Sweet and Sour Chicken with Steamed Rice

This recipe was inspired by Jean Kwok’s novel, Searching for Sylvie Lee.

Book reference: p 18: NYC – Amy arrives at Sylvie’s and describes her terrible cooking skills saying “…they live on take-out sweet and sour pork…”

Ah, the ever popular Chinese take-away. Succulent bits of chicken are quickly browned and then enrobed with a slightly sweet and sour sauce only to later combine with some flash-fried fresh veg to make one, hearty meal. To be sure, there are a few steps involved in this recipe. You’ll be spending a few minutes on chopping the vegetables and prepping the aromatics. It will all be worth it in the end to have all of these elements brought together in one large dish with enough to feed a crowd. A side of your favourite cooked rice gives the sauce something to cling to. The vegetables suggested here are chosen for their colour, texture, and flavour profiles. You are welcome to use vegetables to your taste:  green beans, carrots, courgette or cauliflower, would also work wonderfully! You can also change up the chicken with turkey, pork or beef, if that is more to your taste.

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients for the Chicken Marinade, and Stirfry Veg

  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks (150g or 6 oz per person)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • pinch of sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot starch
  • * oil for frying
  • Stirfry Veg:

  • 2 sweet red peppers (can use yellow or orange) seeds removed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 medium onions, cut into bite-size pieces, and separated
  • 2 fresh red chillies, chopped into thin rounds (seeds removed if you want to lower their heat)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 200g (about 2 cups) tender stem broccoli, bite-size pieces
  • 1 tin of baby sweet corn, drained (those perfect little cat-size corn cobs)
  • 1 – 450g tin of pineapple in its own juice, drained, chopped, and juices reserved for the sauce
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 7cm (3 inches) ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped100g (about 1 cup) snow peas
  • *oil for coating the pan before frying
  • 125ml (½ cup) (scant) boiled water
  • Sauce for the Stirfry:

  • reserved juice from the tinned pineapple
  • 60ml (¼ cup) Tbsp lite soy sauce or tamari
  • 75ml (⅓ cup) rice (or white) vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot starch
  • 60ml (¼ cup) liquid honey
  • A little extra water on hand to loosen the sauce should you need it
  • Bunch of fresh coriander for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for a dash of extra flavour at your plate
  • 400 grams of basmati or jasmine rice, prepared as per packet directions


First, make the sauce by draining the juices from the tinned pineapple into a bowl. Add the soy and fish sauces, vinegar, 2 tbsp arrowroot, honey, and whisk together until combined. Set this aside for later, along with the pineapple and chopped mango.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place these in a bowl with a pinch of sea salt, a crack of black pepper, 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder, and the juice from the lime. Add the crushed garlic and toss everything all together until the chicken pieces have been evenly coated. Set this aside while you prep the veg. There’s no need to put this in the fridge; it’s better to cook the chicken when it’s not so cold.

Now, prepare the vegetables. Clean and chop the veg to your desired shape (bite-size is ideal.) They should all be relatively similar in size so they cook in the same time. Set these aside on a plate to have at the ready while you are cooking. Peel and chop the ginger and garlic; add these to a corner on the veg plate.

You’re now ready to cook! Start by preparing your rice. 2-½ cups of dry rice to 5 cups of water is a standard measure for eight people. Measure this out into a medium size pot and cook the rice as per your package instructions. Do this while you are making the sitrfry. You can do this in two large frying pans, or, use one frying pan and a wok, if you have one.

In the first pan, use a drizzle of oil to coat the bottom of the pan, over medium heat, add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring often, until they are no longer pink inside and starting to brown on the outside. This will take 8-10 minutes. When done, set this aside; you’ll be adding it to the vegetables in a few minutes.

In the second pan, (a wok if you have one) add a bit of oil to coat the pan and then tip in the chopped peppers and onions. Stir these around for 2 minutes and add in the chilis, asparagus, broccoli and baby corn, and stirfry for another minute. Now add the pineapple, mango, ginger, garlic, and snowpeas. With continued stirring, your goal is to gently cook the veg and fruit, just through to warming. Tender-crisp is how you’d like the veg to stay. Cooking all of this, should take about 6 minutes total. If at any time you find the veg is sticking to the pan, use a bit of hot boiling water to loosen it from the edges. When the vegetables are cooked, add the sauce you made with the juice from the pineapple and stir everything around until well combined and the sauce begins to thicken.

Phewf! You made it! Add the chicken to the pan with the vegetables, and warm it through as one dish. Serve alongside some fluffy rice, sprinkle with chopped coriander and add a wedge of lime for extra zing!

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