Whenever anyone mentions Chinese food, the ubiquitous stirfry is always brought up. It’s odd but I hardly ever stirfry anything at home. Many of my favourite dishes, Chinese or otherwise, are braises. There’s something quite comforting about bunging things into a pot and letting a gentle heat do all the hard work for you.

I seem to be coming across red-cooked dishes from the Hunan province of China recently, most likely since Fuchsia Dunlop has recently come out with a cookbook of recipes from that province. Saveur magazine also featured a series of red-cooked dishes in an article a few months ago and this finally prompted me to try my hand at a red-cooked pork belly dish.

The recipe below originally called for dark mushroom flavoured soy sauce and this can replace both the light and dark soy sauces (I use Kikkoman and Cheong Chan, respectively) called for below. I think one piece or half a piece of star anise wouldn’t go amiss either. The results are magnificent – the pork belly fat melting into the sauce and creating a rich liquor to pour over rice. I overate that night…too much rice mixed into all that sauce! And it’s imperative that you eat this with plenty of white rice – plain steamed/boiled white rice!

Red Cooked Belly Pork

Red-Cooked Belly Pork
adapted from Saveur magazine, March 2007
Serves 2.

454g (1 lb) pork belly, skin and bones removed
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 inch chunk of ginger, sliced into coins
5 scallions, cut into 3 inch pieces
1/8 cup (30 mL) Shaoxing rice wine
2.5 tbsps light soy sauce
2 tbsps thick dark soy sauce
0.5 tsp salt
1.5 tbsps sugar

Cut the pork belly into chunks about 1.5 inches wide. Blanch the pork in boiling water for about 2 minutes and then rinse with cold water. You’ll see lots of scum come from the pork – you don’t want any of it sullying your pretty dish!

Heat the oil in a pot or wok over high heat and fry the ginger and scallions for a few seconds. Add the pork belly and continue frying for 1 minute. Add the Shaoxing wine and fry for 2 minutes. Add both the soy sauces and continue for another 2 minutes.

Add the salt and 1 cup of water and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The pork will be quite tender at this point. Add the sugar and simmer uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Serve with plenty of white rice and perhaps a vegetable dish too.