Growing up in Nebraska, the closest family was nearly 8,000 miles away in Hong Kong and so our “family” was made of neighbors and co-workers of my Dad at the city utility offices. On the weekends, the adults would play cards, mah-jong (my parents taught everyone!) and have grand potlucks.
We spent many weekends with one of Dad’s co-workers, Walt and his wife Alice, who had a lovely backyard full of fruit trees. They were an older couple and became Jay and my substitute “Grandma and Grandpa.” I remember vividly the massive netting contraption that Walt would drape over the majestic cherry tree once the fruit started ripening to prevent darting bird-theives from snatching the prized fruit.
Every year in the summer, we’d be invited over for cherry harvesting, where the netting would be gently lifted off like a veil, revealing the layers and layers of branches holding bright red cherries ready for picking. The rest of the evening and days that followed were dedicated to pitting, pie-making and canning.
Walt and Alice both passed away long ago and I wonder if that cherry tree still stands? I’ve been temped to ask my parents for their old address to use Google Earth to peer into the backyard, but that thought just kinda creeped me out!
This recipe, Sweet and Sour Chicken with Cherries is a tribute to Walt and Alice. When we first moved to the United States, they welcomed us into their home and we became part of their family. Alice taught Mom how to bake Cherry Pie, Mom taught her how to Chinese Egg Rolls. They babysat me and my brother so that my parents could go out on a date. Alice patiently read some of my very first children’s books to me and helped me learn English!
You can use either sweet or tart cherries with this recipe – this is a sweet and sour dish, so adjust the amount of honey or vinegar based on how sweet your cherries are. I love my Sweet and Sour Sauce – it’s a healthy version that uses orange juice for a nice fruity zing. If fresh cherries aren’t in your life right now, feel free to use another fruit – both fresh pineapple and mango work great. Oh, I’ve even used frozen, pitted cherries in the recipe with great results as well.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
You can use either breast meat or thigh meat (or even thinly sliced pork). For a vegetarian version, substitute the meat with extra firm tofu cubes (still following the same recipe instructions)
If fresh cherries aren't available, use fresh pineapple or mango chunks. Also, frozen cherries work well too. Canned cherries are too sweet.
In a bowl, toss the chicken meat with the soy sauce and cornstarch.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce.
Heat a wok or saute pan over high heat. Swirl in just 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil. When hot, add in the marinated chicken. Spread chicken out all over the surface of wok in single layer. Let cook for 2 minutes, undisturbed, until browned. Flip chicken pieces and brown the other side, about 1 minute. Chicken should be browned but still uncooked in the middle. Remove chicken from wok and set aside.
Keep the wok on stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Swirl in the remaining cooking oil. When hot, add the onions and stir fry for 1 minute. Add in the cherries, red and yellow bell peppers. Stir fry for 2 minutes, until the bell peppers are cooked, but still colorful and crunchy.
Add the partially cooked chicken back into the wok and pour in the sweet and sour sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook an additional minute, or until the chicken is fully cooked through. Careful not to overcook the chicken!