Sweet and sour pork is arguably one of the most well loved dishes in the world. The Japanese take on this dish is called "Subuta" and it's a household staple! Fried pork and crunchy veggies served in a sweet and tangy sauce, this dish is delicious, easy to make and uses easy to find ingredients!
Sweet and Sour Pork
You don't need me to tell you about sweet and sour, it's one of the most popular and well known dishes in the world!
Japan is no exception either, we love Chinese food and sweet and sour pork is a dish that you will find in every Chinese restaurant without fail. It is also commonly made at home.
In Japanese, we call the dish "Subuta (酢豚)" which when directly translated means "vinegar pork".
Chinese Food in Japan
Usually, Chinese dishes in Japan have been adapted to suit Japanese tastes. They are often less spicy, use Japanese ingredients and some are even created in Japan by Chinese chefs.
However, subuta is not so different to the sweet and sour pork you might find in a Chinese takeaway in Western countries, at least based on my experience.
Here are a few Chinese dishes that are popular in Japan:
- Sweet and Sour Pork (Subuta)
- Mapo Tofu (Mabo dofu)
- Shrimp in Chili Sauce (Ebi Chili)
- Spicy Sesame Ramen (Tantanmen)
And these dishes are not only common in Chinese restaurants, they're also household staples and are easy to make at home once you know how!
Japanese Style Sweet and Sour "Kurozu An"
While the most common sweet and sour dish in Japan is, without a doubt, Chinese style subuta, we also have another dish we call "Kurozu Ankake".
Kurozu An is made with black vinegar and different vegetables like nasu (Japanese eggplant) and renkon (lotus root). It's not as sweet as subuta and is usually served with rice, miso soup and pickles. You'd find kurozu an in Japanese teishoku (set meal) restaurants rather than Chinese restaurants, so I'd say it's a more Japanesey version of sweet and sour.
If you love this sweet and sour, and you want to try something a bit different, I highly recommend Kurozu An!
Watch How to make Subuta Sweet and Sour Pork
One of the main features of cooking subuta is deep frying everything, not only pork but also all the vegetables. This speeds up the cooking process and the vegetables maintain a nice crunchy texture.
The most common vegetables used in subuta are:
- Red or green bell peppers (I use a smaller Japanese pepper called "piman" which is a essentially a mini bell pepper with a more bitter flavour)
If you don't want to deep fry, you can shallow fry instead. I know some people prefer to stir fry the vegetables, but the texture will be a bit different if you cook it this way.
Some restaurants use pineapple to add more citrus and sweetness.
What cut of pork should be used for Subuta?
The type of pork used for subuta really depends on your preference.
I personally like to use pork belly for this dish, it adds more flavour and umami. The fat in the pork also crisps up nicely when deep fried.
However, if you want the dish to be less fatty, it's fine to use a lean cut like pork loin. (I've used pork loin chops many times to make this dish.)
And if you're not a fan of pork, you can substitute it for chicken, beef or even firm tofu. It's a versatile dish and the sauce goes well with many things!
"Subuta" Sweet And Sour Pork (酢豚)
- 100 g green bell pepper(s)
- 100 g yellow onion(s)
- 75 g carrot(s)
- 200 g pork belly
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 pasteurized egg yolk
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- cooking oil - for frying
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tbsp sake
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp Chinese-style chicken bouillon powder
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp white sesame seeds - to garnish
- First, heat your cooking oil for deep frying or shallow frying to around 180 °C.
- While it's heating, cut 100 g green bell pepper(s), 100 g yellow onion(s) and 75 g carrot(s) into rough bitesize chunks.
- Cut 200 g pork belly into bite size pieces and place them into a bowl.
- Add 1 pinch salt, 1 pinch black pepper and 1 tbsp all-purpose flour and mix until all of the pork is evenly coated.
- Next, add 1 pasteurized egg yolk to the bowl and mix thoroughly until it forms a batter around the pork.
- Once the oil is hot, sprinkle 2 tbsp cornstarch onto a plate. Roll each piece of pork in the cornstarch and place it straight into the preheated oil.
- Fry the pork until crispy and cooked through. This should take about 3-4 mins depending on the thickness of your pork.
- Once the pork is cooked and crispy, remove it from the oil using tongs or a mesh spoon and place it on a wire rack or kitchen paper to drain/absorb the excess oil.
- Using the same oil, add the carrots and set a timer for 1 minute.
- Next, add the onion and bell pepper and set a timer for 1 more minute.
- Remove all the vegetables from the pan and place them onto a wire rack. Turn off the heat.
- In a cold frying pan, add 2 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, ½ tbsp sake, 2 tbsp white sugar, 3 tbsp water, 1 tsp soy sauce, ½ tsp Chinese-style chicken bouillon powder and ½ tsp cornstarch. Mix it well before turning on the heat.
- Turn on heat with a medium setting and continue to mix the sauce. After a few minutes it should start to become thick and glossy.
- Add the vegetables to the sauce and fry them together for a minute or so, allowing the sauce to thicken a little more.
- Finally, add the pork and mix thoroughly, ensuring everything is coated in sweet and sour sauce.
- Turn off the heat and dish up. Sprinkle with ½ tsp white sesame seeds.