In America, comfort food usually means burgers, fries, chicken pot pies, but growing up in a Chinese household it was more like fried rice, stir-frys and red braised pork belly or "Hong Shao Rou".
I would beg my mom to make red braised pork belly on every occasion possible. I'd make up birthdays and holidays as an excuse for her to whip up a batch. Every time I went home from College, this was what I asked for. And even when I visit her now in Shanghai, she'll have a small pot of it waiting for me when I arrive.
I'm not sure what I salivate for more: the silky opulent fat that melts in your mouth or the tender, flavorful lean meat that soaks up all the sweet, savory anise flavor. Best enjoyed with a simple bowl of steamed rice or between a steamed bun, this pork belly can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge as the gelatin and fat helps preserve the meat.
I found this recipe through Red Cook -- one of my favorite Chinese Recipe blogs. This recipe is very similar to my mothers as I've made just a few minor changes.
RED BRAISED PORK BELLY
- 2 lb. pork belly meat cut into two inch cubes
- 1 1/2 cups a light beer or water
- 3 slices of ginger
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 7 cloves of garlic peeled
- 5 whole star anise
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1/2 cup Shaoxing wine
In a large pot, heat beer or water with slices of ginger over high heat until boiling. Place cubes of pork into boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. This process helps remove the scum from the meat, using a spoon, slowly remove the gunk that floats to the surface and discard. Strain meat and ginger with a fine sieve and be sure to reserve the stock. Set boiled cubes of meat and ginger aside.
Melt 3 tablespoons sugar and the vegetable oil in a medium pot over medium high heat. Continue heating until the sugar is slightly brown. About 3 minutes. Put the cubed pork in the pot and brown it with the caramelized sugar. About 8 minutes.
Put the reserved pieces of ginger, remaining sugar, garlic, star anise, dark soy sauce, rice wine and reserved stock into the pot with the meat. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat. Cook for about 40-50 minutes. Stir the meat every 15 minutes to make sure the bottom of the pot does not get burnt. Remove the meat from the mixture with slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. Remove the cover and turn the heat to medium high and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the sauce reduces to a smooth consistency. Pour over pork belly when ready to serve.
This dish, like most stew dishes, is better if left overnight and reheated the next day. But if you can’t wait then plate it in a shallow bowl and garnish with shredded scallion and sprigs of cilantro.
The best part about this dish is that it can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Just be sure to use a spoon every time. Because this was slow braised all the fat and collagen helps preserve the meat. Place leftovers in a glass tupperware container. You can also individually portion in plastic storage bags. Simply reheat in a pot or microwave for a couple minutes and serve with steamed rice. You can also keep leftovers in the freezer for up to 5 months.