Recipes from my travels – Crispy Cantonese pork in a “better than OK” Brummie sauce

CHEF and blogger Paul James writes for our journal.

Something a little different today, a little bit of culinary history.

You’ve probably seen this dish on the menu at your local Chinese restaurant or take out a few times and you’ve probably wondered what “OK gravy” is.

Maybe you thought it was a Chinese import or a secret Chinese recipe that was brought to our shores, but you would be surprisingly wrong….

OK sauce is actually a British sauce, it was first produced by George Mason and Company before being acquired and manufactured by Colemans. The sauce dates from before World War I, although the exact date of first production is difficult to find, but is believed to date from around 1880.

OK Sauce is a fruity brown sauce, very similar to our own HP Fruity Sauce which had its manufacturing facility in Aston Cross, Birmingham.

In May 2006, Heinz announced its intention to transfer HP sauce production from Aston to its European sauce plant in Elst, the Netherlands.

The announcement prompted a call to boycott all Heinz products.

The move, which resulted in the loss of around 125 jobs at the Aston-based factory, was criticized by politicians and union officials, especially as the parent company still wanted to use the image of the House of common on its bottles.

That same month, local Birmingham Labor MP Khalid Mahmood brandished a bottle of HP sauce during the Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons as part of a protest against Heinz’s decision.

He also referred to the popularity of the sauce with former Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson (Wilson Sauce) who his wife said smothered everything with the popular sauce.

So here is my recreation of this popular Cantonese dish using various ingredients, but mostly an HP sauce which is still considered by the majority of Brummies to be “one of our own”.

Visit to learn more about Paul’s blogs and recipes.

Crispy pork with Cantonese sauce (OK sauce)


4 pork loin chops, thinly sliced

Pepper flakes, juice of half a lemon, pinch of black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch to marinate the slices of pork overnight.

250 ml of water

125 ml tomato sauce

4 tablespoons of brown sauce (HP sauce)

100g brown sugar

2 teaspoons of light soy sauce

1 teaspoon of five spice powder

1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch

2 red onions, finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of garlic paste

100g plain flour

1 large egg

100 ml of milk

200 ml of iced sparkling water

300 ml sunflower oil


1. Marinate the pork strips overnight in a sealed container.

2. In a hot pan, add 1 teaspoon of oil, add the garlic and the five spices and stir for about 30 seconds, then add all the vegetables until they become slightly soft. Add brown sugar until it begins to dissolve.

3. Then add the tomato sauce, brown sauce, soy sauce and water.

4. Stir well then add the cornstarch (mix with a little water in a cup to form a paste before adding)

5. Let the sauce simmer.

6. Prepare the batter with flour, beaten egg, milk and iced sparkling water.

7. Then add the pork strips to your dough mixture.

8. In a wok, heat 300 ml of sunflower oil and gently add the pork strips in small quantities (otherwise the temperature will drop and the dough will not be crisp).

9. Once each batch is cooked, drain them on paper towels.

10. Add crispy pork to simmering sauce, reserving a few strips to garnish.

11. Serve and eat right away.

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About Linda Jennings

Linda Jennings

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