VIDEO: Chinese Kitchen: Simple recipe sweet and sour pork subuta

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

VIDEO: Chinese Kitchen: Simple recipe sweet and sour pork subuta

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

Growing up, subuta, a sweet and sour pork dish, was not my favorite. The dish featuring pork and sliced pineapples has its roots in a Chinese dish called “古老肉 (gǔ lǎo ròu).” During the time of Qing (1616 – 1912), slices of pineapple were added to the dish to make it fancy and impress guests from Western countries, according to Oggi, a Japanese magazine for women’s style.   

Whenever there was something to celebrate, my relatives would often gather at a Chinese restaurant for a dinner party. We’d pass around dishes of delicious, spicy mapo tofu and ebi chili. My heart would soar with these flavorful Chinese dishes, only to sink when the subuta would arrive.

To me, subuta seemed to be a way of making veggies less detestable to consume by covering them with the sweet and sour taste of pineapples and vinegar. It’s a popular dish even at the supermarket deli, but I’ve steered clear and likely would have continued to had I not found a recipe to make my own.

As I searched for a pineapple recipe to try, subuta was everywhere. Witnessing its popularity, I decided it was time to revisit the dish I’d avoided for a long time.

Among many recipes I found on the web, I picked the one below by Ajinomoto. Although it was simple enough for a beginner like me to follow, the results turned out great.      

One bite and the sweet, sour flavor that I had disliked so much growing up captivated my taste buds this time.

The sauce was so good that I even devoured the veggies. My parents, who live with me, liked it as well. Although it was meant to feed four people, the three of us finished almost all of it. After the meal, we even talked about cooking it again, and adding more slices of pineapple. 

Try it for yourself, and you may just find this flavorful dish makes eating all your veggies worth it.

Subuta (sweet and sour pork)
Ingredients (for four)

  • Pork shoulder (300 g)

For mixture A (for seasoning pork)

  • Soy sauce (22.5 cc)
  • Cooking sake (15 cc)
  • Grated garlic (a clove)
  • Ginger juice (a little)
  • Dogtooth violet starch (appropriate amount)


  • Bamboo sprout (100 g)
  • Onion (one)
  • Green pepper/paprika (three)
  • Dried shiitake mushroom (three)
  • Carrot (3/4)
  • Canned pineapple (two slices)

Mixture B (for deep fry batter)

  • Dogtooth violet starch (60 cc)
  • Egg (1/2)
  • Water (30 cc)
  • Sesame oil (appropriate amount)

Mixture C (for seasoning vegetables)

  • Water (250 cc)
  • Powdered chicken broth (7.5 cc)
  • Sugar (45 cc)
  • Soy sauce (30 cc)
  • Vinegar (45 cc)
  • Tomato Ketchup (45 cc)

Mixture D (for thickening sauce) 

  • Water (45 cc)
  • Dogtooth violet starch (22.5 cc)


1. Randomly chop bamboo sprouts and cut an onion in half-moon slices.

2. Rehydrate shiitake mushrooms and slice (shave) them diagonally. Cut green pepper/paprika vertically in half and slice them into four pieces. Randomly chop three-quarters of one carrot and boil the slices until they become soft. Cut pineapple into eight pieces.

3. Dice pork shoulder to bite-sized portions and marinate the pieces with mixture A

4 Mix ingredients B in a bowl. Add diced pork to the bowl and coat meat with the mixture before frying them in oil at 170 ℃ (338 ℉)

5. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry slices of bamboo sprout and onion. Add and fry green peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and carrots before adding mixture C and simmering the vegetables.

6. After simmering the vegetables, make the mixture thick by adding dogtooth violet starch (D).  Add in diced pork and slices of pineapple. Mix the ingredients quickly.


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