Classic dish, simplified version. This red-cooked pork belly recipe is hassle-free and fool-proof. Perfect for all occasions.
A personal memory
Nowadays, health-conscious parents try to reduce the amount of foods which are high in fat in their children’s diet. But that wasn’t the case when I was an infant. According to my mum, I was a huge fan of pork belly. “You loved it! Especially the fatty part,” she told me many times.
It was the period when every family in China was living on food coupons. Based on the ration, each person was allowed to buy 250 grams of meat per month. “Unlike today, nobody wanted lean meat back then. Our bodies craved fat,” my mum explained.
Luckily, I don’t crave it anymore, but from time to time I still enjoy dishes made of pork belly, especially when it’s properly prepared.
A classic dish
Pork belly is a popular cut of meat treasured by many great cuisines around the world. Containing a high percentage of fat, it needs to be cooked in a particular way in order to reduce its greasy taste. In China, the most famous pork belly dish has to be Red-cooked Pork(红烧肉).
Pork belly chunks are braised with spices and seasoning to create a multi-flavoured dish: salty, sweet, aromatic and sometimes spicy. When well cooked, the skin and fat become gelatinous, not greasy but melt easily in your mouth.
Apart from having the desired taste and texture, a perfect bowl of red-cooked pork belly must achieve a red-brownish shine. That’s where the word “red” in its name comes from.
This classic dish has various versions in different regions of China. The famous Hunan style red-cooked pork belly is believed to have been Chairman Mao’s favourite dish (Hunan was his home province).
In this version, rock sugar is caramelized in hot oil to coat the meat with a reddish shine. The Shanghai-style version is also popular across China. It uses dark soy sauce instead to add colour. I love all the versions equally, including mine that I’m sharing with you here.
My fool-proof version
It’s a hassle-free, fool-proof version. There is no frying involved (leaving you a greaseless kitchen) thus no extra oil needed (there’s enough fat in the pork belly already!). And you don’t have to master the skill of caramelizing the sugar properly. Yet the finished dish is more than satisfying. My culinary fan No.3 in our Red House doesn’t have a keen interest in meat, but she often asks me to cook this dish.
To braise the pork, I recommend you to use Shaoxing rice wine as liquid. This gives the meat an aromatic, rich flavour, and somehow minimizes its greasiness. You may replace up to half of the wine with water (not more). It takes around one and a half hours to have the pork well cooked, but as we say, good things come to those who wait.
If you wish to serve red-cooked pork belly as part of a Western-style meal, just blanch some green vegetable, such as broccoli, Pak Choi, green beans, etc., and cook some plain rice as a staple.
Other delicious pork dishes
I have quite a few pork-related recipes on my blog. Check them out if you are interested!
- Easy Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- Sichuan Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce
- Gua Bao (Pork Belly Buns)
- Pork Wonton Soup
- Rou Jia Mo (Chinese Pork Burger)
Simplified red-cooked pork belly (红烧肉)
- Cut pork belly into 2-3 cm (about 1 inch) chunks. Put them into a pot filled with cold water (enough to cover the meat completely). Bring the pot to a full boil. Use a spoon to skim off the froth on the surface. Then drain the pork.
- In another clean pot, heat up all the other ingredients (except for the sugar). Add in the drained pork. Cover with a lid.
- Turn the heat down to the lowest when boiling. Leave it to simmer for about an hour and a half. Check the water level at 1 hour. Add a small amount of water if necessary (see note 2).
- Take out the pork chunks with a straining spoon. Add the sugar to the remaining liquid (see note 3). Turn the heat up to the highest, cook uncovered & stir from time to time until the juice becomes thick.
- Put the pork back to the pot. Stir around gently until every piece of meat is coated by the sauce.
Does my recipe make you hungry? Have a try and tell me what you think by leaving a comment below or tag me @red.house.spice on Instagram.
Have a yummy day!