Dinner Tonight: Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Shrimp

Dinner Tonight: Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Shrimp

Sweet-and-sour sauces always remind me of my first experiences of eating out. When I was a child, a meal in a Chinese restaurant was the height of sophistication. My love of sweet and sour has always remained.  I've adjusted it, but the basic flavour combination prevails.  This version is my quickest and easiest.SweetSourShrimp4


Preparation Time:  Less than 10 minutes
Cooking Time: Less than 10 minutes

Ingredients for 4 servings

For the stir-fry
2 tbsp sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
1 red chile, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves chopped finely
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
550 g/1.2 lb shrimp (prawns), raw, but peeled, deveined and cleaned
1 bok choy (or 2 baby bok choy)
4 spring onions (scallions) chopped to about 1 cm-/0.5-in pieces
Some fresh coriander (cilantro) roughly chopped to dress


For the sauce
4 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (optional)

SwweSourShrimpGarlic copy


  • Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl, taste it to check if you like the balance of flavour and adjust if you wish.  Set aside.
  • Heat the oil on a very high heat in a wok.  If you don’t have a wok, a nonstick frying pan is fine.  Get the oil as hot as you can, just below smoking point.  Check the heat by dropping a piece of spring onion (scallion), and if it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough.
  • SweetSourShrimpFryGarlic

  • Add the chile, garlic and ginger, stir and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the spring onions (scallions) and cook for another minute.
  • Add the shrimp (prawns) cook for about 2 minutes or until they turn pink.
  • SweetSourShrimpFryShrimp

  • Add the sauce, keeping the heat high so that as soon as it hits your pan or wok, it sizzles and reduces.
  • When the sauce has thickened a little, add the bok choy, mix through and cover it, cooking only for a minute.
  • Serve with simply boiled white rice and sprinkle with some fresh coriander (cilantro).
  • Tips and Variations

    • This meal works great with chicken or pork too.  The cooking time will be longer though.
    •  Mix up your vegetables for variation.  I often add some bean sprouts, pineapple chunks (a bit retro, but I love it!) and sweetcorn.  Some other, longer cooking vegetables that work well are carrots and red peppers--I like to cut them into matchsticks.
    • Once you get to know this recipe it is nice to play around with the sauce.  By adjusting the ratios of the ingredients you can make it tangier, sweeter, saltier, whatever your taste or your mood.
    • I cannot stress enough, how important it is to get your oil and your pan hot.  So many people seem to be afraid of the hot oil, but you really need it for this recipe to work.  If you don’t get your oil hot, the meal will get watery and the sauce will not reduce.



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