Simple Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry, or whatever dry white wine you have on hand
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 large clove garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup well-drained canned pineapple cubes (optional)

Mix together the sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, sherry, and catsup, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

In another dish, after dissolving the cornstarch in the water, add the sesame oil. In a pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, add the garlic and saute briefly. Pour in the sugar-vinegar mixture and bring to a boil.

Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, then slowly add the 1/2 cup of water, stirring until the sauce is smooth and bubbly. Stir in the pineapple chunks, if using, and heat through.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups (not including pineapple chunks).

Adapted from "The Key To Chinese Cooking," by Irene Kuo.

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