Three Styles of Red Braised Pork

There are infinite recipe for red braising.  Pretty much every Asian culture has their version, mostly because Chinese people get all over the place.  Here are three styles of notoriety: Hong Shao Rou, Dong Po Rou, Mei Cai Kou Rou.

First, let me link to the quintessential Hong Shao Rou.

This dish is braised in a relatively small amount of sugar, soy sauce and wine and typically star anise (with cinnamon or cao guo as other popular spices).  It is also browned.  Pork belly is certainly the richest way to enjoy, but it is frequently made with pork shoulder or entire shanks as well.

Now let’s go to Dong Po Rou.

  • 2 lb. pork belly meat
  • 1/2 c tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed
  • 2 Tbsp of ginger, sliced
  • 4 scallions cut into 2-inch long pieces
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup Shaoxing wine

Layer the aromatics in cooking vessel and then place pork on top (not really necessary, but typical), skin side down, and then mix remaining ingredients and pour sauce into vessel.  Cover and place in 400 degree oven for 1 hour.  Flip pork, cover again and turn temperature down to 200-225 and cook for 4-6 hours.  Defat and discard aromatics.  Reduce sauce as needed.

The differences compared to hong shao rou are pretty stark.  We have a lot more soy sauce, a lot more sugar and a lot more wine.  This is also ALWAYS made with pork belly and braised for a lot longer so it is meltingly soft and tender and the fat is quite sticky and gelatinous.  There are also no spices.

Lastly there is Mei Cai Kou Rou.

  • 12 oz. pork belly meat
  • 4 oz prepared mei cai (fermented mustard greens)
  • 2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp Shaoxing wine

Brown the skin of your pork belly on the stovetop or with a broiler.  Cut into very thin 1/2 in. slices and layer bottom of a steaming bowl with slices.  Layer mei cai and garlic on top of pork.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour sauce evenly over bowl and steam for at least 1.5 hours.

The hardest part is finding mei cai.  There are multiple types (Hakka versus Shaoxing) and it is a pain to prepare, requiring long soaks and washing (search internet for assistance).

Mei cai kou rou is pretty much hong shao rou with the addition of mustard greens and a change in cooking method to steaming.  More elaborate preparations add spices to the sauce.  Hakka style recipes also add oyster sauce on occasion.

 

 

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