/2 pound pork shoulder, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pinch white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2 inch knob ginger, cut into very thin 2-inch strips
  • 3 scallion whites, cut into very thin 2″ strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices lengthwise
  • 1 cup potato starch
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil


  1. In a bowl, marinade the slices of pork shoulder by combining the salt, white pepper, and shaoxing wine. Mix thoroughly, gently squeezing the seasoning into the meat. Refrigerate and let sit for at least 30 minutes, up to 3 days.
  2. Make the sweet and sour sauce: In a small pot, combine vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil. There is no need to stir. Continue to boil until most of the vinegar flavor has evaporated, at least 2 minutes. Take off the heat, add lemon juice, and stir. Set aside.
  3. In a large metal bowl, combine potato starch and water. Mix well until combined. Leave the bowl on the counter and let it sit for 30 min until the water and starch have separated again. Pour off the excess water and keep the remaining oobleck (cornstarch-water slurry).
  4. In the bowl of marinated pork, gradually add oobleck to the pork and massage pork. Until a thin coating of starch batter barely coats each piece so you can faintly see pink. Add 1 tablespoon oil and mix well.
  5. Heat oil to 325°F in a wok or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature. Carefully drop slices of battered pork into the oil, frying until they flat and set in shape, about 2 minutes. Remove and let drain.
  6. Raise the oil temperature to 375°F and fry again to finish cooking the pork for another minute. Raise the oil temperature to 400°F. Fry one more time for color, about 30 seconds.
  7. In a wok or skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger. Stir-fry until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the prepared sweet and sour sauce, mixing vigorously until bubbles appear and the sauce thickens slightly. Add the fried pork, cilantro stems, and scallion whites to the wok. Toss to combine. Serve warm.

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