It’s been a while since I posted a recipe on the blog, but with Lunar New Year right around the corner, it seemed like the right time to cook up some traditional Chinese comfort food (see more recipe ideas here)! My brothers and I would get so excited whenever my mom made this dish, and I like that her simplified version uses just a handful of ingredients. When I shared this on Instagram stories, so many of you also said it evoked memories of your moms or grandmas cooking a similar dish in all types of cultures!
This was Nick’s first time trying the Chinese version of this dish, and he could barely stop between mouthfuls to let out a muffled “yurrrrmmmy”. And be sure to make extra because it tastes even better as leftovers.
The soy, sugar, and cooking wine caramelize the pork belly for a tender, savory dish with a touch of sweetness. The recipe calls for both light and dark soy sauce – light soy is thinner and used in everyday cooking and dips, while dark soy is a thicker, less salty sauce that’s been aged longer. These plus shaoxing cooking wine are staples used in a ton of Chinese recipes, so consider them minor pantry investments that will pay tasty, tasty dividends! If you have trouble finding these, I occasionally resort to paying a premium on Amazon to get my favorite brands (note: Pearl River Bridge is the gold standard for soy sauce in Chinese kitchens – I was fooled by similar packaging!).
As with most good Asian cooking, everything is added “to taste” and precise measurements don’t exist per elder generations. I called my mom and hard-of-hearing grandma to clarify sauce amounts, and they emphatically shouted ambiguous techniques over the phone (“just add more until it tastes good!!”). I tried to translate into ratios below, but every recipe for this dish will vary a bit so please adjust to your liking!
For add-ins, our family loves hard boiled eggs, which may seem like an strange addition, but they’re great served with the sauce and are a kid pleaser! We also like taro or potato cubes, plus a side of greens to round out a very satisfying bowl.
Mom’s Chinese Braised Pork Belly (“hong shao rou”)
- 1.5 lbs pork belly (can also try this with pork shoulder, pork ribs, or a mix of two)
- 1 tablespoon oil (my mom uses olive or grapeseed)
- 1 inch chunk of ginger, roughly peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or Chinese rock sugar
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- Approximately 2 to 3 cups hot water (boil in a kettle or heat it up in microwave)
- Optional: 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped, and 2-3 cloves star anise
Optional mix-ins (add during final 30 min of braising):
- Hard boiled eggs, peeled
- Potato or taro cubes
Boil a pot of water and blanch the meat for 3-5 minutes to get rid of impurities. Remove meat with tongs and cut into 1 inch cubes. Discard the blanching water.
In your braising pot, sauté the oil with ginger slices over medium heat until fragrant. Add in meat cubes and cook until lightly browned.
3. Mix in Sauce
Add cooking wine, sugar, both soy sauces and stir to coat the meat evenly. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes to let the sauces seep in.
4. Simmer Covered
Pour in hot water until the meat pieces are almost covered. (NOTE: If you plan on adding mix-ins like potatoes / taro and eggs, you’ll need a little more water and the sugar / light soy / dark soy ratio to taste.) Bring to a gentle simmer and cover the lid for approximately 40 minutes, stirring very occasionally (avoid opening the lid too often).
At this point, my mom removes the meat with a slotted spoon, skims off any visible fat on the top layer, and then puts the meat back into the pot. Or you could just de-fat the leftovers the next day, after they have time to chill in the fridge.
5. Adjust to Taste + Add Mix-Ins
Taste the sauce and adjust soy, sugar, and water ratios to your liking, making sure the water level isn’t drying out. Continue simmering with lid covered for another 30 minutes or until pork is tender. If you’re adding mix-ins, do so in the last 15-20 minutes so the root vegetables don’t get too mushy.
6. Reduce Sauce
Remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium so the sauce reduces down and thickens a bit. Serve hot over jasmine rice!
Does your family or culture make a similar variation of this dish? I’d love to hear about it!