Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin Medallions – Half the Fat, All the Inauthenticity

Whenever you see those headlines like, "Worst Take-Out Food Choices Ever," on the various websites, you can be sure that sweet and sour pork will be near the top of the list. 

That's because it's usually made from fatty pieces of pork shoulder, cut into cubes, dipped in a thick batter, deep-fried, and finally coated with a super-sugary, thick, starchy sauce.

I'm no shrinking violet around high-calorie food, but classic Chinese-American take-out sweet and sour pork is basically deep-fried, sugar-coated, fatty pork chunks. And yes, once in a while, it's pretty damn awesome (like twice a decade).

For a more reasonable way to enjoy the same basic flavors, I think this pork tenderloin version is a nice alternative. As I say in the video, pork tenderloin is lean, very easy to cook (as long as you can get past those ridiculous fears about slightly pink pork), and the sauce takes about two minutes to prep.

By the way, this is not simply fake Chinese food; it's actually fake, fake Chinese food. The aforementioned death nuggets we call sweet and sour pork are not even remotely close to any kind of authentic sweet and sour preparation in real Chinese cuisine. Or at least that’s what I heard Anthony Bourdain say one time. Now that's research.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this plate of florescent food, and if you're a fan of the Chinese take-out version, I believe you will too. Also, I would suggest tossing in some green onions (the white parts) along with the garlic, and save the green tops to garnish with as I did with the chives. Enjoy!



Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin Ingredients:
For the sauce:
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
reserved pineapple juice from can
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white parts, optional
2 teaspoons Asian hot chili sauce (sambal or sriracha), or to taste
1/4 cup water or chicken broth to thin sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
For the pork medallions:
1 pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut, flattened into four medallions
salt and fresh ground black pepper as needed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 can (8-oz) pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
4 cups cooked white rice
2 tablespoon chopped green onion tops or chives to garnish

View the complete recipe

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great video, as always!

Any worry about cooking acidic products in your cast iron pan and ruining the seasoning?

Anonymous said...

Love!

Steve said...

When I worked at an asian restaurant, our sweet and sour had mostly orange juice concentrate and pineapple juice. I can't remember for the life of me what else we had in there.

Anonymous said...

Chef John you can never give us too many faux faux Asain recipes. I know I will make this a thousand times. I still make Spicy Orange Chicken and Caramel Chicken quite frequently. Am interested to hear your response about acid in cast iron... I had never considered this before.

MissSarahOlivia said...

This looks great! I can't wait to try this! I just love your blog chef john!

Anonymous said...

Can you sub tofu for this if you are vegetarian?

Chef John said...

Sure! Why not?

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef John,

Love your recipes. Do you have any thoughts on using pork chops instead of pork tenderloins? I recently bought a bunch of pork chops and was thinking this might be a nice way to prepare some of them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef John! For sweet and sour chicken, should I use this recipe or that (Panda) wing recipe?

So I just made chocolate chip oatmeal cookies..they came out good:) What surprises me is that your website doesn't have many cookie recipes?..

Hoping for more:)...

A

Asian Malaysian said...

Im Asian Malaysian and I approve of this recipe. I would suggest using tempeh instead of tofu as vegetarian substitute though.

Sammie said...

I love asian food- fake or otherwise. And I love that you used the term "death nuggets".

rancholyn said...

Thanks for a healthy alternative...looks yummy! Trying it this weekend,,,,,

Chef John said...

this would work great for chicken I think, or for pork chops too!

Lizen said...

Can I make this with boneless, skinless chicken breasts?

Chef John said...

Of course!

Anonymous said...

I cut the pork tenderloin in about one-inch cubes, and stir fried until just beginning to brown. It's definitely a keeper recipe!

rancholyn said...

Made this for dinner tonight and was a big hit...delicious, light and most flavorful...Chef John...your rock!!! Thank-you..

Sue Lynn said...

Made this tonight, and we all LOVED it, including 12- and 14-year-old sons. Used large can of crushed pineapple instead. Served with brown rice and freshly cooked spinach. Huge hit!

Sue Lynn said...

This recipe is a huge keeper. Everyone loved it, including 12- and 14-year-old sons. So easy--we will definitely make it again.

Andy said...

Hi John -- love your blog! This recipe, like all of your recipes, looks great. I just have one quick question about it. My girlfriend isn't a big fan of cooked fruits. Is there something (perhaps a veggie) that you'd suggest I can a substitute for the cooked pineapple? Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

This sauce is fantastic. Put a little extra sambal in... and we swooned.... Next time I'll double the sauce so we can have lots to put on rice, etc. This would work with so many foods.

THANKS

Chef John said...

The pineapple and juice are important to the flavor. Can't she just not eat the chunks. You don't even have to plate them. Zucchini would be okay.

André said...

Another good reason for a selfmade Chinese meal is that you can be sure, that there is no glutamate in your meal. (And I mean Chinese Take-Out Food, not real Chinese cuisine, that needs no glutamate)

Chris said...

I just made this dish for dinner and WOW. Why would I ever order Take-out again?! TRY THIS DISH! Thanks again, Chef John!

Anonymous said...

Chef John,
Can't wait to try this recipe! It looks fabulous. One question, because my husband and I are having a disagreement...when you flatten the cut pieces, do you "stand" them on end and flatten from the end grain, or just cut them and flatten from the "top" of the tenderloin?
I think I'm going to win this one! :-)
Thank you!!

Chef John said...

yes, stand them cut side up and pound. Sometimes the last piece near the tail isn't possible, so you can just pound flat.

skillphiliac said...

@André: Monosodium glutamate (Mandarin: 味精 literally: essence of flavor) is omnipresent in China. While not necessary everywhere to be found, chances are quite high it will be added someway or another.

Also, in my opinion and apparently in the opinion the matter of authenticity stands to debate, while there may be one single precursor of a certain dish, assuming it has and always was prepared a specific way would be a bit vague. The thing that would cause Chinese to raise an eyebrow would probably be the fact that the meat isn't sliced up in small, chopstick-compatible chunks.

skillphiliac said...

Might I add: Amazing, as always. This is basically the most fun a person can have... browsing through your library of "so delicious" recipes.

Anonymous said...

This was so good! My whole family (including my sometimes picky eater children) like it! I doubled the pineapple and added some onion, yellow and orange peppers. the tenderloin really makes this great! thanks

Anonymous said...

I made this tonight and it turned out great. I can only handle a little bit of heat but I did tell my husband that he could put some red pepper flakes on after it. He said it came out perfect. This def will be included in our menu from now on.

Anonymous said...

Chef John.....you've been an inspiration. I'm a registered nurse and cooking had been my stress relief. Love to try out new stuff and was so happy to run into your website just a month ago and had not stopped following your recipes. I like to modify some of them but this pork recipe is a keeper, just perfect, did not give up looking for the sambal chili till i found one.. everyone should have one in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

LOL This is quite weird to me here, I'm living in Asia and we never use Tenderlion... And the sauce is always sticky and VERY sour/VERY sweet.
Although i tried this and it gave a different taste, it is nothing like the original Sweet and Sour pork! Still, good job in making it your own twist Chef John! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Just did this with some nice boneless chops. Yummy!

Will use a bit less garlic next time, but I'm glad I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I might try this sauce on some baked wings. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven.

AmberRose said...

I made this tonight for dinner and it was excellent! I was extremely heavy handed with the chili paste and it was such a nice contrast with the pineapple chucks. The "Chinese Food" in my neighborhood is so bad and I have been very deprived, now I get to Chinese-ish food again! Thanks, for this great recipe!