Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)

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As we creep towards middle age, Bill and I try to be healthier and avoid eating too much meat. We’re no health nuts by any stretch of the imagination…we’d eat anything and everything if we didn’t have to worry about the threat of muffin tops. There are countless times when the two of us walk into a bakery or gourmet shop for the sole purpose of just going in to look.

So for most of our home-cooked meals these days, we try to stay pretty healthy–lots of veggies. But today, thanks to viewers like you, we’re having pork for dinner (and a vegetable, of course). We’re just giving the hungry public what they want, after all.

Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly (hong shao rou, 红烧肉), or “red cooked pork,” is a very famous dish in China. Everyone knows it, and there are many versions and twists based on the original. Some of the more well-known variations include the addition of squid (sounds odd, but boy, is it tasty), hard boiled eggs, and tofu knots (one of Sarah’s favorites. See my mother’s recipe for Hongshao Rou for this variation). The list goes on, but since I’m from Shanghai, I like to cook the original, unembellished version. This recipe is designed for two to three people because I’m cooking for three here, but you can certainly double and/or triple the recipe for bigger crowds. You may have to adjust the cooking time accordingly. The ingredients are very simple:

  • 3 /4 lb. of lean pork belly (cut into 3/4-inch thick pieces)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 cups water

 

Start by cutting your pork.

shanghai style braised pork belly hong shao rou

Then bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the pork for a couple minutes. This gets rid of impurities and starts the cooking process. Take the pork out of the pot and set aside.

shanghai style braised pork belly hong shao rou

Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok. Melt the  sugar slightly and add the pork. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned.

shanghai style braised pork belly hong shao rou

Turn the heat back down to low and add cooking wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and water. It’s very important to the color and flavor of this dish that you have both kinds of soy sauce! Just head to your local Asian market, buy a bottle of each, and it will last you a year!

Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until pork is folk tender. Every 5-10 minutes, stir to prevent burning and add more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is fork tender, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and stir continuously until the sauce has reduced to a glistening coating.

And then, it’s time to eat! Let us know in the comments if you’re interested in any other variations of this dish, and we’ll get right on it. (not that we’re looking for another excuse to make it or anything…)

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SHANGHAI-STYLE BRAISED PORK BELLY (Hong Shao Rou)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

SHANGHAI-STYLE BRAISED PORK BELLY (Hong Shao Rou)

Ingredients

3/4 lb. of lean pork belly (cut into 3/4-inch thick pieces)
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 cups water

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the pork for a couple minutes. This gets rid of impurities and starts the cooking process. Take the pork out of the pot and set aside.

Over low heat, add oil and sugar to your wok. Melt the sugar slightly and add the pork. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned.

Turn the heat back down to low and add cooking wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and water. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until pork is fork tender. Every 5-10 minutes, stir to prevent burning and add more water if it gets too dry. Once the pork is fork tender, if there is still a lot of visible liquid, uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and stir continuously the sauce has reduced to a glistening coating.

http://thewoksoflife.com/2014/04/shanghai-style-braised-pork-belly/

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Comments

    • Sarah says

      Hey Anetta, thanks so much for checking out our blog! Portlanders have got the right idea for sure. Pork belly is the new prime rib, man.

  1. Mtstbrown says

    Just got back from Shanghai and had dinner with friends at an old house that was turned into a restaurant. This dish was served, and my host was very proud to pour some excellent Amarone wine. There are not a lot of Chinese dishes that can stand up to that big red, but this one did it! Thanks for your website and this recipe!

    – Mtstbrown (Oakland, CA)

  2. Steven says

    Thanks for this great recipe. I’m an American living and working in China, and I have been wanting to learn to make this. It’s perfect. And it even works with leaner cuts of meat (for us borderline health nuts). Another variation I like is to take the leftovers (I cook larger portions to last a few days and in the freezer), stir-fry with a bowl of white rice and button mushrooms chopped up. The mushrooms soak up the fat/flavor and make the dish go longer. Again,吓吓侬!

  3. Sant says

    The photos have be drooling! Your recipe is easier than others I’ve seen. Can’t wait to try it. One constructive comment: in the instructions it looks like it says to cut the pork into 1/4″ cubes. It’s only after I increased the font size that I realized you’re saying 3/4″ cubes.

  4. Dahveed says

    This sounds great and I’m going to give it a go. Pork belly is hot right now everywhere – probably a result of the whole bacon-love thing. Bacon is cured and smoked (often) pork belly. I’ll probably substitute pork shoulder – much easier to find and perhaps a little leaner than the belly. I did just a laugh about the first item – lean pork belly is sort of an oxymoron.

    Thanks for posting this recipe.

    • says

      Hi, Dahveed, pork shoulder is a great alternative. A small tip: if you are interested in trying this recipe with fresh pork belly, you can call the store (where you buy your meats) and order ahead of time. Usually the store’s butcher is more than happy to take orders.

  5. CC says

    Great recipe! One thing I found helpful was to add a little bit salt during the browning process, or even marinate it with salt and a little bit of cooking wine to allow the meat to absorb some flavor before cooking.

  6. James says

    Hey judy, i tried the dish, and the meat turned out to be a bit too tough most of the time! I have experimented with different cooking times, but do you have any tips on how to make it more tender?

    • says

      Hi, James, I don’t want to assume anything, but if you used pork belly, you should not have this problem. Only when the meat is too lean will the meat get tough. How long did you cook it for? The longer the better! But shoot us a reply and we’ll give you some extra advice :)

      • James says

        Hey Judy thanks for your reply! I think i did indeed picked a leaner cut of meat, so there was not much fat at all, because my flatmates wanted something “healthier” haha, and it was cooked for an hour or so! Coming to think about it, the end product was not as “shiny” as yours! :D

        • says

          Hi, James, tell your flatmates that you will be “unhealthier” for just this once because it’s so damn worth it. Get a large piece of pork belly (pick a piece with more meat than fat), follow the recipe, and you will have a DELIGHTFUL meal.

          • James says

            Yes I will do that next time! Regarding marination of the meat, I have actually tried to marinate the meat, and skipping the first step of boiling the meat (I mean, if the marinated meat is going to be boiled, then isnt it counter productive?), i think it has slightly more taste in the middle of the meat. (will try it again with a fattier cut just to be sure)

            Hence sorry for my silly question, but what purpose does boiling the meat actually serve? are we blanching out the “impurities” which are actually giving it more taste?

            • says

              Hi, James, some old habits are hard to change, I’ve learned the “pre-boiling the meat” method from my grandmother, this step is not critical, you can just start by browning the meat. Hope you have better luck next time.

    • says

      Hi, Pono, the sauce should be reduced but don’t dry it out. As a last step (of cooking), stir uncovered and the sauce will reduce quickly. You will get that lovely sheen as shown in the pictures. Let us know how it turns out!

  7. Wendy Kingsbury says

    Found your site through google after a lady from work suggested I try your pork belly recipe. Cooked it last night and WOW!!! Added some chilli and onions 1/2 way through cooking and it totally lifted it. Tonight we are going to try the Gai see chow mein. Love finding authenticate asian recipes!! Keep up the good work girls! Reading daily through your site all the way from New Zealand

    • says

      Hi, Wendy, a big HELLO to you in New Zealand. We’ll have to make our way there some day. Words can’t describe how happy we are to see our readers are making and enjoying our recipes. We’ll keep on posting and you’ll keep on cooking! BTW, how was the Gai See Chow Mein?

      • Wendy Kingsbury says

        Loved the Gai See Chow Mein!! We actually ended up making it 2 nights in a row and took some my mother down the road for tea. We also garnished with cashew nuts. Another delicious easy go to meal!

  8. Catherine says

    Hi B.J.S.K,
    Google has been recommending this recipe down under :) I’m in New Zealand too and can’t wait to try your recipe tomorrow! I am trying to be healthy and I like how your recipe doesn’t involve lots of rock sugar! Even though I was born in Shanghai and love the food, I’m only fond of excessive sugar in my desserts! :)
    P.s. your blog is inspiring!

    • says

      Hi, Catherine, nice to meet a hometown girl. Thank you for your lovely words. I know how a nice bowl of Hong Shao Rou can bring us back to the old days and the old ways of living. Not to say that they were “the good old days”, but certainly hard to forget. Please come and visit us often! I know I will put out more Shanghainese dishes.

  9. says

    A firm fan of this recipe, in Barcelona! Some ingredients are difficult to get hold of here, unfortunately. I’m forced to use medium dry Sherry and only darker soy sauce so the color is never exactly like your pictures. But it’s delicious all the same. Having it for Monday night dinner.

  10. Josh says

    This is an awesome, simple, recipe! faster than a lot of the pork belly recipes I looked at and delicious, I was hampered by an electric stove but it still turned out great! Right at the end of cooking all of the glaze wrapped itself around the pork, this left separate oil/fat in the pan I just lifted it out with a slotted spoon, looked just like the pics but a little darker!
    Oh yeah your the second result on Google here in the UK, thanks again!

    • says

      Hi, Josh, WOW!!! You’ve achieved the ultimate result, this is exactly how this dish should finish and look. Thank you so very much for sharing your experience. Great Job!!!

  11. Alfred says

    Found this site and great recipe today during my hunt for awesome pork belly recipes!
    I come from Hong Kong so I had plenty of chances to try this dish at a restaurant before, but this is the first time I made it. Pleasantly surprised it tastes so good!

    Just not sure why though mine doesn’t turn out as shiny and red as shown in your result pictures.

    Will try your other recipes soon for sure!

    • says

      Hi, Alfred, there are a few things you can do to get the finished product looking shiny and red: 1) dissolve the sugar (best to use rock sugar) in oil using low heat before adding the pork to the wok. 2) At the end, the sauce needs to be mostly dried out by continuously stirring over medium to high heat; it’s done when the sauce coats the pork, and what’s left in the wok is mostly grease. 3) Adjust the amount of dark soy sauce, more or less depending on what color you want. Hope these tips are helpful. :-)

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