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Hong Shao Zou Rou

1lb (500g)Pork belly or spare ribs
2 tbs groundnut oil, 2 tbs sugar
1½'' (4cm) cassia bark, 1 star anise, 2 dried red chilli peppers
4 cloves of garlic, 1 oz (30g) root ginger
2 tbsp Light soy sauce, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 tbs Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp arrowroot

This recipe, following Fuchia Dunlop, uses light soy sauce and caramelised sugar. You can substitute lightly sweetened dark soy sauce—but I don't think it tastes as good.

Beef, lamb, or pork can be red-cooked. Here we use pork. The salt and gentle heat convert tough collagens into delicate gelatines. Flavours suffuse the tasty, tender, moist flesh. Shin beef or lamb shanks are also suitable.

Cut the pork into bite-sized chunks; blanch, by plunging into a pan of boiling water and bringing it back to the boil. Remove the pork; reserve the liquid.

In a dry wok, gently heat the oil and sugar, with star-anise, cassia and chilli. Do not stir until the sugar has melted. Continue heating until the sugar caramelises and turns a rich, dark red-brown; add ginger, garlic and amalgamate. Turn up the heat, add the pork and cook until the pork is well-coated.

You can transfer the pork and spices to an oven-proof casserole for the slow cooking. Cook, covered, in a low oven (300 °F 150 °C), for an hour or two.

Add wine and soy; then the water reserved earlier, removing any excess fat. The pork should be barely covered. Cover and simmer gently until the liquid is well-reduced—about 1 hour.

Mix arrowroot with cold water to form a smooth thin paste. Add this to your dish. Cook, mixing gently; then serve.

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