Friday, November 20, 2015

Braised Pork Belly - Hong Shou Rou

My goal in making this recipe was to explore Asian recipes that would translate well into American holidays. I think this would be a great recipe for Thanksgiving or Christmas, as it has a rich, special-occasion quality to it, as well as spices such as cinnamon which are traditional at the holidays. It turned out great, and really wasn't that difficult. Maybe not an everyday meal, but certainly worth making a few times a year. The pork becomes glazed with a sweet, flavorful sauce, and the meat is fall apart tender, with the fat completely melting in your mouth.

There are many versions online, and mine is primarily based on this video. You can add puffed tofu or hard boiled eggs at the end for more variety in texture.

Finished product, with stir fried Chinese broccoli and scallion pancake.
Towards the end of the cooking time, before you add the sugar and cook down to create the final glaze.

The assembled ingredients. The pork has already been blanched and is ready for browning.
1.5 lbs pork belly, sliced into 1.5" pieces (pick a piece that offers a good combination of fat and lean, according to your preference)
1 Tbsp oil
1/3 c. rock sugar, divided (or brown sugar)
6 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger, sliced
3 scallions
2 pcs. star anise
2" piece cinnamon stick
~2 c. chicken stock or water
2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (I recommend Pearl River Bridge brand)
1 Tbsp. Shao Hsing cooking wine
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled

The pork belly should first be blanched to remove impurities, and then rinsed well. Place the pork in a saucepan with cold water to 1" over the meat. Bring to a boil and boil 3 minutes. Rinse well under cold water and drain well.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron. Add 2 Tbsp. of the sugar and stir constantly as it caramelizes. When it is a nice caramel color (do not burn!), add the pork chunks, searing the edges and tossing frequently to coat with caramel. Pour off any excess oil.

Add the dark and light soy sauce and cooking wine. Add the chicken stock so that the pork chunks are ~80% submerged. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The liquid should be reduce by now to at least half of its original amount. Remove the aromatics from the pot as best you can. With the lid off, increase the heat, stirring occasionally, until there is only about 1/4" of liquid in the pot. Add 2-3 Tbsp of rock sugar to taste, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced to a glaze on the meat (there should still be some liquid left to spoon over the meat chunks for serving). The hard boiled eggs should be added just before the end to coat them with the glaze, but take care not to break them when stirring the meat.

Serve garnished with scallions, with fluffy white rice.

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