Sweet and Sour Shrimp: Crisp, Colorful, and Better Homemade

October 6, 2020 Updated: October 6, 2020

Sweet and sour pork, or gu lou yuk, is an iconic Cantonese dish. Made with crisp, deep-fried pieces of meat, sweet peppers, and golden pineapple chunks all coated in a bright and glossy sweet and sour sauce, the dish is beloved from across China to around the world. 

This variation swaps the pork for shrimp, a less popular choice of protein—but if you make it right, it tastes even better than the original.

Like the pork, the shrimp must first be deep-fried. Before frying, marinate the shrimp in a mix of egg, cornstarch, a dash of rice wine, and salt and white pepper. The egg white is the secret to giving the shrimp a perfectly plump, bouncy texture, while the egg as a whole will also help the cornstarch coating stick during the next step. 

Next, use your hands to curl and squish the shrimp into rough spheres, and coat them in a layer of cornstarch. Deep-fry until lightly crisp and golden on the outside, and pink but still tender and bouncy on the inside.

Then, quickly stir-fry a colorful mix of onions, bell peppers, and pineapple, and simmer together an easy sweet and sour sauce. Traditionally, the sauce is made with simply rock sugar, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Now, especially in the West, ketchup has become a popular addition for an extra boost of flavor and bright red color. 

Finally, all that’s left to do is toss the shrimp and veggies together in that thick, glossy sauce, and you’ll have an impressive dish as vibrant in color as in flavor.

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves 2 

For the Shrimp 

  • 1 1/2 pound shrimp, without heads, deveined, peeled, and butterflied
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • Dash of rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 4 cups vegetable oil, for frying

For the Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 small onion, cubed
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 1/4 cup pineapple, cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

For the Sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water

Prep: Add the shrimp to a large bowl and season with the salt, white pepper, and rice wine. In a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water, then add the slurry to the shrimp. Crack in the egg and use your hands to mix well. Let marinate for 10 minutes.

Epoch Times Photo
Marinate the shrimp. (CiCi Li)

Meanwhile, you can chop your vegetables and prepare the sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, rice vinegar, ketchup, sugar, and chicken stock. Mix well and set aside.

Deep-fry the shrimp: Pour 1 1/2 cups cornstarch into a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze each shrimp into a tight ball, then dip it into the cornstarch. Keep squeezing the shrimp into a ball as you coat it with cornstarch. Transfer to a plate to rest while you do the same with the rest of the shrimp. Let the shrimp rest for 5 minutes before frying, so the cornstarch sticks better.

Epoch Times Photo
Squeeze the marinated shrimp into balls and coat with cornstarch. (CiCi Li)

In a large pot, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees F. (You can test the oil temperature with a pair of wooden chopsticks: Stick the chopsticks into the oil, and if you see lots of tiny bubbles immediately form around them, then the oil is ready for frying. Make sure your chopsticks are completely dry before they touch the hot oil.)

Carefully transfer the shrimp into the oil. Deep fry for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to evenly cook all sides, until the shrimp turn pink, with pale golden exteriors. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Epoch Times Photo
Deep fry until crisp and golden. (CiCi Li)

Stir-fry the vegetables: In a large pan over high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, pineapple, and garlic, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Epoch Times Photo
Stir fry the vegetables and pineapple. (CiCi Li)

Combine: Lower the heat to medium-high and add the sauce to the same pan. Cook for 1 minute; it should be simmering. In a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water, then add the slurry to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Add the shrimp and vegetables and stir to coat everything in the sauce. Serve.

Epoch Times Photo
Simmer the sauce until thickened. (CiCi Li)
Epoch Times Photo
Toss everything together. (CiCi Li)

Recipe by CiCi Li, the producer and presenter of “CiCi’s Food Paradise” on NTD. Join her in discovering the world of Asian home cooking at CiCiLi.tv