A recipe for Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉, Chinese Red-Braised Pork Belly)! Pieces of pork belly are slowly simmered in a soy sauce mixture with warming spices until tender with a gorgeous reddish glaze.
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I first came across Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉) in the cookbook, Every Grain of Rice, and it has since become one of my absolute favorite ways of cooking pork belly.
This Shanghai-style pork belly does take some time to prepare, but it is mostly hands-off. The pieces of pork belly are first boiled in water for a few minutes to remove any impurities, rinsed and drained, then coated in an oil/sugar mixture to start to build that beautiful shine.
To finish, the pork is slowly simmered in a spiced and sweetened soy sauce until tender and covered in a thickened, caramel-like coating.
I served the pork belly over a bed of freshly steamed rice alongside Bok Choy, but it is also delicious paired with steamed buns or even flatbread (check out Red House Spice’s recipe for Rou Jia Mo, 肉夹馍).
A Few Tips
Check out The Woks of Life’s Grandma’s Version for an incredible combination of pork belly, hard-boiled eggs, and tofu puffs.
Briefly cook the pork in water before caramelizing to help remove impurities and reserve the cooking water. Remove the pork from the pot and rinse well with cold water. Make sure to pat dry before adding to the oil/sugar mixture to reduce the amount of splatter.
After searing the pork and combining the ingredients, I transferred the mixture to a large clay pot to simmer. If you don’t have a clay pot available, use a wok or large saucepan with a lid.
Add a splash or two more of the reserved water if the mixture gets too dry while simmering. If the sauce is still too watery after simmering, remove the lid and slightly increase the heat to reduce the liquid until thickened and bubbling (stir often to keep the bottom from burning).
If too much fat accumulates at the top towards the end of cooking, use a spoon to carefully scoop it out and save for another use.
Leftovers will last up to three days refrigerated in an airtight container.
I have been able to find slabs of skin-on pork belly in markets with East Asian ingredients and specialty butchers.
Shaoxing wine (绍兴酒) is a fermented rice wine originally from Shaoxing in the Zhejiang province in eastern China. I have been able to find it at larger grocery stores with a sizeable wine selection, such as Wegmans, and in markets specializing in Chinese ingredients. Dry sherry can be used as a substitution if you absolutely cannot find it.
Dark Soy Sauce is also known as sweet soy sauce, black soy sauce, or thick soy sauce. It is available in markets with East Asian ingredients or on Amazon at a higher price: Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark Soy Sauce.
Rock sugar (冰糖, Bing Tang) is a light crystallized sugar with a little less sweetness than granulated sugar. It can be found in markets with Chinese ingredients. If you are unable to find it, substitute with light brown sugar or granulated sugar.
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This post was originally published in May 2016 and updated March 2021.
Hong Shao Rou (Chinese Red-Braised Pork Belly) Recipe
Adapted from Every Grain of Rice
Hong Shao Rou (Chinese Red-Braised Pork Belly)
- 2 pounds (900 grams) skin-on, boneless pork belly cut into 3/4-1 inch (2-2.5 centimeter) slices
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) rock sugar or light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) Shaoxing wine
- 2 cups (473 milliliters) reserved water from cooking the pork
- 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon (30 milliliters) dark soy sauce
- 3 green onions white and light green part cut into 1 inch (2.5 centimeter) pieces and lightly crushed (thinly slice dark green and reserve for garnish)
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) fresh ginger unpeeled and sliced
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Place the pork belly slices in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook, skimming the foam off the top, for 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the pork, rinse with cold water, dry well, and set aside in a bowl. Reserve the water in the pot.
- In a large wok or skillet, place the oil and sugar over low heat. Once the sugar is hot and melted, carefully add the pork slices (they may splatter if not fully dried) and increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until well coated and golden.
- Add the Shaoxing wine followed by the 2 cup (473 milliliters) reserved pork water, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, light green onion pieces, garlic, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon stick.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to low and transfer the mixture to a clay pot or a wok with a lid and cover. Simmer until the pork is tender, about 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from burning. If the mixture becomes dry, add a little more reserved pork water.
- If the mixture is still watery when the pork is tender and ready to serve, remove lid and increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid has thickened into a glistening sauce and coats the pork thoroughly.
- Serve immediately with rice and topped with thinly sliced green onions.