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Saturday, June 8, 2024

Hunan Braised pork belly Hong Shao Rou from Woks of Life

Hong Shao Rou, also known as red braised pork belly, is a traditional Chinese dish from the Hunan and Zhejiang provinces that holds a special place in Shanghai cuisine. The dish features pork belly braised in a mixture of soy sauce,  caramelized sugar, and various spices, resulting in tender, flavorful meat with a glossy, caramelized coating. 

The Shanghai version consists of pork belly cut into thick pieces, caramelized sugar to achieve a signature red color and sweetness, and both light and dark soy sauces to add depth of flavor and color.

The Hunan version, which is more traditional, will also include the Shaoxing wine, a Chinese cooking wine that enhances the overall flavor, and aromatics such as ginger, garlic, star anise, and cinnamon add complexity, dried chili peppers, bay leaves, and scallions. 

Unlike the Shanghai version, which is a mix of sweet and savory, the Hunan version is more spicy and aromatic. 

The cooking process begins with blanching the pork belly in boiling water to remove impurities. Sugar is then melted in oil to create a caramel base, and the pork is simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, wine, and spices for about an hour until it becomes tender and infused with flavor. The final step involves reducing the sauce to a thick, glossy coating on the pork.

The slow braising process ensures that the pork belly achieves a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Often served with steamed rice or vegetables to balance its richness, Hong Shao Rou is a beloved comfort food in Chinese cuisine, appreciated for its deep flavors and satisfying texture.

12 oz lean, skin-on pork belly
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp rock sugar (rock sugar is preferred or you can use granulated sugar)
3 tbsp Shaoxing wine 
Garlic, minced
Ginger, minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 cups (500 ml) water

Step 1/6

Begin by slicing your pork belly into 3/4-inch (2 cm) thick pieces.

Step 2/6

Heat a pot of water until boiling, then add the pork belly pieces and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove the pork from the pot, rinse it, and set it aside.

Step 3/6

Over low heat, add oil and sugar. Cook until the sugar melts slightly, then add the pork, the ginger, the garlic, Cinnamon. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned.

Step 4/6

Reduce the heat to low and add Shaoxing cooking wine,  dark soy sauce, and water. ( I pre measure the wine, soy and water in the same large measuring cup.)

Step 5/6

Cover the wok* and cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the pork is meltingly tender. 

Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning, and add more water if it becomes too dry.

Step 6/6

Once the pork is done, if there is still a lot of liquid, uncover the wok, increase the heat, and stir continuously until the sauce reduces to a syrupy consistency. Serve with white rice.

* A flat cover smaller than the wok will also work, to retain steam.

Shaoxing Wine

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