Red braised pork belly is a very classic, famous dish in China. There are many variations across the regions. But the ingredients are mostly the same. The most famous styles are Chairman Mao’s and Shanghai style, which is what I am going to introduce below.
When choosing the pork belly, it should have even layers of fat and meat. Rock sugar is commonly used for this dish. If you don’t have it, brown sugar works fine. Most recipes would blanch the pork belly. Some don’t. I tried both methods, and like the one that‘s not blanched. It not only preserves the flavors of the pork, but also allows the fat to come out when it’s stir fried so that it’s really fragrant but not greasy.
There’s also a really key step during the cooking that requires a little bit patience called caramelization. By cooking the sugar slowly, the flavors become more complex and the color turns brownish red. It also gives the pork a beautifully shiny glaze.
This dish is easy to make. All you need is patience and time. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
- 600 g Pork Belly about 1.5 pounds
- 2 tablespoons rock sugar
- 1 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
Cut the pork belly into thick pieces, about 1 inch long. I bought this package of pork belly pieces from a Chinese market that were already cut and ready for cooking.
Heat the wok over medium high. Once the wok is preheated, add 1 teaspoon oil. This is to prevent the pork from sticking. Use a spatular to coat the bottom of the wok. Arrange the pork belly in a single layer and fry each side until slightly brown. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Clean the wok and heat it over medium. Add 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of rock sugar. Normally we would use oil instead of water. But water will help the sugar dissolve quickly. We'll add some oil later on.
Once the sugar is starting dissolved, add 1 teaspoon oil and reduce the heat to LOW. Keep stirring until it turns brown. Then add in 1/4 cup hot water and bring just a boil. Mix well and transfer to a bowl.
Turn the heat to high, add 1 teaspoon oil, then add ginger, bay leaves, star anise to the wok until fragrant. Then add soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine and the sugar mixture.
Once the sauce is boiling, return the pork belly to the wok and mix well.
Add HOT (not cold) water to the wok. The water should cover most of the pork belly. Cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to a gental simmer for 1.5 hours.
Once the sauce is reduced to 1/4, turn the heat to high. Keep stirring as the sauce starts thickening. Be careful not to cook the pork for too long over high heat, or it'll squeeze out the moisture and the pork becomes dry.
When the pork belly turns red and shiny, transfer to a plate and serve.