Sweet and sour ribs.
Sweet and sour ribs.
Image: Yang Zhao

Sour is a flavour both experienced through taste and smell. Sour is also experienced through various ingredients: citrus, vinegar, ferments. Sour can transform a dish by adding layers of flavours, sour can tenderise meat, enhances appetite, and aids digestion.

Sour is naturally found with opposite flavours, such as salty, sweet, or even in creamy textures, the human palate has the natural ability to gravitate towards sour, as a tool to cut through fattiness, richness and heaviness in some foods. According to Eastern medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, sour is best consumed during hot seasons, to eradicate excess heat build-up in the body. So yes, add copious lemon to your gin and tonic and Caipirinhas; top your taco with pickles, use citrus wherever you can — kimchi fried rice is my favourite.

I once travelled to a small town on the border between China and Vietnam and came across dishes that generously used granadillas. Granadilla broth, granadilla sauce, granadilla used in more savoury ways than imaginable. The taste has not left me since, and upon my return to SA, I planted a granadilla tree in my backyard, watering it diligently, praying for the passion flowers to bloom and give the tartest fruit I’d ever tasted. Last summer, the fruits came, and I showed them my kitchen and it was an appetite opening time. So much fun was had.

This sweet and sour short rib was inspired by the taste journey shared with my granadillas. If you were familiar with the classic dish of sweet and sour short rib in Chinese cuisine, you’d know how it’s a national treasure. The meeting between the two flavours have never made more sense in the world of culinary flavour combos. The traditional style sweet and sour sauce is usually made with strong white vinegar, but here I urge you to try to use granadillas in its place, and if you’re adventurous, try quarter-to-ripened sour plums too.

It changed my taste buds in a profound way. It eradicated my prejudice of cooking with fruit, and in savoury dishes. It’s a great appetiser or a finger-licking good snack at your summer gatherings, and small children love it too.

Rock sugar.
Rock sugar.
Image: Yang Zhao

Note: I used rock sugar in this recipe — it is an unrefined sugar, which retains most of the nutrients from sugar cane, and is leaves a less sticky aftertaste in mouth. However, you can use palm sugar or even regular white or brown sugar.

Sweet and sour noodles.
Sweet and sour noodles.
Image: Yang Zhao


  1. Pork rib 500g cut into 3cm pieces (use beef short rib if you wish)
  2. Granadilla 3-4 or 150ml granadilla juice
  3. 5 slices x ginger
  4. 3 TSP x light soy
  5. 1 TSP x dark soy
  6. 3 TSP x crushed rock sugar or 3 TSP x white/brown sugar
  7. 2 cups x water


  1. Blanch short rib in hot water with three slices of ginger, a dash of rice wine, for seven minutes, to remove impurities of the meat. Rinse under cold water and set aside;
  2. Add oil to the pan, two slices of ginger, and let the ginger cook in the oil for one minute to release the aroma. Then add blanched short rib to the pan on a medium- high heat, till the meat is slightly browned on the outside;
  3. Add juice of granadilla, toss and mix;
  4. Add light soy, toss and mix;
  5. Add water till it covers the meat;
  6. Add sugar;
  7. Reduce the heat to medium, cook for 30 minutes with no lid and allow the sauce reduce;
  8. You’ll start seeing small sticky sugary bubbles starting to form. Taste it and add more sugar if needed, or more granadilla if you prefer a tarter flavour.
  9. When the sauce is reduced completely, for the last three minutes add dark soy, for colour.
  10. Once you see a beautiful brown glaze coating the short rib, you can turn off heat. Et voila!

Note: I normally boil a small amount of noodles and toss them in the leftover sauce in the pan, to make sweet and sour noodles as a side. Try it!

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