Today’s recipe is for Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly, in China red coloured meats are eaten for good luck as red is the colour of fire, a symbol of good fortune and joy. ‘Red cooking’ is a popular method of braising dishes in northern, eastern, and southeastern China. The name is derived from the dark red-brown colour of the cooked items and the sauce using both dark and light soy sauces, Chinese Rice Wine, and caramelized sugar flavoured with whole spices such as Star Anise, Cassia bark, and Fennel seeds. ‘Red cooking’ stews may contain meat, vegetables and other ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs. Dark soy sauce is actually not as salty as the light variety, and it is often used hearty Chinese dishes like stews that require body and colour.
Perhaps the most famous ‘Red cooking’ recipe is Shanghai Red-braised Pork Belly or Hong Shao Rou, reputed to be the favourite of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, so much so he supposedly he ate it every day. In China belly pork is a highly valued cut of meat and the perfect order of fat, meat, fat and meat under the skin is known as the ‘Five layers of Heaven’.
Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly ( 红烧肉 )
1 kg of Pork Belly, cut into 3 centimetre thick pieces
A small bunch of Spring Onions, trimmed and cut into 2 centimetre pieces
450 ml Water
5 tablespoons Chinese Rice Wine
3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
3 tablespoons Rock Sugar or Golden Caster Sugar
3 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce
3 whole Star Anise pods
A couple of piece of Cassia bark
2 centimetre piece of fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and sliced
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Carefully drop in the pieces of pork and blanch for a couple minutes, as this gets rid of any impurities. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain. Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok and melt the sugar. Add the blanched pork and increase the heat and cook until the pork until it is lightly caramelised. The pork may spit as it caramelises so be careful, but it is important to help give the dish its distinctive colour and flavour.
Turn the heat back down and carefully add the rice wine, then the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, star anise, garlic, cassia, ginger and the water. Cover the wok and simmer for about an hour or until pork is really tender. Whilst the pork is cooking stir every five minutes to prevent burning and add a little more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is cooked, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, stirring continuously until it is a sticky and glossy coating.
What to Drink? Matching wine with Chinese food used to be considered very difficult but try your pork with a full of fruit, sweet, jammy Australian Shiraz or blended Cabernet-Shiraz and why not try a crisp, refreshing Continental style Pilsner lager as your beer choice.
Allergens in this recipe are;
There will be Soya and may be gluten in your Soy Sauce