Szechuan Red Braised Pork Belly – (Hong Shao Rou)

I have always loved that deep red colour you see in Chinese slow roasted duck and other Asian dishes, and decided it was high time I gave it a go.
I’ve read a bit now on cooking Hong Shao Rou (Red Braised Pork Belly), or the  “red-braising/cooking method.” It’s where the pork belly gets braised with soy sauce, sugar and other spices to get the perfect colour and caramelization that is so coveted by the Chinese.Like anything else in life practice makes perfect.
 I’ve tried on many occasions to make this and I think I almost achieved my goal this last time round. I was satisfied and decided that without Shaoxing wine the recipe would never be authentic or achieve the true colour it is accredited with.
There are a few different ways of making the pork. Some caramelize the sugar first before adding the rest of the ingredients. Others include green onions, serrano pepper or dried chili to add heat. Whatever the method, the trick is to simmer the pork long and slow over a couple of hours to produce a melt in your mouth texture and an oily caramel-like sauce.
Part of the authenticity of this special treat is the layer of oil that forms on the top. If you want to decrease the amount, make this dish ahead of time and refrigerate. Once chilled, skim off the desired amount of oil before reheating. Be sure to keep the skimmed oil in the refrigerator to save for future dishes. Like many simmered stews, this pork is particularly delicious the next day as leftovers. No red food colouring or dye is used in this, no, no. I used golden  sugar and the result was heavenly. A touch of rice wine vinegar to add some acid and tang and the result is the most unctuous you could ever wish for.
(Hong Shao Rou)
For 2 people

2½ lb. skin-on, boneless pork belly, cut into 1" pieces
3 tbsp golden sugar
2 tbsp peanut oil
4 spring onions, white and pale green parts coarsely chopped, dark green parts thinly sliced
1 2" piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
Pinch of red chilli flakes (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 star anise pod
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar 3 tbsp light soya sauce
1½tbsp dark soya sauce
1/3 cup Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or alternatively dry sherry
Cooked short-grain rice (for serving)
Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add pork and cook, skimming off foam from surface, 5 minutes (this blanching step is essential to get rid of any impurities on the pork, making it more tender; don't skip this step!). Transfer pork to paper towels to drain and dry COMPLETELY.
Heat 2 Tbsp. peanut oil in pan over medium-high. Add sugar, stir to dissolve, and cook, stirring constantly, until syrup thickens and turns a pale amber color, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and return pork to pot, swirling so all sides are covered in caramel.You might have to do this in batches. Add white and pale green parts of the spring onions, ginger, garlic, and star anise. Cook, tossing, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add soy sauce and wine and cook, stirring, until slightly reduced, about 1 minute.
Pour in 3 cups hot water (it should just barely cover pork; add more if needed). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until pork is tender, 50–60 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a plate; remove pot from heat. Let sauce cooking liquid cool slightly so rendered fat can rise to the surface. Using a ladle, skim off as much fat as possible (save it for another use).
Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and glossy, 12–15 minutes. Return pork to pot and toss to gently reheat and coat with sauce.
Transfer pork to a serving dish. Pour sauce over. Top with dark green scallion parts and serve with rice alongside.

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