Red Braised Pork Belly, with bamboo shoot
What is Red Braised Pork Belly
Red braised pork belly, or hong-shao-rou pronounced in mandarin Chinese, is one of the signature dishes in Chinese home-cooking. In this dish, pork belly, usually with skin on, is first seared till golden brown, caramelized with sugar, then simmered with soy sauces, sugar, cooking wine, ginger, and aromatic spices, till tender and flavourful. After a long period of braising, pork skin and fat are half melted and the sauce would be thick and sticky, perfect to be served with steamed rice and Chinese thick noodles. It’s definitely not healthy food. I only prepare it occasionally as a treat.
Different families would have slightly different versions of the dish. Mine is usually prepared with hard boiled eggs or root vegetables, such as potato, taro, water chestnut or bamboo shoot. I don’t use too many spices, bay leaf or star anise would be just fine. Most importantly, I love to add some fruity flavour in the dish, such as chen-pi, dried or fresh lemon, hua-mei (Chinese salted dried plum), or my homemade umeshu (sour plum liqueur). They help to reduce the greasiness and tenderize the chewy meat.
Braising is one of the most common cooking techniques associated with Chinese cooking. Ingredients can be meat, poultry, fish, seafood, tofu, or even vegetable (usually root or dried vegetable). They are first pan-fried or stir-fried over high heat till golden brown, in a wok or pot, then simmered for a longer period of time, with seasoning and spices and with lid covered, till ingredients tender and full of flavour.
Blanch the pork belly –
This is optional, some wouldn’t do so. When cooking pork belly, I usually prefer to blanch it for removing some fat on the surface. Put the whole piece of meat in a big pot of cold water then bring it to boil; remove from the heat and let the meat stay in hot water for about 15 minutes; wash off the scum then cut the meat into big chunks.
Caramelize the pork belly with sugar –
This step is crucial in making the pork golden brown and shiny. I experienced different types of cooking sugar and found brown sugar works best. Sprinkle 1tbsp of brown sugar on the pork and keep stir-frying in medium heat till the sugar melted and coated on the pork, be careful not to burn the sugar.
This is liqueur made by ume plums and can be easily obtained in most Asian grocery stores. It’s pronounced ‘umeshu’ in Japanese but actually Chinese also have similar liqueur. People like to make it at home in summer. My homemade umeshu is made by loads of sour ume plums, rock sugar and Cantonese rice wine.
Umeshu is sweet, sour and with aromatic plum fragrant. I like to drink it with ice cubes in hot summer night. In cooking, it suits fat meat, such as pork belly, chicken, duck and goose. The acidity helps to tenderize chewy meat and reduce greasiness. In this recipe, adding umeshu is my preference. It’s not necessary – usually people would use cooking wine and sugar only. If you want to try this tip but are unable to obtain umeshu, simply use 1tbsp of sugar, 5tbsp of any Chinese cooking wine, and half a lemon with its juice.
Bamboo shoot –
Fresh bamboo shoot is hardly available in this season but vacuum packed boiled bamboo shoot is available all year round. Remember to remove the white powdery stuff (amino acid) in the inner folds. You may use fresh bamboo shoot. For how to prepare fresh and vacuum packed bamboo shoot, check my previous post – One Pot Rice with Bamboo Shoot and Chinese Sausage.
Ingredients – for 3-4 serving
- Pork belly, 500g, better with skin on
- Vacuum packed boiled bamboo shoot, 1
- Light soy sauce, 5tbsp
- Dark soy sauce, 1tbsp
- Umeshu (ume plum liqueur), 5 tbsp. If not available, use 5tbsp of Chinese cooking wine, half lemon and 1tbsp of sugar
- Brown sugar, 1tbsp
- Bay leaf, 3
- Ginger, 50g
How to do –
- Blanch the pork belly – put them in a pot with plenty of water, bring to boil then heat off, keep the lid remained and leave it for 15 minutes, then cut to big pieces;
2. Heat a little oil in a cast iron casserole, patiently sauté the pork in medium-high heat till golden;
3. Caramelize the meat with sugar –Sprinkle 1tbsp of brown sugar on the pork and keep stir-frying in medium heat till the sugar melted and coated on the pork;
4. Put in ginger, bay leaf, soy sauces, umeshu, and enough water to cover the meat completely;
5. Add in bamboo shoot chunks. Bring to boil, then simmer for half an hour in medium-low heat. Stir and have a taste, adjust with salt or sugar, then continue braising for 10 to 20 minutes till pork turn tender but not break apart easily.
- 带皮五花肉 500克
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- 老抽 1汤匙
- 梅酒 5汤匙
- 黑糖 1汤匙
- 香叶 3片
- 姜 50克