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Hunan Red Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

Hunan Red Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)



A much revered dish from the chilli loving Hunan province in China. I’ve adapted this recipe from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop. Legend has it Hong Shao Rou helps to build brain power! The red colouring comes from the caramelisation of sugar and oil and imparts an intense colour and depth of flavour. Don’t be put off by the two stage cooking process - this is an incredibly simple and rewarding meal to prepare.

Look for a lean pork belly cut. If you like, remove the skin, but I enjoy it for textural contrast and it enriches the sauce. This dish freezes well and tastes best a day after being cooked.

Serves 4 to 6 

1kg pork belly, lean cut preferred
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar plus 1 teaspoon for final seasoning
60ml Shaoxing rice wine

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1cm piece fresh ginger, unpeeled and sliced
1 star anise
2-3 whole dried red chillies
2-inch piece cinnamon stick
3 spring onions white and green parts, cut into 2-inch lengths
Regular soy sauce to taste
Salt to taste

Find a saucepan large enough to hold the pork belly. Cover the pork belly with water and bring to a boil. Simmer the pork belly for 5 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and allow to cool. Discard the cooking liquid. When cool enough to handle, cut the pork into bite-size chunks – about 2cm square.

Put the oil and two tablespoons of sugar into the saucepan that you just used and heat over medium heat. When the sugar melts, increase the heat and stir until the sugar caramelizes to a rich brown. Watch like a hawk and don’t let it burn or the dish will taste bitter.

Lower the heat slightly, add the pork, and splash in the rice wine and vinegar. Be careful as the caramel can splash back and burn your skin! Add enough water to just cover the pork. Scatter in the ginger, star anise, the whole chillies, cinnamon stick and two-thirds of the spring onion. 

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes to an hour, until you can easily pierce a chopstick into a chunk of pork.  There should still be some resistance. The pork should have become a mahogany colour. 

Uncover, increase the heat to vigorously simmer and reduce the sauce to roughly half its volume. Taste and season with the soy sauce, salt, and sugar. Aim for a savoury, faintly sweet taste. 

Transfer to a bowl, leaving behind the aromatics, if you like. Garnish with the remaining spring onion and serve with steamed rice. 


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