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History of takeaway food - Sweet and Sour

Cheap Takeaway Menus can provide your takeaway business with full colour, high quality takeaway menus. Our takeaway menu designers have years of experience and our takeaway menu printers are professionals who use the latest printing methods to make sure your takeaway menu is as attractive as the takeaway food you provide to your customers. We can also advise and provide a state of the art food ordering website to expand your business further. How sweet is that!


Awkward segue there, we’re sure you’ll agree, but there’s nothing wrong with a pun if it leads us to this month’s trip into the origins of takeaway food, which is one of our personal favourites: sweet and sour!




Notice we didn’t specify chicken or pork or prawns. We wouldn’t dare suggest that the meat/fish is incidental to these dishes, but when you think ‘sweet and sour’ it’s the glorious, colourful, sticky and flavoursome sauce that always comes to mind first. For a sauce to quite often get its own section on a takeaway menu must mean it’s something special. And, oh boy, is it ever!


Some people claim that sweet and sour sauce originated in the Hunan Province of China, but the weak vinegar and sugar mixture used here for dipping food is quite unlike what most of us would describe as sweet and sour sauce. In fact, the more common way to use the sauce in China is as a dipping sauce for meat and fish.


The closest ancestor to the sweet and sour sauce we all know and love is actually Cantonese sweet and sour lobster or pork, where the meat is cooked and the sauce added to the wok as it does so. The sauce was originally created to use with pork, but as we know sweet and sour sauce can be used to create dishes with any number of main ingredients.


According to Hong Kong chef Leung King, the perfect sweet and sour sauce is created by mixing rice vinegar with salt, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, dark soy sauce and Chinese brown candy (a hard and crumbly form of brown sugar). There are endless variations on this recipe, though, and in the West it is common for a sweet and sour sauce to contain green peppers, onions, and pineapple.


It is more of a western idea for Chinese restaurants to batter and deep fry chicken or pork and then add the meat to the prepared sauce to serve.  


It is interesting to chart the development of a dish like sweet and sour because what it describes is hundreds of years of experimentation and the movement of tastes across the globe. Travel around the world and each sweet and sour sauce you try will have a slightly different taste or ingredient or place in the cooking process. Even world famous burger chains sell sachets of sweet and sour sauce for dipping.


We like to see sweet and sour recipes on our takeaway menus because it means that the experimentation continues and the tradition of taste has not been lost.

Now, where’s that shiny new Chinese takeaway menu we just produced, and someone pass me the phone…



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About the Author

Kevin Moyse

With over 19 years creative marketing experience Kevin has a wonderful knowledge of takeaway restaurant industry and specialises in creative takeaway menu design and printing.

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