Yun-Hui's (My Mother's) Red-Cooked Pork
Source: Cecilia Chiang, author, The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco (Ten Speed Press, 2007)
This recipe was demonstrated at CUESA's Market to Table programs on September 20, 2008.
I’ve had dreams about this dish that have been so vivid that I thought I could actually the smell the aroma of the meat as it was being carried from the kitchen into the dining room of our family home in Beijing. My mother was from Shanghai Province, famous for its red-cooked dishes—meat or poultry braised in rich, dark, aromatic mixtures of soy, wine, and spices—and her red-cooked pork was famous throughout our circle of family and friends. For New Year’s Eve she would red-cook a whole pork shoulder To this day, I think of my mother every time I cook this dish, and sometimes I think that’s why I cook it so often.
Cook’s Notes: Pork belly is rich—it’s really just a big piece of unsmoked bacon—so small portions are in order. (Five pounds sounds like a lot, but it shrinks at least by half.) You could also substitute pork shoulder, sometimes called pork butt. If there happens to be any leftover it’s wonderful diced and tossed in a stir-fry of green beans or fried rice. As with any kind of braise, it’s even better made a day or two in advance.
Serves 6 to 8 as part of a Chinese meal or 4 to 6 as a Western-style entrée
5 pounds skin-on (Chinese-style) or skin-off (Western-style)
pork belly, as lean as possible 1 (24.5 ounce)
bottle Shaoxing wine
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, cut into 6 rounds
1 1/2 cups regular soy sauce
2 large pieces rock sugar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- Cut the pork into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Put them in a casserole and add water to cover the meat by 1-inch. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the foaming diminishes. Transfer the pork to a sieve or colander and rinse well with cold water. Discard the cooking liquid.
- Rinse out the casserole and add the pork, Shaoxing, ginger, and cold water to cover. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the pork starts to seem tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes. Add 1 cup of the regular soy sauce and if it doesn’t cover the meat add the remaining 1/2 cup. Continue to cook until the meat is completely fork tender, about 30 minutes longer.
- Gently stir in the rock sugar and dark soy until the sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes more or until the sauce is slightly thickened and shiny.
- Serve in a large decorative bowl or family-style from the casserole.
Picture by Kattebelletje