Red-colored meats are eaten for good luck because red is the color of fire, a symbol of good fortune and joy. "Red cooking" is a Chinese method of stewing or braising with both dark and light soy sauces and caramelized sugar; it imparts a red color to the prepared food.
Despite its appearance, dark soy sauce is actually not as salty as the light variety, and it is often the soy sauce of choice for hearty dishes like stews that require added body and color. Perhaps the most famous revolutionary dish from the Hunan province, this red-braised pork is symbolically tied to Chairman Mao Tse-tung because it was his favorite dish; supposedly he ate it every day.
This is a tasty and easy way to make braised pork belly. Pork belly can be a harder cut to find, so call ahead to your local butcher, as it may take them a few days to get it in. I love the sweet-savory sauce the tender pork swims in, and it's perfect drizzled over a big steaming bowl of rice.
- Christine, January 2018
Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork Belly (Hong Shao Rou)
Serves 4 to 6
skin-on pork belly
vegetable or peanut oil
Shaoxing rice wine
(2-inch) piece fresh ginger, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
star anise pods
dark soy sauce
scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced separately
Steamed rice, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pork belly and boil for 3 minutes to remove any impurities. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch chunks.
Heat the oil and sugar in a wok or Dutch oven over low heat until the sugar caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add the cut-up pork. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is browned and well-coated in the caramel, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and add the rice wine, ginger, star anise, both soy sauces, scallion whites, and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer, reducing the heat as needed and stirring occasionally, until the meat is fork-tender, about 1 hour.
Uncover and simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens and coats the pork, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meat and sauce to a platter and garnish with the scallion greens. Serve with steamed rice.
Make ahead: The pork can be braised until tender, cooled, and refrigerated covered for up to 2 days. Bring back to a boil, then cook over low heat until the sauce thickens.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Reprinted with permission from Lucky Rice by Danielle Chang, copyright (c) 2016. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.