This is a great winter dish – warm and rich – which can be lightened up considerably by adding some vegetable ingredients. The trademark red color comes from caramelizing the sugar before adding the other ingredients. Like most of the braises in Chinese cooking, the quick assembly and long cooking time make it an ideal dish to make for company – you will have time to make a few other dishes while this one cooks. Fuchsia Dunlop has a lengthy introduction to this dish in her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.
- 1 lb pork belly (with or without skin) or spare ribs (can be cut across the bone or into small sections of 2-3 ribs)
- 2 T oil
- 2 T sugar, brown or raw cane is best
- 1 T Shaoxing cooking wine or dry sherry
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 T light soy sauce
- 5 slices fresh ginger root
- 2 scallions, cut into 2″ lengths
- 1-2 dried red chilies
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 star anise or 1/2 tsp anise seed
- 2 c chicken broth or water
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- Place the meat in a pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 5 m. Drain and rinse.
- Cut the pork belly into large cubes, approximately 1″ square.
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then add the sugar and allow it to caramelize to a rich brown.
- Immediately add the pork and cooking wine and turn gently to coat with the caramel.
- Add the vinegar, soy sauce, ginger root, scallions, chilies, cinnamon, anise, and enough broth to just cover the meat.
- Bring to a boil, immediately reduce to a simmer, cover and braise on low heat or in a 325 F oven until completely tender, approximately 1 h.
- If you like a thicker sauce, you can remove the meat to a plate and reduce the sauce over high heat until it reaches the desired consistency. Add the meat back, stir quickly to reheat.
- Adjust the seasoning and serve.
The following ingredients can be added toward the end of the simmering:
- fried or pressed beancurd cubes
- rehydrated wood-ear
- sliced or quartered shiitake mushroom caps (fresh or rehydrated)
- sliced bamboo shoots or water chestnuts (available canned in most grocery stores)
Like most braises, this can be made a few days ahead and reheated over low heat – keep refrigerated in a tightly covered container. It can also be frozen for 2-3 months – thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.