Hong shao rou is a Chinese dish of braised pork belly in a sticky, sweet red sauce. This pork belly recipe is perfect for a holiday meal!
Holiday meals are a time of celebration, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Christmas holiday than with a Shanghai-style dish of red braised pork belly, otherwise known as hong shao rou.
The vibrant red color is festive, and the flavor of pork belly when it’s seasoned and caramelized with sugar, soy sauce, ginger and Shaoxing wine is amazing!
Some of the most popular Chinese pork belly recipes, and even other pork and duck dishes are red-cooked. This Chinese cooking technique is, in most cases, achieved by slow-braising the meat with sugar-based ingredients so they caramelize and become meltingly tender.
Hong shao rou
Cuisine: Chinese / Asian
This dish originates from Hunan, in the northern part of China. In Hunan, the dish includes the addition of ingredients like octopus and hard boiled eggs.
Shanghai-style red braised pork belly is more common, and what you'll typically find at restaurants, especially in the U.S.
red braised pork belly, Chairman Mou's red pork
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Chinese pork belly, poached, seared, then red cooked in aromatic braising liquid of soy sauce, sugar, Shaoxing wine, fresh ginger, and spices.
Many restaurants that serve hong shao rou add red food coloring to give the dish a more vibrant red color.
Honestly though, artificial coloring isn't necessary for red braised dishes. The reddish-brown color comes naturally as the sugars caramelize during the slow braising process.
The flavor can vary by region, based on the ingredients used. Some versions are sweeter than others, and some are intensely spicy.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Most grocery stores here in the U.S. have a limited selection of pork belly. You're most likely to find skinless pork belly, which is fine.
The original recipe for Chinese red braised pork is made with skin-on pork belly, which can usually be found at an Asian market.
You can use either light or dark soy sauce. Some people prefer the strong molasses flavor of dark soy sauce. If you want to cut back on the salt, low-sodium sauce will also work.
Aromatics and spices
Fresh ginger will give you the best flavored braising liquid, but you can substitute it with ginger paste if necessary.
I make my own Chinese five spice and encourage you to do the same, especially if you make Asian recipes often. Otherwise, store-bought is fine too.
Braised pork belly recipe video
Making hong shao rou isn't very difficult, but there are several steps and cooking methods involved.
To see the process of making red braised pork belly from start to finish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Love pork belly recipes? Me too!
After you make the Chinese braised pork belly, get your taste buds onto a fried pork belly sandwich!
Making hong shao rou
As mentioned, making this pork belly recipe isn't difficult, but there are several steps involved.
You'll find complete instructions in the recipe card, but here are some helpful tips and recipe notes for you.
Cutting and poaching pork belly
When you're cutting the meat, keep in mind that your pork belly will shrink as it cooks. I cut mine into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks. This size allows for shrinkage, while leaving enough meat to absorb the flavors well.
Also, leave any fat attached to the meat. It will render out during braising, adding delicious flavor to the dish!
Removing impurities from pork is very important, especially when you make a Chinese braised pork recipe like this one. This is done by rinsing and poaching the meat.
Tips for poaching, frying, and braising pork belly
- Keep an old glass jar or some other heat-proof container next to the stove. As the pork belly poaches, you'll skim and discard the foamy impurities from the top of the cooking liquid.
It takes several minutes to poach the meat, but it will finish cooking as it braises.
- Rinse and dry the pork thoroughly. After poaching, give the pork belly a quick rinse under tap water, then use paper toweling to pat it dry. This will prevent it from splattering when it hits the hot oil.
The pork belly is braised in a solution of water, soy sauce, sugar and spices. Remember, the sugar is what adds the color and caramelization that is so coveted.
No red food coloring in this hong shao rou, no, no. I use brown sugar, and the result is heavenly. A touch of rice wine vinegar to add some acid and tang.
My version of hong shao rou has a balance of sweet, umami, sour and spicy flavors. It's truly red braised pork belly at its best!
What to serve with braised pork belly
The classic side dish of choice is steamed white rice. Honestly, the complexity of the flavors in red braised pork don't require anything more.
If you want to add a vegetable, I suggest steamed broccoli or maybe some Pai Huang Gua (Chinese cucumber salad).
Hong Shao Rou (Red Braised Pork) +Video
- 1 lb pork belly
- 4 green onions
- 4 inch fresh ginger peeled
- 1 serrano chile or other fresh chile of choice
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup soy sauce regular, dark, or low-sodium
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
- fresh chives finely chopped, for garnish
- Cut the pork belly into 1-inch cubes. Trim the ends off the green onions and cut in half. Slice the peeled ginger into four equal pieces. Slice the chile lengthwise. Set all aside.
- In a bowl add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger, red pepper flakes and Chinese Five Spice. Stir and set aside.
- In a large wok bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add the sliced ginger, onions, chile and pork belly. Bring water back to a boil and turn heat to simmer, cook for 10 minutes. Remove pork belly from wok and dry with paper towel when cool enough to handle. Discard water and contents from wok.
- Add vegetable oil to hot wok and add pork belly pieces. Stir fry to brown on all sides. Remove from wok and drain on paper towel, set aside. Leave at least 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in wok, discard remainder.
- To your wok add the brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the sugar melts and bubbles. Carefully and quickly add 1 cup of hot water to the wok and stir to mix thoroughly (this will sputter). Add the soy sauce/spice mixture and the browned pork belly to the wok. Stir to coat the pork, cover and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until tender and shreds easily when pressed.
- Remove the lid and allow sauce to cook and thicken for 5 minutes more. Serve this with steamed rice and top with finely chopped chives.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.