Red Braised Pork Bell (HongShaoRou) – one of the most popular pork dish in almost every Chinese family. Depends on the city you live in, there are variety of version based on the local eating habit, hot spicy version, rich sweet version or heavy soy taste version… Every family would have their very own recipe which always be related to one of the favorite mummy’s cooking. However the common technic in this dish for all different versions is called “HongShao” (or Red braised) which obviously where the name comes from. It is a technic commonly used in lots of Chinese cooking for both meat and vegetables . It gives meat very shinny caramelised red colour and rich soy flavour. “Stir fry sugar” is the key for this cooking technic. Even though nowadays, there are more and more different seasoning sauce in the market, dark soy sauce, flavoured soy sauce, soy sauce paste which people tend to use more to substitute the stir fry sugar step to simplify the cooking process. However the best part of HongShao flavour would be lost in those simplified version and the colour won’t look as shinning as the traditional version. Sometime we always wondering why grandma’s cooking just taste better than anyone else? Because they always use the real food and follow exactly same process in the past 30 years. Time is the magical key, never rush when you are trying to cook a good dish, try to enjoy the process. You will soon realise when you have the first bite that every minute you spent is definitely worthwhile.
Okay enough talking, here is my very own version…not spicy or greasy, more rich soy flavour with a bit sweatiness. Suits everyone in the family especially those little tummies. Let’s start with ingredients, you will need some basic Chinese spices and seasoning, but should be easy enough to get from any Asian grocery store, will show photos below.
Cooking: 60mins (clay pot option)/ 35mins (presssure cooker option)
500g Pork belly cut in 2inches cubes
1 tablespoon rice cooking wine
4-5 slices of Ginger
2 tablespoons Oil (Any type of oil suitable for high temperature stir fry, I normally use sunflower seed oil or rice brain oil)
5 gloves of Garlic peeled
30g crushed crystal sugar
2 Spring onions separate the white and green parts
1 star anise
1-2 Bay leaves
Part B – Sauce
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon Sweet soybean paste (see photo below)
1 cup hot water – For pressure cooker option
2 cups hot water – For clay pot option
Part C – Veggies
1 bunch baby Bok Choy (A dish can’t be healthy enough without some greens 😉
The traditional method is to use clay pot to slow cook the pork belly, however if you have pressure cooker these day, it’s definitely easier with the same taste outcome. As clay pot is hard to maintain and you have to be around all time during cooking otherwise it is very easy to burn and crack the pot. I’ll show the instruction for both methods, you can choose whichever way suit you better at home.
- Prepare a wok or large sauce pan with cold water, add into pork belly cubes, cooking wine, ginger and make sure water covers all meat. Bring to boil for 2 minutes on high heat. Then drain the pork cubes into a bowl set aside. This step is to remove blood and smell from the pork.
2. Prepare a wok on medium heat add in oil and garlic. Fry garlic in the oil until it shows brown bubbles on both sides and you can smell nice garlic flavour from the oil. Turn off the heat and take out all the garlics. Now the oil becomes nice garlic flavoured.
3. Turn on the heat again on medium and add in the pork belly. Sautee the pork belly until outside is all crispy brown. Be careful with this step, drain the pork well before hand and stir frequently to avoid big splashing hot oil. Turn off the heat and take out the pork belly set aside and keep the oil in the wok.
4. While the oil still hot add in crushed sugar then turn back on the heat as medium and stir frequently. To switch off the heat while taking out the pork is to avoid the oil getting too hot before you add in sugar, as it can get burned easily if the oil is too hot. Stir fry the sugar until all melted and start showing bubbles and became nice caramel colour liquored.
5. Add back in the pork belly stir and let the caramel colour coated nicely on the pork. Add in all ingredient from part B (you can pre-mix all the ingredient in part B and add it in all at once).
6. Add star anise, bay leave, ginger and spring onion (white part) mix well and bring to boil.
Clay Pot Option:
7.1a. Transfer everything into a pre-heated clay pot, cover the lid and cook on lowest heat for 45 minutes. Check and stir every 15mins to make sure the meat is not stick at the bottom of the pot and you have enough sauce in the pot. Especially in the last 20 minutes, as the sauce gets thicker and the sugar in the sauce can get easily burned if you leave it cook for too long.
7.1b. Once the sauce becomes very sticky and pork belly is soft and shows shinny caramel colour. Remove it from the heat, sprinkle the finely chopped spring onions on top and cover the lid, let it rest for 5-10mins, the sauce will become thicker and absolve the spring onion flavour.
(Photos above shows the pork cooked in clay pot for 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 45 minutes from left to right.)
Pressure Cooker Option:
7.2. Transfer everything into pressure cooker, cook for 20mins on medium pressure. Wait for pressure to release, switch to sauté for 5mins. Once you are happy with the thickness of the sauce, pour into the serving plate/bowl and sprinkle finely chopped spring onions on top and decorate with the prepared Bok choy from the steps below.
Prepare the vegetable:
8. While the pork is simmering in the clay pot/pressure cooker, prepare the Bok choy. Wash the Bok choy and drain set aside.
9. Prepare a pot of water add in a pinch of salt and bring to boil. Then add in the Bok choy and cook for half minute.
10. Take the Bok choy out and raise with cold water, then lay the Bok choy nicely in a circle in your prepared serving plate/bowl.
11. When the pork belly is ready, pour the pork carefully into the central of your serving dish. With clay pot, you can serve directly with the pot, just add the Bok choy in before you rest the pork at the end in Step 7.1b. Serve hot with a bowl of steam rice.
- For 500g pork belly you will need a medium size clay pot (minimum of 2L capacity ) to allow enough water for cooking. The one I used in the photo is about 2.2L.
- Sweet soybean paste is to increase the rich soy flavour, but it’s not mandatory if you can’t find it. The brand I used in the photo has very good sweet taste, some of the brand can be really salty even it called ‘Sweet soybean paste’. If you are not sure, taste it before you add into your sauce. If it’s very salty, don’t use it.
- For clay pot, the cooking time is much longer and you have to make sure there are enough water added after you transfer everything into the clay pot. Add water in the middle is not recommended, it will impact the flavour of the final dish.
- When stir fry sugar, avoid to over fry and burn. Get everything ready close by before you start this step. Mix the sauce upfront if you are first time making it. As the sugar can get burn in seconds after reach certain temperature, then you will have bitter taste in your dish.