There's probably some elaborate story on 紅燒肉 (hong shao rou) and how it's Mao Zedong's (yes, Communist China Mao) favorite dish, but all I can tell you is that it's a braised pork dish cooked to a point that the meat gently pulls apart and melts away in your mouth. Furthermore, it has the distinct flavors that now many Chinese families grow up with. Recently, I visited my best friend Jun-Wan in Syracuse and decided to try out a simplified recipe from my Hunanese grandmother, who takes great pride in her hong shao rou. Given my limited resources (namely an electric stove), it turned out surprisingly both aesthetically and palatably pleasing.
Red Brasied Pork/ Hong Shao Rou
2lb pork belly (sliced into quarter/half inch pieces)
1/2 cup dark soy sauce (to give it proper coloring)
1/2 cup shaoxing wine
1 small lump of rock sugar (~ 1-2 teaspoons)
2-3 pieces star anise
3 tablespoon cooking oil
5 cloves garlic
1 chunk of fresh ginger (about 3-5 grams)
optional: 2 lb Shanghai bok choy
1. Heat the cooking oil with the garlic, sugar, and ginger.
2. When browned, add the sliced pork belly and pan fry on medium-high heat until the pork has darkened and is about half cooked.
3. Add the dark soy sauce and shaoxing wine to the pork. It should cover about 2/3 of the pork. If not, add more soy sauce in wine (in about a 1:1 ratio).
4. Add the star anise and bring the pork to a low simmer for at least half an hour.
5. Remove from heat for at least thirty minutes to an hour. Discard top layer of suspended oil. Cooling the meat and cooking it again helps tenderize it immensely.
6. Bring the meat to a simmer again and let it cook on low heat for at least another hour. Again, remove the top layer of oil.
7. While the pork is simmering, stir fry the Shanghainese bok choy in another 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil with a few cloves of garlic.
8. Once the vegetables are cooked and the pork tender, pour the pork and all the sauce over the bok choy.