Sweet and Sour Chicken is a typical Chinese dish. I suppose with the number of Chinese immigrants to Jamaica, it became part of the Jamaican food table. This recipe is my mothers recipe and it loads up a ton of flavors to make this comforting and delicious dish. We usually make it around the holidays but you can make this anytime you want.
This dish is basically fried chicken nuggets coated and finished in a sweet and tangy sauce. The key to making the sauce is adding as many naturally sweet ingredients that you can find first before loading in just plain sugar. This way, there isn’t just a flat sweetness but a bit of flavor + sweet in every bite.
How do you make this simple dish? Start with:
Chicken thighs: I opt for boneless skinless chicken thighs over chicken breasts because it cooks up juicer and is a bit more flavorful. The thigh meat is far less dry than the breast and is not as easy to overcook. This makes cooking it as a novice cook much easier.
Corn Starch: Your flour dredge is better off with some kind of start. You can use rice flour, cornstarch or potato starch. These additions will help the coating to stay crispy which is important since the fried chicken will be dunked into sauce. You don’t want to lose all of the breading or make it too soggy.
Seasoning Blend: Make a delicious seasoning blend to make the chicken super flavorful first. Lots of sweet and sour chicken recipes call for just salt and pepper. I would NEVER. The chicken should be delicious on its own and only get a boost from the sauce. All of the flavor for the chicken should not be coming from just the sauce.
The Sauce: This is what makes the dish and so it has to taste really good. The flavors are built in a base of sweet and tangy pineapple juice with bell peppers and onions. Pineapple chunks are also added in here and boy, the burst of sweetness gives this dish a whole new flavor profile. Lastly, add in some crunchy baby corn for added texture and flavor. Most people would want to skip this, but please don’t skip the corn.
For this recipe you will need:
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Large skillet
- Wire rack and cookie sheet
- A medium bowl
- A small bowl (flour dredge)
- 2 lbs chicken thighs or breasts (cut in 1 inch pieces)
- 1 tsp chicken seasoning
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 3 cups of oil for frying
- Flour dredge:
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup of cornstarch
- 1 tbsp chicken seasoning
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 red onion (large dice)
- 1/2 red bell pepper (large dice)
- 1/2 green bell pepper (large dice)
- 1 can baby corn (halved)
- 1 small can pineapple chunks
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Clean and cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Add chicken seasoning, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and white pepper. Use a spoon to combine seasonings well until all the pieces are fully coated. Cover and set aside.
- Dice onions, peppers, and cut baby corn and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add flour, cornstarch, chicken seasoning and black pepper. Mix well and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees. Dip chicken pieces in flour dredge. Be sure to get the pieces fully coated with flour before frying. Shake off the excess flour and add chicken pieces to hot oil in batches. Fry until golden brown. Boneless chicken will cook in about 5 minutes, about 2.5 mins on each side.
- Drain cooked chicken on a wire rack so that they remain crispy. Do not use a flat plate. Line a baking tray with paper towels and place a wire rack on top of the tray. The tray will catch any drippings from the chicken.
- After frying chicken, discard oil, rinse and dry the skillet with clean paper towels. Heat the skillet and add 1 tbsp of oil. Heat the oil for about 60 seconds and add in bell peppers and onions. Allow the veggies to cook for about 90 seconds.
- To the veggies, add in ketchup, pineapple juice, honey, vinegar and soy sauce. Allow the sauce to come up to a boil and slightly reduce.
- Once the sauce slightly reduces and thickens, add in pineapple chunks and baby corn. Use a spoon or spatula to help to coat the corn and pineapples well in the sauce.
- Allow the sauce to reduce and thicken a bit more. It should take no more than 2-3 mins. You want the veggies in the sauce to remain crunchy so do not keep the sauce on the heat for a long time.
- Turn off heat and add in chicken pieces. Use a spoon or spatula to gently toss chicken pieces until they are fully coated in the sauce.
- Serve hot with steamed rice and enjoy.