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In China traditionally the sauces are made from mixing sugar or honey with a sour liquid such as rice vinegar, soy sauce, and spices such as ginger and cloves. Sometimes a paste made from tomatoes is used but this is rare and normally restricted to western cooking.
Many places in China use a sweet and sour sauce as a dipping sauce for fish and meat, rather than in cooking as is commonly found in westernized Chinese cuisine.
Not all dishes are cooked – some, such as “sweet and sour fruit and vegetable” salad from the eastern regions of China, also find their way in Chinese cuisine. This dish combines salad vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and onion with a mixture of pineapple (or pear), vinegar, and sugar to make a cold served dish.
Western cultures use sweet and sour sauce in two different ways. Dishes can either include the sauce as an ingredient in cooking or use the sauce as a pour-over or dipping sauce for the meal.
Common in Western sweet and sour sauce is the addition of fruits such as pineapple and vegetables such as sweet pepper and green onions. Traditional rice vinegar is becoming more readily available due to the increase in Asian food stores but a mixture of vinegar and dry sherry is often still used in sweet and sour dishes. Also common is the use of corn starch as thickener for the sauce and tomato ketchup to give a stronger red colour to the dish and to add a Western taste. Most supermarkets across Europe and America carry a range of prepared sweet and sour sauces either for adding to a stir-fry or for use as a dipping sauce.
Thai-style sweet chilli dipping sauce has recently overtaken the previous popularity of Chinese-style sweet and sour sauce to the extent it can often be found at non-Asian establishments for a wide variety of western-style snacks from fishcakes to chips and seafood such as calamari and prawns.
A number of variations are used in barbecue cuisine, either home-made or prepared from a number of common brands.
Source: inter alia WikipediaAdd to Favourites