An infinitely classic Cantonese dish of deep-fried pork doused in a bright orange sauce, this is the sweet and sour pork you’re looking for.
Like many beloved classic Hong Kong dishes, sweet and sour pork, or in Cantonese 咕嚕肉 (gu lou yuk), is an unpretentious creation. In this case, a short ingredient list of pork — usually pork collar — fresh pineapple and bell peppers. The real secret of the dish is the bright, near-fluorescent shade of orange sweet and sour sauce that glazes, coats and glides over each component on the plate to tie together a perfectly sticky, tangy, crispy, crunchy bite.
It’s a dish that’s not difficult to find, being a long-time city-wide favourite. In fact, your neighbourhood Cantonese “stir-fry king” probably already does some version of it, not to mention the dish is a regular order upon most Daily Specials menus. But to really judge a good sweet and sour pork, there’s a laundry list of standards while its tossed in a roaring hot wok: the deep-fried batter must be light and airy; the pork tender. Pineapples are tested for freshness and bell peppers for their crunchiness. As for the sauce: a balanced mixture of sweet-yet-tangy, sticky but not overly heavy. And if you’re thinking like it seems like a tricky checklist to master, the restaurants below have already perfected it.
Hong Kong’s best sweet and sour pork:
The luxurious one-Michelin star Man Wah is certainly not too distinguished for the humble Cantonese favourite. Executive Chinese chef Wing-Keung Wong sticks to a classic, hard-to-fault recipe with a refined list of ingredients: tender chunks of pork fried to a crisp, fresh pineapple cubes and crunchy red and green bell peppers all tossed in a signature bright orange sweet and sour sauce.
Man Wah, 25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2825 4003
Pang’s Kitchen (彭慶記食家)
Nestled in quiet, residential lanes of Happy Valley is Pang’s Kitchen, an intimate Chinese kitchen recognised with one Michelin star. The modest, home-style cooking is what won over legions of loyal fans, many of whom make the special journey for the sweet and sour pork —touted as possibly the best in Hong Kong — sautéed exclusively with green bell peppers and strawberries (instead of pineapples) for a jammier rendition.
Pang’s Kitchen, 25 Yik Yam Street, Happy Valley, Hong Kong, +852 2838 5462
Sang Kee Restaurant (生記飯店)
Wan Chai’s Sang Kee Restaurant is a well-known institution. Established in 1978, the 40-year-run restaurant specialises in rustic Cantonese cooking, serving a menu of nostalgic Hong Kong-style dishes, including sweet and sour pork. The chef here insists on maintaining a truly authentic make — deep-fried pork finished in a well-balanced, evenly coated glaze and tossed together with green bell peppers and fresh pineapple chunks.
Sang Kee Restaurant, 1/F – 2/F, Hip Sang Building, 107-115 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2575 22399
Woo Cheong Tea House (和昌飯店)
The newly refurbished The Pawn — now named as Woo Cheong Tea House — has ditched its previous western menu for a contemporary Chinese one, led by chef Edmond Ip. Cuisine favourites that you already know and love are remade in interesting new riffs, like the classic sweet and sour pork. It’s a familiar first-bite; crispy on the outside, tender within and coated with the signature tangy sweet-sticky glaze that’s been naturally coloured with red rice grains. You can enjoy it as per tradition — in between bites of fresh pineapple and vegetal green bell peppers — or the renewed Woo Cheong way: with a dip of the accompanying popping candy for extra crackle and crunch.
Woo Cheong Tea House, 1/F – 2/F, Woo Cheong Tea House, 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2866 3444
Zaap Zung Restaurant (集眾菜館)
Located in an assuming corner in Prince Edward is Zaap Zung Restaurant, a rustic dai pai dong with an aromatic, “wok-hey”-filled menu of well-executed Cantonese classics. The sweet and sour pork here is more than just a must-order signature, it has become somewhat of a consummate standard for dishes across the city. Bite-size pork pieces are deep-fried in a light, airy batter, then finished in the iconic sweet-sticky sauce of perfect consistency — put it to the pull test to find out.
Zaap Zung Restaurant, 13 Cedar Street, Prince Edward, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 8481 2583
Mott 32‘s take on the familiar sweet and sour pork is a more elegant than you’d typically expect, but the signature sweet and sour flavours are all there. Closely following a traditional recipe, Mott 32 infuses aged black vinegar to its tangy sauce for extra zing and swaps in dragonfruit for extra sweetness. As per standard of its Cantonese fine-dining reputation, the dish is a photogenic creation of symmetrical shapes: stripes of golden-fried pork, cubes of dragonfruit and clean-cut lozenges of yellow bell peppers.
Mott 32, UG/F, Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2885 8688
Juxing Home (聚興家)
Don’t visit Juxing Home expecting anything plush or fancy, this Michelin Recommended spot is anything but. It’s loved for its unpretentious dining experience, and even more so for its plates of authentic Cantonese fare fragrant with “wok hei” (“wok” flavour). Amongst many top favourites is the sweet and sour pork, a gleaming, glistening order of deep-fried pork ribs doused in a homemade, sweet and tangy hawthorn sauce and served with fresh pineapples and green peppers.
Juxing Home, 418 Portland Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2392 9283
Tung Po Kitchen (東寶小館)
Granted, Tung Po Kitchen’s well-known reputation is usually less about the Cantonese-style stir-fry, and more of the boisterous ambience and the very animated shop-keeper, but they do a very extensive menu of classic dishes well. It includes the sweet and sour pork, a straightforward make of deep-fried pork with green and red bell peppers, pineapple, and only at Tung Po, onions. The dish is a simple, near-authentic interpretation — even more so if you wash it all down with the classic beer in a bowl.
Tung Po Kitchen, 2/F, Java Road Municipal Services Building, 99 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong, +852 2880 5224