Hong Shao Rou
The juicy and fatty pork belly is smothered in caramelized sauce. It's sticky, savory, sweet, and succulent.
Written by Doobydobap
Hong Shao Rou 红烧肉
Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉) is a popular Shanghainese dish. The literal translation of the dish is red braised pork. It's stewed and cooked in soy sauce and sugar, which gives the sauce a glossy caramelized finish.
I first had homemade Hong Shao Rou when I got invited to my friend Danielle, (who's now working as an assistant sommelier at ATOMIX!!! WOOHOO), 's boyfriend's family home. I was staying in New York City that summer working and was subsisting off of Trader Joe's sandwiches and in dire need of home-cooked Asian food.
When I asked what Ryan (Danielle's boyfriend)'s mother what her secret ingredient was, she said it was rock sugar. I had never heard of rock sugar until then. She brought out a gem-like rock to show me what it was. She told me that because the sugar crystals were so big, the slow melting of the sugar allowed for deeper flavors to develop within the sauce. Moreover, unlike granulated white sugar, rock sugar was a more "natural" way of cultivating sugar that dates back to the seventh century during the Tang Dynasty. The milder sweetness and extra molasses in it also gives the dish a shiny glaze.
I did a little research into the difference between regular sugar and rock sugar. Rock sugar is less sweeter than white granulated sugar, but the processing difference between granulated white sugar and rock sugar are minimal. Yellow rock sugar, which is the one I used, has higher amount of molasses, but it's also a negligible difference.
Most Chinese grocery stores will carry rock sugar; however, you can opt to substitute it with equal parts white/ light brown sugar as well.
Most restaurants that serve this dish add a hint of red food coloring to make the dish even more red and vibrant. I personally don't have food coloring at my home and wanted to use a natural coloring agent. I decided to use 1 tbsp of the homemade chili oil I have in my fridge in the braise and the color turned out absolutely stunning. The chili oil didn't add any spice to the dish but amplified the fragrance and glossiness of the sauce.
Here's the link to my homemade chili oil recipe if you're interested!
Ingredients for Hong Shao Rou
- 500g pork belly, cut into approximately 3cm cubes
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 20g rock sugar or 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- ¼ cup Shaoxing wine
- 600mL water
- 3 slices of ginger
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 tangerine peel (fresh or dry. Any citrus peel will work!)
- 1 tbsp chili oil
- Green onions for garnish
The aroma from the citrus peel, ginger, and star anise is phenomenal. A lot of the recipes online did not have citrus peel, but this was a tip I got from my friend's mom!
Blanch the pork belly. In a pot of boiling water, gently drop the pork belly cubes in. Blanch for 3-4 minutes until the scum rises to the top. This ensures that the impurities won’t be in our final sauce.
Rinse your pork chunks for any impurities. Drain and tab excess moisture with a tea towel.
Heat a heavy duty pot (like a dutch oven or large cast iron with a lid) on medium high heat.
Drizzle in the oil and add the pork.
Sear the pork on all sides and add the sugar and soy sauce in.
Once the sugar has caramelized and coated the pork, deglaze the pot with Shaoxing wine and water.
Add the ginger, citrus peel, and star anise.
Cover and lower the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour until the pork is tender. Supplement with more water if the sauce seems too thick / might burn. Alternatively, you can cook this in an instant pot or pressure cooker with 300mL of water for 20 minutes on high pressure.
Serve on top of rice. Drizzle the glaze on the rice first and plate a generous mountain of pork belly! Garnish with scallions and enjoy!!
Hi, I’m Tina aka Doobydobap!
Food is my medium to tell stories and connect with people who share the same passion. My recipes are a culmination of my experiences. I hope you enjoy recreating them at home, and if you do, make sure to tag me on Instagram!
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