They say marriage changes you, but never how much. A lifetime of compromises, concessions and sacrifices. Nearly a decade into my marriage, one such change sticks out: sweet and sour chicken.
There is a lot, food-related and otherwise, that my husband and I agree on, but sweet and sour chicken, the iconic Chinese-American takeout dish, is not one of them.
You know the type — typically very heavily battered, very sweet and very, very red. Because I can understand why those attributes don’t appeal to everyone, and because I prefer to eat our takeout family-style and order dishes we’ll both eat, I pretty much cut sweet and sour chicken out of my repertoire. Like I said, sacrifices.
I have tackled at-home versions of pad thai, fried rice and butter chicken, and sweet and sour chicken seemed like an ideal next candidate. I remembered a very good recipe from former catering kitchen cook Sheila Chang that I made once, years ago, and set about testing it and a few other contenders. That recipe was a crowd favorite based on the flavor and texture of the sauce, but we also liked a modified sweet and sour pork recipe from blogger and cookbook author Diana Kuan. Her recipe earned plaudits for its more restrained, citrusy sweetness (almost more like an orange chicken) and relatively thin but satisfying coating of batter. A lot of restaurant versions have so much batter that you lose the chicken. Not this one.
I made a hybrid version, with a scaled-back version of Chang’s recipe — less chicken with less sauce, made with less sugar — and Kuan’s batter.
In the end, my tinkering paid off. My tasters lapped it up, down to every last drop of sauce, which strikes a great balance between the sugar and vinegar.