Keeping It Flavorful: A bite of sweet and sour

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Sweet and sour pork from Ocean Restaurant. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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In honor of the Mother’s Day celebration, staff writer Aaron Geerts and I asked our mothers what their favorite meal in Winters was. We both had an inkling that they both would want to claim something from Tomat’s as their dish of choice.

The suspicion wasn’t wrong. I asked my mom what her favorite Winters menu item was, and she asked if Tony was going to come back and make barbecued ribs. I had to regretfully inform her that he wasn’t, but if it was in my power I would ask him to. But, he’s most likely golfing and enjoying retirement.

I was not shocked when her next choice was the sweet and sour pork at Ocean Restaurant. Sweet and sour pork has always been a go-to meal item when we went out as a family. Growing up, I was not often a fan of the dish due to the inconsistency of the sauce and texture of the meat coating.

Some places make the sauce too sweet. Some make it too watery and thin. While at other Chinese eateries, the sauce was too gelatinous. When it comes to the meat, the coating is either not crisp enough or you pop your jaw out of alignment trying to chew.

I’m not Goldilocks, but, in my opinion, Ocean makes it just right. The sauce is a light sweetness and relies more on the pineapple and red bell pepper to bring the punch of sweet and tart to that bite. The sauce is just thick enough to coat, enough to mix in with steamed rice, and the warmth of spice makes the flavor rich and delicious.

The pork is coated in a crisp coating that is solid enough to satisfy, but not too hard to chew. The meaty bite-sized pork is also hearty and doesn’t taste stringy. It’s mixed in with vegetables that are crisp and not overcooked and soggy. I’ll even eat the onions in Ocean’s version of sweet and sour pork. And, David will indeed tease me for not eating the onions and peppers.

Personally, I’ve always been a beef and broccoli fan. I joke with my children that I’m short because I didn’t eat my vegetables. The truth is that broccoli and carrots are the few vegetables that I actually liked growing up, and Ocean’s broccoli and beef dish features both.

When we go into Ocean for lunch or dinner, I entertain my palate by pretending I might actually order something new. I look over all of the delicious choices, consider if I’m wanting chow mein or steamed rice and what sauce is really going to satisfy that day. I weigh whether I want spicy or savory in flavor.

But, when it comes down to it. I always order broccoli and beef. Last Friday, I ordered the sweet and sour pork and my broccoli and beef to share with my family. There were no complaints, nor were there any leftovers remaining.

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