Sunday, January 20, 2008

Red Cooked Pork Belly

Red Cooked Pork Belly
Updated from Recipe Archive

The pork belly is a truly magnificent cut of meat. Every preparation results in something amazing whether it's cured into bacon or pancetta, roasted until the skin is shatteringly crisp, confited then deep fried, or braised until it literally melts in your mouth. Red cooked pork belly was one of my childhood favorites. I can still remember sitting at the tiny dining table in my grandparent's Shanghai apartment marveling at how a bite contains a perfect trio of rind, fat, and meat. Red cooking, hong shao, is a common way of braising meats in Shanghai, and the neighboring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The color and deep flavors of red cooking comes from the use of dark soy sauce, which is thicker, richer, and sweeter than regular light soy sauce. Pork, chicken, beef, duck, even fish and tofu can be cooked this way but if you choose pork belly, you will be rewarded with something especially delicious. The rind is a deep reddish-brown, the thick striations of fat are soft luscious, and the meat is unbelievably tender and flavorful.

The belly is best enjoyed with some white rice and sauce made from the braising liquid. Serve it with a light side dish such as simple stir fried bok choy to counter the richness of the belly. You can also braise some eggs with the pork for some very flavorful braised eggs.

Red Cooked Pork Belly

2 lbs pork belly cut into 1 1/2 inch squares
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1/4 C Shao xing rice wine
4 - 5 slices of ginger about 1/4 in thick smashed with the side of a knife
1/4 C roughly crushed yellow rock sugar
2 star anise
4 green onions cut in half lengthwise, cut into 3 - 4 inch segments and smashed
Vegetable oil

Hardboiled eggs

If you plan on braising eggs with the meat, hardboil and peel your eggs first.

Bring enough water to cover the pork belly pieces up to a boil in a dutch oven or saucepan. Add the pork belly and boil for a minute. Drain the belly pieces and rinse off any scum on the meat and saucepan/Dutch oven.

In a saucepan or Dutch oven heat a tablespoon of oil over medium and stir fry the ginger and green onions pieces in the hot oil. When the oil smells fragrant add the pork belly, peeled hardboiled eggs if using, dark and regular soy sauce, wine, sugar, star anise, and enough water to cover the meat. Bring up to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 - 3 hours or until the pork is fall apart tender.

Skim the fat off the top or chill the sauce in the fridge to solidify the fat. Reduce the sauce by half until it has thickened and is syrupy. Drizzle it over the pork belly and rice.

Serve the pork belly with some white rice and stir fried baby bok choy.

Serves 4 to 6: It's so rich that just a few pieces is enough

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