One-Pot Wonders

Chinese Red-Braised Pork

March 18, 2013
1 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This rich and aromatic dish is a favorite of northern Chinese, especially in Beijing, during the dark, cold winter months. This is my version of Cecelia Chiang's from her book, "The Seventh Daughter". This dish is sometimes cooked with about a cup and a half of whole peeled chestnuts, which was apparently Chairman Mao’s preferred way. HongShao Rou is often served on a bed of pickled veggies, or, in nicer restaurants, on a bed of lettuce, but I think the best way is with a bowl of steamed white rice (‘sweet rice’, or ‘sticky rice’), a side of crispy greens and corn cakes. A note on the corn cakes—I found that in China the corncakes are made without salt (I could never figure out why), and fried crispy in oil. They tend to be a bit thicker and heavier than the ones we make here in the south, but they go really well with this dish. I remember a little place about 20 minutes bike ride from my apartment in Beijing, where you could get an absolutely perfect, melt-in-your-mouth Red-Cooked Pork, served on a bed of pickled veggies, with corn cakes, and a delicately steamed Grass Fish with ginger sauce. Riding out there on my bike, shivering in the frigid night air, watching the stars glide by, the people and packages and carts moving in and out of the hutongs (alley neighborhoods) was a memorable experience for me. Since this dish was so rich, I only had it about 4 times or so a year, but it was such a pleasure each time. The ingredients, though simple, produce an intense, complex flavor, and the tenderness of the pork was heavenly.

You may have some trouble finding pork belly in your local supermarket, but talk to the butcher who can probably order a few pounds for you, or seek out an Asian or Chinese market. The dish calls for PORK BELLY, NOT pork maw, which is the stomach inside—the belly is from the OUTSIDE of the pig. It keeps well in the freezer, and in the cold months it can be quite comforting to know you have a supply on hand whenever the craving for red-cooked pork arises! The meat is fatty, very tender and the outer skin, though it seems tough and hard to cut (at least for my poor old knife!), will cook up tender and tasty. Fresh ginger is an absolute! Powdered ginger just will not live up to the proper strength and flavor! Shaoxing wine gives the dish an intensity and the dark soy sauce (I use mushroom soy sauce here) gives the dish it’s characteristic color. Use a good quality brewed soy sauce, like Kikkoman for the main soy sauce. —BeijingRose

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds Pork belly
  • 24 ounces Shaoxing (yellow) wine
  • 1 cup Soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Dark soy sauce (ex. Mushroom Soy Sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 slices FRESH ginger root
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
  1. You will need a very sharp, good quality knife--cut the pork into one inch cubes--—don’t skin the pieces, the skin will become fork tender as it cooks. Cut six good slices from the ginger root and set aside.
  2. Put the pork into a heavy pot and cover with cold water 2 inches over the meat. Cook on high for 10 minutes until the foam arises to the surface of the water—--skim foam, pour meat into a colander, discard water. Rinse meat chunks with cold water, wash out the pot and place them in the pot again.
  3. Pour in the bottle of ShaoXing wine and the ginger slices, then cover with just enough water to 2 inches over the meat. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a medium simmer and cook for 50-60 minutes until meat is fork-tender.
  4. Pour in the soy sauce, uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.
  5. As a last addition, pour in the dark soy and sugar, stir well, and cook another 10 minutes on a little higher heat until sauce thickens. Pour into a large dish and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with steamed rice.
  6. Stir-fry two bunches of Chinese oil cabbage (you cai) with two cups (packed) of fresh bean sprouts and a TBSP of minced garlic, in 1 TBSP sesame seed oil and 1 TBSP vegetable oil. When oil is heated well, stir the vegetables around to coat, stir-fry for 3 minutes, then pour ½ cup of chicken bouillon over it. Stir until cabbage is slightly wilted, but still crispy, then pour into a bowl—this makes a great accompaniment with the pork dish. Let me know if you cook this dish and how it went--comments welcome!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • BeijingRose
  • AntoniaJames
  • emcsull

9 Reviews

emcsull October 9, 2015
perhaps a silly question, Beijing Rose, but is pork belly just uncured bacon, so to speak ? I mean, what would be cured to make bacon ?

BeijingRose April 2, 2013
Thanks so much for letting me know! Another pickle you might like, that a friend's mother in Beijing made all the time, is a 2-quart jar of peeled garlic cloves, with a pinch of sugar, plenty of salt and rice vinegar--age for two weeks in the back of the fridge, or even under the sink. They stay a little crunchier when cured in the fridge. Oh, and please let your friends know about my recipes! I'm new here on FOOD52!! Thanks, again!
BeijingRose April 2, 2013
Glad to know you like it! A friend' mom in Beijing, once a month!!, used to peel enough garlic to fill a 2 quart jar, the pour rice vinegar and salt on top of them to pickle. She'd eat them as a snack because her doctors had told her it was good for her heart (she had fat around her heart an the doctors recommended this to help her body dissolve the fat!). The cloves were still crunchy and made a great snack--though you may not want to breathe on anyone for a while after eating it!!
BeijingRose March 18, 2013
Yu choy, is probably the same thing as what I was using; it sounds like the Cantonese version of 'you cai', or oil cabbage in Mandarin, so-called, I believe, because the shiny green color looks a little oily. Chinese buffets around here like to have it as a vegie, though of course they use way too much oil in the stir-frying of it. I love it in dofu soup as well, but I have to make it just for me because nobody else in my family will touch dofu!
AntoniaJames March 18, 2013
All the more dofu for you! I love the stuff. I have found that if I lightly fry it in just the tiniest bit of peanut oil in a really good non-stick skillet, to get a slight crispness on at least a few sides of the chunks I cut, my husband will eat it. Now the soft, "silken" kind? Never! There's something about the texture that he simply cannot abide. (I have no problem with it!) And uncooked, no matter how fresh, is also totally out of the question (for him). I could live on tofu, Chinese greens of the various different kinds we have locally, and brown rice for the rest of my life. Thanks again for your helpful information, and for this interesting recipe. ;o)
AntoniaJames March 18, 2013
Looks perfectly delicious! I'm intrigued by your references to pickled vegetables. I've seen them mentioned in several excellent cookbooks I checked out of the library recently, but am uncertain about buying them in the shops in Chinatown. I realize they are not included in the ingredients for this recipe, but since you seem knowledgeable about them, I'll ask anyway. Are there any particular brands, or identifying characteristics, that I should look for when buying pickled vegetables in the US? Or should I make my own? Your advice on this is greatly appreciated! ;o) P.S. I read Cecilia Chiang's memoir a few years ago. I could not put it down. Talk about inspiration!
BeijingRose March 18, 2013
We are fortunate enough here to have Chinatown Market, where I get the pork belly, and a favorite snack of my son's, Guangzhou style picked vegetable, about 54 cents for a tightly packed package of maybe 3 ounces. The dish in Beijing had the pork sitting on maybe a cup of pickled vegies-quite salty and a little bit chewy. I haven't found that variety here in the States, so I just serve it with rice. The Beijing picked vegetables, I believe, were a species of radish, and were medium brownish in color, cut in long strips, looking almost like seaweed. If you want authenticity, I'd look for the big white daikon radish in the supermarket, then cut it into strips, stuff it in a mayonnaise jar, and add plenty of sea salt, rice vinegar and sliced green onions. Let it stand about 2 weeks in the back of the fridge, then, when you want to make the dish, stir fry them in a little soy sauce and pork broth until tender but still chewy. Place the pieces of hong shao rou on top, as if on a nest. Serve with corn cakes--the Chinese make them very simple, without salt, but I always use a pinch of salt, 1 tsp peanut oil, 1 egg beaten and 3/4 cup of a good brand of self-rising yellow cornmeal mix (House of Autry is cheap and turns out well), then lightly fry in a small pan with PAM butter-flavored spray (you can fry in a little peanut oil, if you like, I'm just trying to keep my weight down, so I'm more careful than usual!)
AntoniaJames March 18, 2013
Thanks so much, BR! I'm definitely going to make some myself. I had no idea it would be so simple. I have access to really nice Chinese greens of all kinds, and lately have been getting tender, juicy mustard greens (the flat ones with the yellow flowers inside) and then yesterday, some perfectly gorgeous "yu choy." I like to use the greens in brothy soups and with tofu of various sorts (e.g., in a sauce I make with black beans and aromatics, xiao shing, etc.), and also just to stir fry them quickly, so lately I've especially been looking for uses for the tender stems. I'll be starting a batch tonight! Love your recipe and again, thank you, for all this helpful additional information!! ;o)
AntoniaJames April 2, 2013
BeijingRose, I made some preserved/pickled vegetable, using the method you described, with just the stems of some yu choy (+ some scallions and rice vinegar to flavor, as you suggested). I tasted them yesterday. They're outrageously good. Seriously addictive, in fact. I'm making a new batch this evening. Thanks again. ;o)