Okay, a lot of it is, but there are plenty of dishes for those who can’t tolerate the heat. One thing that comes to mind is Thai-style sweet and sour. What? You’ve never heard of it? That’s probably because it’s not commonly found on the menu at most Thai restaurants, but it should be!
You’re probably wondering if it’s similar to the Chinese sweet and sour pork that we are used to here in the States. No, it’s not. Unlike the Chinese version, Thai sweet and sour is a stir-fry with pineapple, onion, tomato and cucumber (and any other embellishments you fancy). The sourness comes from pineapple juice with a little vinegar thrown in. There’s no cornstarch in the sauce; it’s thickened by being wok-caramelized. Oh, and it contains a healthy dose of fish sauce.
The version I use is a little different from traditional sweet and sour pork. Instead of the vinegar, I use plum sauce for tartness (an idea I ran across flipping through a Thai cookbook). I also don’t like stir-fried cucumbers, so I replace those with celery, which tastes wonderful when stir-fried.
Thai-style Sweet and Sour Pork
Serves 3 adults
- 12oz pork sirloin or tenderloin, sliced for stir-fry
- ¼ cup unsweetened pineapple juice
- 1 tbs plum sauce
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs fish sauce, more to taste
- 1 tbs minced garlic
- ½ large onion, cut into wedges
- 3 stalks celery, thick- sliced on the diagonal
- 1 large tomato, cut into 8 wedges
- ½ to 2/3 cup 1-inch pineapple pieces (fresh is best but canned is fine)
In a hot wok over medium-high heat, add about 2 tbs oil. Quickly stir-fry the pork with the garlic until almost done. Remove and keep warm.
Crank up the heat to high and add a little more oil if necessary. Stir-fry the onions and celery for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and pineapple. Stir-fry for an additional minute or two. The celery should be crisp, but not raw. Add the pork back in. Drizzle the sauce down the sides of the wok and mix well. It's done when the pork is cooked through. Serve with steamed rice. I also like a large dollop of Vietnamese chili-garlic sauce or sambal oelek.