x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lose that, eat this: sweet and sour chicken

The average takeaway sweet and sour chicken is laden with fat, sodium and sugar, but with a few tweaks you can make yourself a version that's delicious and healthy.

At the average Chinese restaurant or takeaway, sweet and sour chicken consists of pieces of poultry that have been battered, deep fried and then doused in a lurid pink salty-sweet sauce. It's not hard to see why the dish is best avoided if you're trying to eat healthily; it is rife with saturated fat, calories, sodium and sugar.

In order to make this more healthy, deep frying the meat is not an option. But, if you coat the pieces of skinless chicken breast (a good source of low-fat protein) in corn flour, before frying them in a small amount of very hot oil, then they develop a crunchy, crispy crust that mimics the texture of the battered and deep-fried version.

The sauce below relies on natural, fresh ingredients for flavour; garlic, ginger and chilli, for example. Fresh pineapple is preferable to the tinned variety, which is often steeped in syrup. The fruit provides natural sweetness, so you don't need to add sugar and you won't need to season with salt because of the soy sauce. The recipe contains plenty of vegetables (or add whatever is available to you) and when served with brown rice this a healthy, balanced meal that is quick and easy to prepare.

Healthier sweet and sour chicken

Serves 2

1 skinless chicken breast

1 tbsp corn flour

1 tbsp groundnut oil

1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

onion, peeled and sliced

For the sauce:

pineapple, peeled and chopped

juice of lime

1 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

2cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1/2-1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

black pepper

First prepare the sauce. Tip of the pineapple into a blender with the lime juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, chilli and a few twists of black pepper. Blend until smooth. Cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces and dust all over with the corn flour. Heat the oil in a wok until you can feel heat rising from the surface. Carefully add the chicken pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chicken develops a light golden crust. Add the peppers, carrot, onion and remaining pineapple and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the pineapple pieces start to caramelise slightly around the edges. Pour over the sauce, stirring well to coat the meat and vegetables. Cook for 4-6 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and become slightly syrupy. Taste to check the seasoning, adding more lime juice or soy sauce if you think it is necessary. Serve with brown rice.