My Family’s Sweet and Sour Pork

Photos by Phoenix

No matter where you go, sweet and sour pork is featured on almost every Chinese restaurant menu. It’s also one of my favorite family meals. The ingredients and preparation for authentic Chinese sweet and sour pork are quite elaborate, but the recipe I’m sharing here is a simpler version. The dish consists of fried pork pieces in a dark, flavorful sauce. After stewing, the meat tastes mellow, but the sauce enveloped around the pork is what makes this dish unique. Since I came to the U.S. when I was in fifth grade, my family has continued to follow some Chinese traditions. During the pandemic, my mother taught me how to cook her mother’s recipe for sweet and sour pork. It’s a delicious home-style dish, so you, too, can cook it anytime. 

For the pork:

  • 900g (2 lbs) spare ribs
  • Cooking wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp green onion
  • 8 ginger slices
  • ½ tsp zanthoxylum
  • ⅓ cup crystal sugar
  • 2 tsp regular soy sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • ⅓ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sesame seeds to garnish (optional)


  1. Add some cooking wine into the wok to make the meat smell and taste better (and dispel the smell from raw meat), then put the pork ribs in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil.
  2. When the water starts boiling, take the ribs out and rinse them using warm water.
  3. Add oil into a wok.
  4. Once the oil is heated, put the onion, ginger, zanthoxylum and sugar into the wok and stir fry using medium to high heat.

  1. When the crystal sugar is melted, put the ribs into the wok, add water and boil. 
  2. Once the water boils, add soy sauce and salt. Add dark soy sauce too to deepen the color.

  1. Put a lid on the wok and stew for 50 minutes in medium to low heat.
  2. Open the wok and boil using high heat until the color of the sauce becomes opaque.
  3. Plate the ribs and, if you’d like to, add sesame seeds.
  4. Serve with rice!

Yields about 3 servings.

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