Hong Shao Rou Red Braised Pork
Little known outside the Asian Community, Hong Shao Rou, (红烧肉) literally, red braised pork, is succulent morsels of pork belly simmered in an aromatic, rich soy-based broth until tender. I first experienced this dish in Macao, where the softened, anise-infused pork was nothing short of a revelation. Hong Shao Rou belongs to a class of very traditional Asian dishes known as red cooking, which employs a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, vegetables and dou fu (See Fuscia Dunlop's excellent red cooked recipes in her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook).
Recently, the dish has gained some cache on the Mainland because it is known to be one of the late Chairman Mao's favorite dishes, and according to an article in the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald, he considered it "brainfood." (see Malcom Moore's article),
Since the unctuous pork belly has weaseled its way into the Western fine dining scene, Red Cooked Pork should find an enthusiastic audience in the U.S.; however, one will rarely see Hong Shao Rou offered at stateside Chinese restaurants. This is a bit baffling, since it is very easy to make, and irresistibly tasty.
2 lbs pork belly, lean and fat, skin on, cut into sections approx 4" x 4"
3 round Tab sugar
3 cups chicken stock, low sodium
2 - 2" x 1/4" pc cinnamon
2 star anise
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 1" x 2" slices of ginger, skin on.
1/3 cup soy
1/4 cup Shao Xing wine or dry sherry
1 TAB dark soy
In enough water to just cover the pork, poach belly in simmering water (“cuan” 汆) for 4 minutes or so, then remove. When the pork has cooled enough to handle, cut into cubes appx. 1 1/2" x 2" and in two batches, brown in a hot wok or cast iron skillet with 3 or 4 Tab peanut oil or lard. Be careful, this entails lots of spattering…Remove and set aside. In the same pan, on med heat, add the sugar and stir until melted and beginning to caramelize. Add back in the pork belly pieces, and toss until coated and further browned with caramelized sugar.
Transfer the pork and residual oil/sugar mixture to a 3 -4 quart sand pot or sauce pan; add the chicken stock to cover pork pieces, cinnamon, star anise, garlic, ginger, light soy, wine, and dark soy. Bring to a gentle boil, and simmer for approximately 1 hour, until pork lean layers are tender but still moist. As soon as meat is done, remove meat and boil to reduce sauce. When liquid has reduced to desired consistency, turn off heat. Return pork belly to the pot and mix to coat; serve in sandpot or plate with garnish of cilantro and carrot or red pepper slivers