Hong Shao or Red Cooking is very common in China and perfect for the pork belly used in this recipe. It creates exceptionally tender, sweet, melt in the mouth meat and is perfect with plain rice and some stir fried cabbage or as a show stopper in a larger Chinese meal.
It was while teaching English in China back in 2000 that our founder Joe first tasted Hong Shao Rou. A speciality of Hunan, where Joe was teaching, this braised pork dish was a favourite of the province’s most (in)famous son Chairman Mao Zedong who grew up in Shaoshan, and we can see why. In fact he drafted in chefs from the region to Beijing to prepare it specially for him and was often described by him as ‘brain food’. In fact, in most restaurants in China, the dish is called Chairman Mao or Mao Family Red Cooked Pork.
This typical peasant food is hard to find in Chinese restaurants in the UK especially outside London and so we decided to have a crack at cooking it at home, with delicious results. We even took some photos! Here is how we did it, using a recipe from Blue Apocalypse
700g good quality pork belly (skin left on)
2-3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons of white sugar
2-3 whole star anise
½ or 1 small cinnamon stick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (with side of cleaver)
1 ½ cup water or stock (from par boiling pork)
¼ cup Shaoxing rice wine
5 small dried red chillies
2 spring onions, cut into 2inch long pieces
¾ inch of ginger, skin left on and sliced
1 ½ -2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
½ – 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
salt and sugar to taste
• Cut your pork belly into bite size pieces about 1×1 inch and par boil in a large pan for 2 -3 minutes. You don’t need to cook the pork here but par boiling allows the meat to take on more flavour and makes it more tender.
• Remove the pork and set aside but retain the resulting stock.
• Get your wok nice and hot and melt the sugar in the oil until it has caramelized. This should take more than 4 minutes but you’ll know it’s ready when large rich brown bubbles start to appear.
• Add your pork carefully to the wok. The oil and sugar is VERY hot and may spatter. Stir the pork for a few minutes until it is evenly coated and then add your Shaoxing wine. You can buy this from larger supermarkets but you’ll get much better value at your local Chinese supermarket.
• Add the rest of your ingredients (chilli, spring onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauces, cinnamon, star anise) and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
• Now top up with reserved pork stock and simmer for 5-6 minutes before transferring to a pan. If you have a clay pot, you can use this, otherwise a suitably sized saucepan will be perfect.
• Leave to simmer on a low heat for no less than an hour and ideally not more than 2 hours. Stir occasionally to prevent the meat from sticking.
• When you’re getting hungry, turn up the heat and boil for ten minutes to reduce the sauce and add sugar and salt to taste.
This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and will taste even better the next day.
This dish is cheap and simple to prepare and tastes phenomenal. If you’re after a salad it might not tick all the boxes. Pork belly is obviously quite fatty but my goodness it’s tasty.
Enjoy and happy cooking!