Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)


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).

Other pork belly favorite recipes include Mei Cai Kou Rou, a famous steamed pork belly, Braised pork belly with arrowroot, a Cantonese New Year’s favorite,

And others not so similar but really good are Cantonese roast pork belly and Twice cooked pork belly.

The list goes on, but since I’m from Shanghai, I like to cook the original, un-embellished Shanghai-style 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 (rock sugar is preferred if you have it)
  • 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…)








Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 4



3/4 lb. of lean pork belly (cut into 3/4-inch thick pieces)
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sugar (rock sugar is preferred if you have it)
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.



  1. Simon says

    Hi Judy,

    I have eaten this many times and can’t wait to try cooking it for myself! Just wanted to ask, is getting pork with the skin still on essential to make this dish authentic?

    • says

      Hi Simon, For an authentic result, you really do need to use pork belly with the skin on. Try the authentic dish first and then you can vary later (skin off, other cuts of meat, etc) and decide what you like best. We’d love to hear from you about your experiences in the future. Enjoy!

  2. Marie says

    Hi Judy,

    Quick question: once the meat is browned, do you think the rest of the recipe could be done in a slowcooker? Lemme know. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Marie, I think it should work. I don’t cook with a slow cooker so I don’t know how to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If you give it a try, we would appreciate it if you could share the outcome with our readers here in the comments. Thank you, Marie!

  3. Angela says

    My husband is originally from Shanghai and has sorely missed his mothers cooking. One of her specialties is the red braised pork but she also adds soft sweet roasted chestnuts. So let me just say, this recipes was easy and made the Mr. incredibly happy! I’m next going to try your grandmothers recipe with the tofu! Thank you

  4. Davi says

    Wow. Love the simple ingredients for this recipe and it turned out so well!! Tastes similar to a very authentic restaurant dish. It’s so rare to find a site these days with simple ingredients, all other recipes call for all sorts of unnecessary things but this truly works.

  5. Charlie says

    Hey guys! I’ve made this twice now and I’ve got the flavour right but can’t seem to get that beautiful colour. What’s the secret there?

    • says

      Hi Charlie, try this: when the dish is almost done, turn the heat slightly higher, stir slowly until the sauce thickens and coats the meat. By then, you will see a nice sheen on the meat.

  6. jionie says

    just about to marinate the porkbelly in sweet chilly sauce for tomorrow nights meal, I have not cooked this dish before but sounds delicious.

  7. Elaine says

    Hi Judy,

    It’s funny, my mom made very similar to this version and my grandmother made it like your grandmother’s recipe. I’ve been making this one since I stumbled on your blog a few months ago and my Luxembourgian husband is a devoted convert! (Took me a long time to convince him that “real” Chinese food isn’t what he’s been getting in take outs…). I’ve been seeing lots of recipes that bring me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Thanks for posting!

  8. Lixin Zhang says

    Awesome pictures! I just add boiled hot water to the pot rather than cold water. It’s said meat and sauce will taste better.

  9. Martin says

    I bumped up the braising time to 1:45. I also added another table spoon of sugar. other than that. Best homemade pork belly I’ve every made.

  10. says

    mmmm this reminds me of my childhood – my mom’s version has large chunks of carrots added in – the meat juices + the sauce makes the carrots seem like the best vegetable in the world. so happy i stumbled upon this site!

    • says

      Hi Sammi, I don’t want to give you bad advice. The characteristic of this dish comes from braising using both the light and the dark soy sauce. I think you should hold off and ask your supermarket to get you the right soy sauce. I don’t want to see you miss out on an awesome dish because of missing ingredients. Hope you understand!

  11. says

    Was pretty excited to find this blog! I grew up watching my mom cook but sometimes I can’t exactly remember how she does things. Instead of facing embarrassment I just look here.

    I did a more embellished version and ended up adding a stick of cinnamon, whole star anise, some garlic and ginger as well. Also I used a dutch oven instead of a wok which made the deglazing easier!

  12. Chris23235 says

    Thank you for the recipe, I tried it yesterday for the first time and it was delicious. I was worried, that 2 cups of water could be to much for this rather small ammount of meat, but after 45 minutes, when there still was much liquid in the wok, I turned on high heat and it didn’t took much time for the liquid to cook in and become a very thick and very tasty coat on the pork belly.

    I put a few slices of ginger into the wok, so there was a hint of ginger spice in it, which suited fine. Next time, I think I will try how it comes out, when I put a small ammount of grinded szechuan pepper on the pork belly, when it’s done. I think this could suit fine as well.

  13. Chi Leung says

    Fantastic site. Just made the Hong Shao Rou for GF and me. No steamed buns, French baguette worked just fine. All gone. Would like to see a recipe for roast crispy pork.

    • says

      Wow…I bet the French baguette was so happy to meet up with Hong Shao Rou. What an idea! BTW, roast crispy pork is on our recipe list to make. Thank you.

  14. says

    Oh My Goodness! I think I will be making this for our Grand Prix party next month! It . . . looks . . . soooooo . . . good!! I could eat this right now. Thank you for inspiring me to try something new :)

  15. MAX says

    Hey Judy,

    I just found your amazing website with all the delicious recipes. I know the pork belly dish from my favourite chinese restaurant and they have tea tree mushrooms in there. The only think I know is that you have to soak them in water for 30 minutes. Can you tell me when is the best time to add them in that dish?

    Thank You

    • says

      Hi Max, so glad that you’ve found us. Adding Tea Tree Mushroom 茶树菇 is a variation of Hong Shao Rou, I’m sure it tastes great. You can add it around half-time and adjust the taste by adding more light soy sauce. If you don’t mind, I would like you to try my recipe first and see if you like the authentic Hong Shao Rou better. Cheers and come visit often!

  16. Wendy says

    Your recipe looks so easy and mouth-watering. Except I can’t eat soy or gluten. Any ideas on how I can flavor the pork belly? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Yolanda, this recipe is for three quarters of a lb of pork belly. I made it for Bill and I so I made a very small portion. Be sure to double the recipe if you are feeding a family of four :-)

    • says

      Hi Rachel, I’ve read that Tamari is a soy sauce without (or with very little) gluten, a byproduct of miso. I’ve never used it before. But certainly worth a try and remember to adjust the saltiness accordingly. Also, you might not get that dark soy color at the end. There is a way you can try to achieve a similar look: Blanch the pork belly pieces to get rid of impurities. Heat oil in wok using low heat, melt the sugar, and add the Tamari. Cook it with the sugar and oil for a couple of a couple minutes using low heat (it should not bubble too much, which will cause too much liquid to evaporate). Add the blanched pork belly and turn up the heat. Mix everything well, add shaoxing wine (or rice wine) and water and follow the recipe for the rest of steps. I am curious to know the outcome if you decide to try. I’m pretty sure it’ll be very good.

  17. Lily says


    The pork belly piece that I have has a lot of hair on it still. I don’t have a torch but usually just try scraping it off with a sharp knife after blanching it. I also don’t have any extra razors, lol. What do you do to make sure you don’t have a bunch of hairs in your pork belly? :)

    • says

      HAHAHA. OMG. The hairy pork belly scenario. I’m familiar, Lily. Very familiar. In general, I would try to buy from a butcher that does a more thorough job of getting their meat ready for market. If it’s just a few uh…hairs (wow, this sounds a little barbaric, doesn’t it?), I just grab the tweezers and go at those suckers. Vegetarians: forgive me. Everyone else: yeah, it’s gross. Deal with it.

  18. Grace says

    If I can’t find Chinese cooking wine, what may I substitute for it? Thanks and I’m looking forward to trying out the recipe.

    • says

      Hi Grace, Shaoxing cooking wine is really kind of a necessary ingredient for this dish, since it’s so simple and involves relatively few ingredients. You can try finding it online on Amazon. If you REALLY can’t find it, I know that some grocery stores stock regular “rice wine” or mirin, which is a Japanese rice wine. You could try substituting those.

  19. 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. :-)

  20. 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!!!

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

    • 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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)

    • 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *