Thursday, October 14, 2010

Red Cooked Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

There are many iterations of this recipe as this is such a staple in many a Chinese household. The differences are often minor: to cut the pork belly into large sections or into slices, more water or less water, more soy or less soy, to parboil or not to parboil the pork, to caramelize or not to caramelize the rock sugar, etc., etc...

Anyhoo, this is my mom's version, which includes the rather non-traditional ingredients of tomato, onion and carrots. These "extras" give the dish an added dimension that's frankly muy delicioso, or "jin ho jia" as we'd say in Taiwanese. The garlic is my own addition, as I've seen it included in other recipes. 

I like to make a large quantity of these (hence the 6 lbs. of pork bellies) because any leftover will freeze well.

6 lbs. pork bellies (about 12 1 1/2" x 10" pieces)
1/2 cup Shaohsing wine
1 1/4 cups soy sauce 
1/4 cup rock sugar
2 slices ginger
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 scallions, cut into 2" sections
2 ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 medium onion, quartered
3-4 small carrots, cut into large dice
3 star anise (to taste)

1. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Place pork bellies into pot and parboil for about 20-30 minutes.

2. Skim off all of the foamy residue. 

3. Add remaining ingredients to stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low simmer, cover, and cook about 4 hours or until tender. 

4. To serve, remove pork bellies to chopping board and slice. Garnish with cilantro. Great with white rice and also a good addition to noodle soup.

5. To freeze leftovers: remove the pork bellies from the braising liquid, drain, and place in individual Ziploc or vacuum-seal bags. Strain the braising liquid into a large Ziplock bag or freezer container, let cool completely, seal/cover. Place both the pork bellies and braising liquid in the freezer (best used within 3 months). 

Pork belly slices. In the west, you'd call this bacon.

Parboil these guys for about 20-30 minutes (bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a strong simmer).

Skim off the foamy stuff.

Rock sugar, star anise, onion, tomato, scallion, ginger & carrot.

Voila! All sliced up.

Star Anise, rock sugar and soy sauce.

Add soy, rice wine, star anise and rock sugar to the pot.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a bare simmer, cover, and cook about 4 hours or until pork bellies are tender.

Just about done.

Slice the pork bellies and garnish with cilantro.


  1. I think my mom messed with the recipe... I always had this as a beef dish served with carrots, good all the same :)

  2. Nicholas, your mom got it right. Actually, I think it was my mom that messed with the recipe. Traditionally, carrots, onion, and tomato were not added to the pork belly version. But it's all good. You can sub pork butt, shoulder, beef, or whatever other meat floats your boat. Daikon radish is another great addition when using beef.

  3. Hi there,

    Thanks very much for sharing your recipes - I have been reading your posts all night! I love home-cooked recipes and am most inspired by yours. Your husband is a lucky man!

    Red-cooking can be for beef, lamb or chicken. Both your mothers sound exceptionally creative and adventurous :) I have never tried red-cooking beef or lamb - just never been game (no pun intended).

    The addition of tomato is interesting... (I guess this would provide the umami taste...). I will have to try this...! I have been using dashi, and adding the piece of kelp used in the making of it, in my red-cooking stock for pork (to get that umami taste - as I've stopped using manufactured MSG many moons ago). I also sometimes add one dried shiitake which adds an extra dimension, yet doesn't add any mushroom flavour to the stock or the meat. At times, I also add a teaspoon of miso paste - again for umami, as I read this somewhere once and it really works for yet another umami dimension - and again, will barely add any miso flavour to the stock.

    Thanks again, and please keep posting!


  4. Hi superbadkitty (love the moniker) - and thanks so much for following my blog! I'm really intrigued by your use of dashi and the addition of shiitake and miso to your red-cooking stock. Never would have thought of using them, but I can totally envision that extra umami dimension they would lend to this dish. I'm definitely going to incorporate these ingredients the next time I cook up a batch of red-cooked pork belly! Are you also a food blogger?

  5. Hey Ar :) still loving your blog! No, I'm not a food blogger - I did start, but never continued with it - preferring instead to enjoy other people's blogs!