Shi’s Kitchen: Chinese New Year Red Cooked Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year has never meant so much to me as it did this year. Yes, it marks the beginning of the Year of the Snake, and yes, I am a Snake. That definitely adds to the significance. But Snake aside, for some reason, I felt ultra traditional this year and felt obligated to bring people together for a large meal. The years of my mother telling me the importance of family and home cooked meals on new years eve must’ve finally kicked in. Not only did I want to celebrate the occasion, I also wanted to do it right. All Chinese New Year eve dinners involve some sort of whole fish, some kind of whole chicken, dumplings, etc. My family specifically always also includes Sichuan Cold Noodles (四川凉面) and Red Cooked Pork (红烧肉). I have never made any of this on my own so this past Saturday was a first. Like all Chinese recipes, my mom didn’t give me exact measurements of anything. “Add sugar, soy sauce, ginger.” Errrr… how much of each? Go figure. Use your brain. Or how my mom would say it: move your brain. Anyway, I’m either a naturaaaal or had some beginner’s luck with me, because the pork belly turned out succulent, flavorful, and just delicious. Here’s the quick and dirty rough recipe to my family’s secret that has been passed down from my great grandmother in Sichuan.

Red Cooked Pork Belly
I was feeding a lot of people so I bought over 3 pounds of pork belly. Make sure you keep the skin (it ends up tasting ultra QQ)! First, I put the strips of pork belly in boiling water. Don’t ever have the meat touch cold water because apparently cold water tightens up the meat. After a minute or so of boiling, I removed the meat and tossed the water. The water smelled pretty damn porky. Boiling the meat helps get rid of that gamey flavor.

Red Cooked Pork Belly
I then patted the pork belly dry and cut them up into these little nuggets.

Red Cooked Pork Belly
After the meat was cut, I added quite a bit of oil to a wok and stir fried a good amount of rock sugar. Rock sugar is less sweet than regular sugar and does not overwhelm the flavor of foods as much.

Red Cooked Pork Belly
I kept cooking until all the sugar was melted and turned into a nice caramelly color.

Red Cooked Pork BellyOnce the rock sugar completely dissolves, I threw in the meat and added soy sauce (both the dark and light kind), rice wine, salt, ginger, and star anise. 

Red Cooked Pork Belly
After cooking for a minute or two, I added enough water to cover up the meat. The key in the earlier step is to add enough flavor such that you won’t need to add more flavor later. This soup will slowly and generously flavor your fatty pieces of meat. Make sure to cover the wok as you leave it cooking on medium heat.

Red Cooked Pork Belly
Meanwhile, I chopped up some carrots and threw them into the mix. This is a Shi family tradition. The carrots will cook very quickly in the oily soup and will add a little natural sweetness to the pork. Carrots and oil also always go together. For everything. They taste great together.

Red Cooked Pork Belly
Two hours later, here it is. Notice how I also added a few boiled eggs in the middle. The sauce is just so damn good. Anything tastes great in it. Throw this over some piping hot white rice and you got yourself some real Chinese comfort food. What’s great about this is that it tastes great the second day, the third day, the fourth day… make a large batch and save for lazy days to come.



8 thoughts on “Shi’s Kitchen: Chinese New Year Red Cooked Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

  1. Hi Shi,
    I’ve been scouring the web for a recipe closest to my father’s (he also never gives specific measurements) but your recipe above narrowed a few things down :).

    This is on my stove as I type and I’m looking forward to tasting the result! Fingers crossed.

    Thanks for sharing!


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