Hong Shao Rou is a beautifully simple braised pork belly dish that originally originates from Hunan, however, the dish is now often associated with Shanghai due to it being the favourite dish of Mao Tse-tung. As simple as this dish is to make the complexity and balance of flavour is what really brings this red braised pork belly to life. A super flexible dish as the pork can be served on rice, in bao's or can be added to broths to enhance the flavour. Let's make Hong Shao Rou!
Cook Time: 2.5 hrs
Prep Time 20-25 mins
To serve 4-5
Pork and Braise:
750g pork belly slab
5 spring onions
10 dried red chillies
4 garlic cloves
3 star anise
1 tsp sichuan peppercorns
5g dried orange peel
50mls light soy
10mls dark soy
40mls Chinese rice wine
50g white sugar
Spring Onion oil:
6 spring onions
100mls cooking oil
salt to season
Let's begin by preparing the pork belly, start by using a naked flame or blowtorch to remove any unwanted hair on the skin side of the pork belly. Next slice the slabs of pork into 2 inch thick long strips of pork then slice into 2 inch thick cube pieces of pork belly. We want the pork to hold some texture, therefore, slice fairly large pieces as the pork will shrink during the braising process. When all of the pork is cut place to one side.
2. Before we move onto starting the braise its easier to prepare all of the aromatics needed. Optionally remove the seeds from 10 dried red chillies, slice 20g of ginger into thin slices, peel 4 garlic cloves and roughly chop 5 spring onions. Save the spring onions whites and ginger trimmings as we can also use these to blanch the pork belly prior to braising.
3. The next step is to briefly blanch the pork, this step is optional, however, doing so will remove any unwanted impurities within the pork and will not effect the braise. Place a large pan full of water onto a high heat and bring up to a boil. Add all of the sliced pork belly and any of the saved trimmings from above then briefly blanch for 10-15 minutes until all of the impurities rise to the top of the water. Next, drain the pork from the hot water and place the pork to one side.
4. Now that the pork has been cleaned its time to sear and start to begin the braising process. Place a large pan onto a high heat then add a small drizzle of cooking oil. When hot add the pork belly in batches and sear on all sides until nice and golden brown. When all of the pork belly is golden, remove from the pan one last time and drain.
5. Now in the same pan that we seared the pork wipe clean with kitchen paper and turn the heat down to a medium heat. Add 50g of white sugar and leave on the heat. Cook the sugar for 4-6 minutes until the sugar dissolves to form a nice amber coloured caramel (Take care not to burn the caramel). When ready add the seared pork to the caramel and mix well to evenly coat the pork. Next add enough hot water to completely coat the pork then bring the liquid up to a boil.
6. When the liquid comes up to a boil turn down to a low simmer then its time to add the aromats from earlier. Add 20g of the sliced ginger, 5 roughly chopped spring onions, 10 dried red chillies, 4 peeled garlic cloves, 3 star anise, 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, 5g orange peel, 50mls light soy, 10mls dark soy and finally 40mls of chinese rice wine. Mix the braise well then place a lid over the braise and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.
Spring Onion Oil:
7. Whilst we wait on the braise we can move onto making a super simple spring onion oil. Start by mincing 10g of ginger and finely slicing 6 spring onions into a small dice. Now in a small saucepan add 100mls of neutral cooking oil and turn the heat onto medium high. Add the minced ginger first and briefly fry the ginger to infuse the oil. Next carefully add all of the diced spring onions then kill the heat. Add a generous pinch of flakey salt then mix well. Pour the spring onion into a container and allow to cool.
8. Now back to the braise, after 1 and a half hours of cooking the pork should be nice and soft and packed full of umami. Optionally remove any of the aromatics and turn the heat up to high. Begin to reduce the braise until it begins to thicken and cling onto the pork belly. We are looking for a deep red sauce that coats the pork almost like a weak glaze. When ready turn the heat off and we are now ready to serve...
9. To serve, empty the pork out onto a large serving bowl and ladle over the delicious glaze. Add some freshly sliced spring onions and pour some of the spring onion oil over the top. Serve with some fresh steamed rice or cooked leafy vegetables and nourish...
To completely speed this recipe up then you could also use a pressure cooker to braise the pork belly. When choosing the pork belly it is best to choose a slab of pork belly with an even fat to meat ratio as too much fat may be too intense for this dish. Alternatively instead of a spring onion oil then a chilli oil would also work really well with this dish. Regardless of how you go about it I hope you like the recipe and peace as always!