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Mains

Hong Shao Rou: Red-Cooked Pork Belly

Hong Shao Rou: Red-Cooked Pork Belly
Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times

In this classic Shanghai braise, chunks of pork belly soak up sweetened soy fragrant with five-spice. (Olivia Wu likes to make her own blend with whole spices, but you can swap in a spoonful of store-bought powder.) The meat burnishes ... Read more

Total time: 3 ½ hours | Serves 8 to 12
  • 1 (400-gram) package Chinese preserved vegetables (mai chai), optional
  • 2 scallions, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 ¾ pounds skin-on boneless pork belly, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons crushed rock sugar or 4 teaspoons raw sugar, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine, sake, or bourbon
  • 6 shards cassia bark or 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1 giant dried cardamom, smashed, or 1 black cardamom pod
  • 1 mace shell or ½ nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds

Step 1If you’re using the preserved vegetables, put them in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Let stand at room temperature until rehydrated and softened, 2 to 4 hours.

Step 2Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan with water and add the scallions and garlic. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then add the pork. Return to a boil and cook until there’s a lot of scum on the surface. Drain in a colander. Discard the scallions and garlic.

Step 3Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then put the pork in the mixture skin side down in a single layer. Cook until the skin is the color of dark caramel, about 5 minutes.

Step 4Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add enough water to just cover the meat and bring to a boil over high heat. While the water comes to a boil, put the cassia, both cardamoms, mace, and fennel in a tea strainer or wrap in cheesecloth and tie shut. Nestle into the boiling liquid.

Step 5Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until a chopstick inserted into a piece of pork slides easily through meat, fat, and skin, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Step 6Lift the greens out of the water and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Trim off and discard the tough ends, then cut the stems and leaves into ½-inch dice. Fold into the bubbling braise and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Step 7Taste the braise. The vegetables are salty, so you may want to add a pinch of sugar. Stir in a little a time, tasting after each addition. Serve hot.

Note: Make Ahead: The braise can be made up to 3 days ahead and is, in fact, better made ahead. You can remove the fat that solidifies after chilling or keep it. Bring back to a simmer over medium heat and serve.

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