Hong shao rou or red braised pork is a classic Chinese braised pork belly dish. The pork belly is braised until a beautiful reddish brown color and the meat is tender and melts in your mouth!
Hong shao rou is one of our favorite braised pork belly dishes! The pork belly is cooked in an aromatic braising liquid until it takes on a beautiful reddish brown color, hence the name "red braised."
The pork belly tastes savory with a hint of sweetness. So juicy, tender and absolutely scrumptious! Super tasty over some white rice!
What is hong shao rou?
Hóng shāo ròu (红烧肉), also known as red braised pork or red braised pork belly, is a classic Chinese dish that's cooked using the "red braise" method. There are many variations of red braised pork belly, depending on which province of China you visit. Even then, there could be slightly different variations amongst each province!
But that the end of day, hong shao rou is simply pork belly cooked in a braising liquid made of Shaoxing cooking wine, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and aromatics like green onion, ginger, and star anise (depending on who's making it).
Why is red braised pork red?
As the braising liquid reduces, the pork belly takes on that deep reddish brown color, which is what the "red" refers to in red braised pork.
Also, in different provinces, sugar is caramelized at the beginning of the cooking process to give the pork belly that extra rich, deep reddish brown color.
- Skin on pork belly - The star of this dish! Make sure there's skin on the pork belly. The skin adds a nice bouncy, gelatinous texture to the pork and makes the dish more flavorful.
- Please try to find a slab of pork belly that's even in thickness and has equal layers of fat and meat. Having a pork belly that's even in thickness will look better, aesthetically. Using a slab of pork belly that has even layers of fat and meat will make the dish taste better and less fatty.
- Ginger and Shaoxing cooking wine - Both the ginger and shaoxing rice wine add more fragrant to the dish and remove any unwanted pork flavor.
- Soy sauce - You can use regular or light sodium soy sauce. This adds some color and flavor to the braise.
- Dark soy sauce - Although dark soy sauce is mostly for adding color to the braise, it also adds a unique flavor to the braise that can't be replaced.
- Granulated sugar - For sweetening the braise and help round the flavor out. You can also replace the granulated sugar for rock sugar if you'd like.
- Green onion and star anise - Additional flavoring for the red braised pork.
- Dry shiitake mushrooms (optional) - This adds flavor to the braise and something my family always add to hong shao rou. Also, because mushrooms are naturally a flavor sponge, it's super flavorful after braising.
- If adding dry shiitake mushrooms, make sure to rehydrate it in hot water for about 10 minutes.
- Cornstarch - For making cornstarch slurry. Traditionally, the braising liquid is thickened by reducing. However, we found adding cornstarch slurry an easier method to thicken the braising liquid and to keep the sauce glossy.
- Eggs (optional) - Hard boiled eggs are a popular add-on to red braised pork, but you can totally do without it.
Shaoxing rice wine replacement in hong shao rou
The main purpose of adding shaoxing rice wine to the red braised pork is to get rid of unwanted pork smell. This also helps the dish taste cleaner.
If you don't have shaoxing rice wine or any Chinese cooking wine, you could braised the pork belly in a couple cans of pale beer instead. So replace the water for braising with equal amounts of beer.
This will not only remove unwanted porky flavor, it'll also tenderize the pork belly even more!
If you do not want to use any alcohol at all, you can simply omit. However, do note that the flavor will not be the same and the red braised pork will not be as fragrant.
How to make hong shao rou (red braised pork)
Prepare all the optional ingredients:
1. Place the dry shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and rehydrate it with hot water for at least 10 minutes. Set it aside until needed.
🌟 Pro tip: You could also use the 2 cups of water for braising to rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms. This will add even more flavors to the braising liquid. Just make sure the water is hot and increase the amount to 2 ½ cup to compensate for rehydrating the dry mushrooms.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the quartered bok choy. Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minutes, or until the bok choy turns bright green. Remove and shock in ice water or run it under cold water until completely cooled. Drain well and arrange it around a plate (in a circle) for plating the pork belly later.
3. Bring a pot of water to a boil and gently place the eggs into the water. Boil the eggs for 10 to 12 minutes, then remove promptly. Shock in ice water until completely cooled. Peel the eggs and set aside.
Blanch the pork belly:
1. Cut the pork belly into 1 ½ inch chunks. Place them in a pot along with half of the sliced ginger. Add enough water to cover the pork belly and bring it up to a boil. Let the pork belly boil for 10 to 15 minutes to get rid of impurity. Occasionally skim off the scum with a spoon or fine mesh skimmer.
2. Drain the pork belly and rinse with water to get rid of any stubborn scum. You may have to get in there and rub with your finger. Discard the ginger. Drain well and set aside.
Braise the pork belly:
3. In a medium pot over medium heat, add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Once the oil is hot, add the blanched pork belly and remaining ginger slices. Stir fry for 3 to 5 minutes to lightly brown the pork belly, render some fat, and bring out the fragrance in the ginger. Drain the excess fat.
4. Drizzle the shaoxing cooking wine around the edge of the pot and stir fry for 15 to 30 seconds. Then add the sugar, soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Stir fry for 30 more seconds.
5. Add the water, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, green onion knot, and star anise. Bring it to it to a boil then reduce the heat to a medium simmer. Let the pork belly braise for about 30 to 40 minutes or until tender. Add the boiled eggs at the last 10 minutes of braising.
📝 Notes: Traditionally, the boiled eggs are added at the beginning of the braising process. This produces boiled eggs that are more seasoned but with a ring of grey around the yolk that may not be desirable.
6. When the pork belly is tender, remove the pork belly, eggs, and shiitake. Discard the ginger, green onion, and star anise.
7. Reduce the heat so that the braising liquid is just simmering. Give the cornstarch slurry a stir and drizzle it into the braising liquid while stirring. Keep stirring the sauce until it thickens and look glossy.
🌟 Pro tip: There should be about ¾ cup of braising liquid left at this point. If there are any fat on the braising liquid, skim it off with a spoon or fine mesh fat skimmer. This will prevent the sauce from breaking when the slurry is added. Also, do avoid over reducing the braising liquid!
8. Add the braised pork belly, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms back into the pot. Gently toss everything to coat with the sauce.
9. Serve the red braised pork in your desired serving bowl or on the preferred plate garnished with blanched bok choy.
What to do if the braising liquid is over reduced?
If your braising liquid for the hong shao rou is over reduced, it'll most likely break when the the cornstarch slurry is added. But don't worry! Instead, you can make a quick sauce to glaze the braised pork belly.
Combine 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, and 1 ½ tablespoon of sugar to a pan. Heat the sauce until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in 2 teaspoon of cornstarch slurry (1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of cold water) into the sauce and cook until thickened and glossy. Toss in the pork belly to coat.
- Try to cut the pork belly into 1 ½ inch chunks. If you cut it smaller or larger, do adjust the cook time accordingly. Also, keep in mind that the pork belly will shrink a bit when cooked.
- Blanch the pork belly starting with cold water. Bring the pork belly to a boil starting with cold water helps bring out more impurity. This is more efficient at getting rid of unwanted porky flavor and smell.
- Stir fry the pork belly before braising to render more fat. This helps getting rid of some fattiness and keep the braised pork belly taste cleaner. Just make sure to drain the excess fat after.
- Skim off any excess fat in the braising liquid before adding slurry. Having too much fat in the braising liquid will break the sauce when the slurry is added. The sauce will look separated.
Storage and reheating
If you have any leftover red braised pork, transfer to an airtight container and let it cool completely before refrigerating. The braised pork can be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days.
To reheat, you can heat it up in the microwave until thoroughly warmed. Or you could heat it in a pan with a small amount of water until heated through.
Hong shao rou (红烧肉) translates to red cooked pork or red braised pork. It refers to how the pork belly looks reddish brown after braising.
If your pork belly is tough after braising, it meant that either the pork belly needs to be braised longer or it was cooked at too high heat. Try to braise the pork belly at a medium simmer. Also, you can try braising the pork belly in beer. It'll tenderize the pork belly and also get rid of porky flavor.
This usually caused by over reducing the braising liquid or having too much fat in the braising liquid. Skim off the excess fat if possible before adding slurry.
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Hong Shao Rou (Red Braised Pork)
- 2 pounds pork belly skin on (try to find a piece that has equal layers of fat and meat)
- 3 inches ginger thinly sliced (divided)
- 3 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce regular or light sodium
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or rock sugar
- 2 cups water plus more for blanching
- 2 stalks green onion tied into a knot
- 2 star anise
- 4 dry shiitake mushrooms rehydrated (optional)
- 2 teaspoon cornstarch slurry 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon cold water
- Oil as needed for cooking
- 4 large eggs (optional)
- 4 heads bok choy washed and quartered(optional for garnish)
Optional ingredient preparations:
- (Optional) Rehydrate the dry shiitake:If you're using dry shiitake mushrooms, rehydrate it in some hot water and set aside until needed.*You even use the 2 cups of water listed if you wish to add more flavors to the braising liquid. Just use 2½ cups of hot water instead.*
- (Optional) Boil the eggs:Bring a pot to a boil and gently place the eggs into the water. Boil the eggs for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the eggs immediately and shock in ice water water. Crack and peel the eggs once cooled. Set aside until needed.
- (Optional) Blanch the bok choy:Bring a pot of water to a boil. Place the quartered bok choy into the water and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the bok choi turns bright green. Remove immediately and shock in ice water or run them under cold water until cooled. Drain well and set aside.
For the braised pork:
- Blanch the pork belly:Cut the pork belly into 1½ inch thick chunks and place them in a pot along with half of the thinly sliced ginger. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the pork belly and bring to a boil.
- Let the pork belly boil for about 10 to 15 minutes and skim off the scum occasionally. Drain the pork belly and rinse with water to remove any scum/impurities. Drain well and set aside.*Skimming the scum will also prevent the water from boiling over. So keep an eye out!*
- Braise the pork belly:In a medium pot over medium heat, add just enough water to coat the bottom of the pot. Once the oil is hot, add the blanched pork belly and remaining ginger slices. Stir fry them for about 3 to 5 minutes to lightly brown the pork belly and render some excess fat. Drain the excess fat.
- Add the cooking wine along the edge of the pot and stir fry the pork belly for 10 to 15 seconds. Then add both of the soy sauce and sugar. Stir fry for 30 seconds more.
- Add the water, green onion knot, star anise, and rehydrated shiitake. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a medium simmer. Let the pork belly simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until tender and nicely colored. Stir occasionally.*If adding boiled eggs, add the eggs at the last 10 minutes of braising.*
- Once the pork belly is tender, remove the pork belly, eggs, and shiitake mushrooms. Discard the green onion, ginger, and star anise. Skim the oil off the brasing liquid if needed and reduce the heat to keep the braising liquid at a low simmer. At this point, the braising liquid should be reduced to about ¾ cup.
- Give the cornstarch slurry a stir and drizzle it into the reduced braising liquid while stiring. Keep stirring until the braising liquid is thickened and glossy. Add the pork belly and eggs back into the sauce and gently mix to coat.
- Garnish and serve:Serve the braised pork belly in your preferred serving bowl. Or serve it on a plate with blanched bok choy arranged around it. Enjoy while hot!
- Pork belly - Please try your best to choose a pork belly that's even in thickness and have even layers of fat and meat. This will make the final braised pork belly more aesthetically pleasing.
- Cutting the pork belly into 1 ½ inch chunks is important for the cook time. But you can totally cut it into smaller or large size. Just make sure to adjust the cook time accordingly.
- Traditionally, the red braised pork sauce is thickened by just reducing. But we found it more foolproof and easier to thicken with cornstarch. Please refer to the post for more detail.
- If your braising liquid is overly reduced and have a layer of fat on it, it will split/break when you add the slurry. So make sure to not over reduce it and skim off the fat if there should be any.
- If your braising is overly reduce for any reason, don't worry! You can make a separate sauce.
- Add 2 tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 tablespoon of dark soy sauce, and 1 ½ tablespoon of sugar to a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in 2 teaspoon of slurry (1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1 teaspoon cold water) and stir until the sauce thickens and looks glossy. Toss the pork belly, eggs, and shiitake to coat.