There are many versions of red-braised pork belly. The seasonings and spices vary from region to region in China. Some recipes don’t even include soy sauce while others have a longer list of spices. I’m happy with my version. Very happy indeed.
For a truly delicious red-braised pork belly, don’t take short cuts. Parboil the meat and brown in hot oil before braising, and caramelize the sugar to make a good base for the sauce.
So, this isn’t one of those dishes where you can throw all the ingredients into the pot and leave them to cook? Well, yes, but that’s just the last part. Cooking this delicious dish begins by boiling the pork then rinsing it to remove scum. The pork is then lightly browned in a wok or frying pan before the braising begins.
The red sauce is prepared separately by melting sugar then mixing it with dark and light soy sauces. The red sauce is poured over the pork and the braising commences. Over low heat, the pork is cooked in the sauce until the meat is tender, and the fat and skin are gelatinous.
It sounds simple, yes? The ingredients are basic enough so making Chinese red-braised pork belly should be a breeze.
And yet, some cooks (yes, food bloggers included!) still take short cuts by simply throwing everything in the pot together and simmering away. While such technique will result in a red-colored pork dish, it will not have two things: (1) the ideal texture of the pork which is only acquired by browning the meat before simmering and (2) the caramel flavor which one gets by melting the sugar separately.
Chinese Red-braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)
- ½ kilogram pork belly cut into two-inch cubes
- peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons sliced scallions
- 1 two-inch knob ginger peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- ¼ teaspoon five-spice powder
- 1 cup bone broth
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- Place the pork in a pot. Cover with water. Boil for five minutes. Drain. Rinse the pork to remove all traces of scum. Drain well.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a heated frying pan with peanut oil. Spread the boiled pork and cook over high heat, turning at intervals, until lightly browned on all sides. Transfer to a clay pot or any thick-bottomed pan.
- Spread the sugar in the frying pan. Melt over medium heat. Pour in the soy sauces and rice wine carefully (the mixture will sizzle initially) and swirl. Add the five-spice powder. Pour in the broth and bring to a gentle boil.
- Pour the sauce into the pot with the pork. Add two tablespoons of scallions and the ginger. Cover the pot tightly and braise over very low heat for an hour or longer until the pork is tender and the sauce is sticky and reduced to a couple of tablespoonfuls.
- Transfer the red-braised pork belly into a serving plate or bowl. Drizzle in whatever sauce is left in the pot. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and the remaining scallions.
If you cooked this dish (or made this drink) and you want to share your masterpiece, please use your own photos and write the cooking steps in your own words.