Recipe: Chinese Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

Our version of Hong Shao Rou. Skipped the dark soy sauce (which gives it its famous brown color)

Writing this recipe is making me hungry. That’s how delicious this dish is. Hong Shao Rou is yet another comfort dish that reminds me of my mom’s kitchen as a kid. The pork is tender, flavorful, and melts in your mouth. You can enjoy it over rice, in a scallion wrap, with noodles, or on a banh mi style sandwich!

A Word on Chinese Recipes

Those familiar with Asian cooking are probably already aware, but Chinese recipes are generally pretty liberal in terms of recipe modifications. Everyone has their own way of making the dish (e.g., carrots vs. no carrots, dark soy sauce + granulated sugar vs. brown sugar + regular soy sauce). No one writes down exact recipes, and this was aptly demonstrated when I asked my mom to share her recipe.

She sent hers to me in a series of WeChat voice memos. Instead of specifying “teaspoons” and “grams,” her measurements are “some” and “just keep adding until it smells good.”

How my mom shares recipes

It takes a bit getting used to, but cooking a bit off books, is quite fun!

Chinese Cooking is noisy – a multitasking activity that requires constant vigilance. There is no downtime.

Jennifer Lee

We served our pork belly with a side of Rapini and Jambalaya

I do believe guidelines are helpful so I’ll include suggested measurements here, but scroll to the bottom to see my mom’s version of the recipe! I’m sure you’ll have a good chuckle.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound skin-on pork belly
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (alternatives – any dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • Optional:
    • Carrots
    • Potatoes
    • Ginger
    • Scallions
    • Cumin
    • All Spice

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Cut your pork belly into 3/4-inch thick pieces
    • If your pork belly is extra thick, feel free to cut into long pieces such that each piece of pork includes the skin, fat, and lean meat
    • Optional: chop up carrots and potatoes into similar size pieces. Slice up some ginger. We didn’t have regular potatoes on hand, so used Japanese sweet potatoes and cut back on the amount of sugar
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the pork belly pieces for a couple minutes. This gets rid of impurities. Take the pork out of the pot, rinse, and set aside (dump out the water used to blanch)
  • Over low heat, add oil and sugar into your pan. Once the sugar has melted, add the pork and mix. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the pork is slightly browned.
  • Turn the heat to low, add the cooking wine, both soy sauces, and water.
  • Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. If desired, add the vegetables, salt, more soy sauce, and simmer for another 30 minutes until the pork is very tender and the vegetables are cooked.

First, gather and chop your ingredients, then blanch the pork in boiling water.

Blanch the pork and set aside in a bowl

Then brown the pork on medium, reduce heat to low, add water, soy sauce, etc. simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add vegetables of your choice.

What the pork belly should look like once it’s done.

MOM’s version

  • Take some pork belly, blanch in water for a few minutes, and dump the water out
  • In a pan, add oil and some sugar. Cook until the sugar has melted and browned a bit
  • Then add the pork belly into the pan and add ginger and scallions. Mix and add the soy sauce. Combine until the sugar and soy sauce mix has formed a red/brown color (This is in reference to popular modifications above. You can achieve the brown braised color through using dark soy sauce, or by browning regular soy sauce with brown sugar).
  • Add some water, switch heat to high, and boil until the pork belly changes color.
  • Switch to low heat and simmer. Once the pork is soft, add vegetables (e.g., carrots), salt and more soy sauce (taste it until it seems right). Then simmer until the pork and carrots are ready then you’re done.

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