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
Shaoxing (yellow) wine
Dark soy sauce (ex. Mushroom Soy Sauce)
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.
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.
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.
Pour in the soy sauce, uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.
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.
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!