紅燒肉(hong shao rou) was one of my childhood staples. About once a week, my mom would make a wok full of soy sauce braised pork belly, hard boiled eggs, and squares of bean curd. Like most braised and stewed foods, the flavor gets better the second or third day. So when my mom made it last weekend, I took avid notes. Like many home cooks, she doesn’t measure and she eyeballs everything, adjusting seasonings by taste.
Although, I had peeked in from time to time, I had never seen her make it from start to finish and was astounded by how labor intensive it was! Although I rarely see pork belly with the skin on in US markets, you need it in my mom’s recipe. After we rinsed and pat dry the meat, we plucked out the short black bristles from tweezers and then burned off the clear, stiff hair. She also told me the ginger removes the meat stink.
Close readers may notice that the meat is removed part way through the cooking process, hard boiled eggs are added, and then the meat is reintroduced. Why? Is it to prevent the meat from overcooking? No. It’s just aesthetics. If the eggs are added to the meat, the wok will be over crowded and the eggs won’t be evenly lacquered brown all over. If you don’t care, you can just dump the eggs in, and stir occasionally for ten minutes.
Some of my notes.
Mom’s Hong Shao Rou
- 10 hardboiled eggs, soaking in cold water
- about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of pork belly with skin
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon rock sugar
- 1 pack of bean curds, boiled for five minutes
- 1 inc piece of ginger, smashed
- 1 star anise, broken into 3 or 4 pieces
- 1 tablespoon or two capfuls of shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of regular soy sauce (or 5-6 tablespoons of whatever soy sauce you have on hand)
- 1 1/2 cups of water
Clean the pork belly by removing the bristles and hair. Pat dry and cut into one and a half inch wide pieces.
In a wok or a large pot, melt rock sugar in oil. This will thicken the sauce and darken the meat (mmmm! caramel action!), about five minutes. You may have to smash the sugar to encourage it to melt. Then add star anise. When the sugar has melted, add meat and ginger and stir so the meat is evenly coated. Continue to stir fry for ten minutes until the meat has browned.
Pour the wine down the side of the wok/ pan. Add soy sauce in a circular motion above the meat and then add the water. The meat should be half submerged. Cover and bring to a boil. At this point, you can taste the mixture. It should be flavorful but not too salty as the sauce will continue to cook down.
Gently simmer the meat for an hour, adding the bean curd in the last ten minutes. Remove the meat and bean curd to a deep medium sized plate while leaving the sauce simmering in the wok/pan. Add the shelled hardboiled eggs. Add a dash of dark soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. This will give the eggs their deep rich color. Continue stirring the eggs to evenly coat them. At this point, you can add the meat and curds back to heat through.
COMING SOON: Mom’s Mantou (steamed bread) recipe!