Hong sao rou – red-braised pork

Hong Sao Rou - red-braised pork

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Regional variations on Hong sao rou, or red-braised pork, can be found across China. It is said to have been one of Chairman Mao’s favourite dishes. Traditionally, belly pork pieces are cooked in a braising liquid of spices and sugar, the caramelised sugar imparting a rich brown colour. However, dark soy sauce is a popular way to enhance the umami salty-sweet flavour and I have used it in this dish. It adds depth and colour, giving the braising liquid a deep, reddy shine. The resulting pork should be sweet, salty and spiced and the sauce thick and sticky. I have reduced the amount of sugar to keep it healthier, but you can add more if you prefer a sweeter taste. It is best served simply with some steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried greens such as pak choi.

1
Bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil in a large pan. Add the pork belly slices and simmer over a medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the pork and drain well, then pat dry with kitchen paper and slice into 2x2cm pieces
2
Heat a wok over a medium heat, add the rapeseed or groundnut oil and give the oil a swirl. Add the pork pieces and brown for 2 minutes
3
Add the ginger, rice wine or dry sherry, the star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chillies, chicken stock, dark soy sauce, brown sugar and salt. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a medium heat for 45 minutes
4
After this time, the liquid will have reduced into a thick sauce and be a glossy reddish-brown colour. For a smooth cooked sauce, strain through a sieve and discard the whole spices, or you can just eat around them like the Chinese do! Remove from the heat and serve with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried greens of your choice
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