Well it’s officially September. And for those of us who love to cook, that means only one thing. It’s time to return to braises and stews, and my version of Chinese Red Pork is a fall favorite! Spend a couple hours making this over the weekend, and then you can enjoy leftovers all week long. While the recipe looks long, there’s not much hands on time. Chinese Red Pork relies on the magic of low and slow cooking to render it juicy, tender, and flavorful while the sauce cooks down to a deliciously sticky glaze. With daikon radish and hard boiled eggs, this is a one-dish hearty meal.
Red cooking, known as hong shao, is a classic Chinese method of braising meats. Think of a French wine based stew, but instead of a bottle of Burgundy, the meat is braised in a deeply savory, umami rich mix of soy sauce, shaoxing wine, cinnamon sticks, and star anise. The bath in soy sauce gives the meat a deep red color. Red cooking originated in Shanghai as a way to showcase the high quality soy sauces they are known for. Pork Belly is most commonly used, but chicken and duck is frequently red cooked, even tofu. I prefer pork shoulder, which has less fat than the belly but still has enough to give you that satisfying mouth feel and richness. And a pork shoulder really feeds a crowd!
A typical pork shoulder roast at the grocery store is several pounds. You can find it both boneless or bone-in, which is also known as a blade roast because of the thin blade like bone. I like the bone-in roast because I think the bone adds a little more flavor, but you could save a little prep time by getting a bone-less cut.
Start by trimming the meat off the bone. Working around the center bone, I slice off large pieces of pork. Then I trim the visible fat from them, cut the large pieces into strips, and then finally into generous cubes. The most important thing is to keep the size of the pork chunks roughly the same so all of the pieces cook evenly.
Now the pork chunks get quickly boiled in water. This is a traditional Chinese technique to clean the pork and remove some of the gamey scent. Nowadays, pork production is so consistent and the meat so mild, it’s not really a necessary step, but I’ve included it if you’d like to try it.
Then it’s time to brown the meat. Don’t rush through this step. We want a nice caramelization to build deep flavor. First I add a little mushroom soy sauce and coat each piece. Mushroom soy sauce is very savory and thick, with a rich dark color. You can sub regular soy, but I like the extra oomph the mushroom gives.
Chinese Red Pork is most often made with dark soy sauce, which gives it the characteristic dark hue, and if you have some on hand, definitely use it instead of mushroom soy. This dish is on regular rotation for employee meals and we don’t carry dark soy sauce at the restaurant. So many years ago, we started using mushroom soy sauce instead. It works really well but it’s not necessary to go out for a bottle if you’re only going to use it for this recipe. Using regular soy sauce will still give you great results.
Then heat a large, heavy dutch oven over medium high heat for several minutes. The trick to getting a good sear on meat is to start with a well heated pan. Then add the neutral oil-you don’t want to add the oil first or it may smoke as the pan heats.
Now for the easy part-bring the pork to a simmer, cover and reduce heat. Then let it cook for 40 minutes, stirring a couple times. While the Chinese Red Pork is cooking, I prep the daikon radish and boil the eggs.
When the Chinese Red Pork has been cooking for 40 minutes, add the daikon, and continue cooking for another 35 minutes. At this point the meat should be meltingly tender. Use a fork to test it or take a taste, and if it’s still a little firm cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Add the eggs and continue simmering for 10 minutes to let the eggs heat up and absorb some of the flavor.
Now it’s time to eat! Use a slotted spoon the transfer the pork, daikon, and eggs to a serving platter. Pour the remaining sauce over, garnish with the scallions and cilantro, and serve. It’s of course wonderful served over rice to soak up all the yummy sauce.
Try Chinese Red Pork this weekend and see for yourself why red cooking has remained popular in China for centuries. Please take a moment to rate and comment on the recipe-we love hearing from you! And remember to tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen.
- 3.5 # bone-in pork shoulder
- 6 eggs
- ½ daikon (about ½ pound)
- 2 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
- 4 star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 4 Tablespoons packed brown sugar (either light or dark is fine)
- ½ cup shaoxing wine
- 1 cup water
- Chopped scallions and cilantro
- Using a sharp knife cut out the thin flat bone in the middle of the pork. (I throw the bone in with the rest of the meat; it adds more flavor as it cooks).
- Trim the fat off of the pork and discard.
- Cut the pork into wide strips about 1 ½ inches and then into large 1 ½ inch cubes. Set aside in a bowl.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the pork and stir it into the boiling water. Cook it for about 1 minute and then drain the pork in a colander, rinse it under running water, and shake it a couple times to eliminate as much water as possible. Put it back into the bowl.
- Add the mushroom soy sauce to the pork and toss the pork to evenly coat the meat with the mushroom soy sauce.
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the oil, swirl to coat the pot, and then scoop the pork out of the bowl, leaving any remaining soy sauce in the bowl.
- Put the pork into the pot in one layer and leave it to sear for 30 seconds. Now stir fry the pork for 1-2 minutes, letting it sear untouched for 15-30 seconds every time you stir it. You are building color and flavor by caramelizing the surface.
- Add the star anise, cinnamon, and smashed garlic and stir it into the pork. Next add the wine, soy sauce, water, and brown sugar.
- Bring the contents of the pot to a simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and lower the heat to medium low. Cook for 40 minutes, stirring a couple of times throughout the cooking time.
- In the meantime, prep the daikon radish and boil the eggs:
- Put the eggs into a small pot and cover the eggs with water so that you have 1 ½ inches of water over the eggs. Bring the water to a simmer over medium high heat and then lower the heat to medium to maintain the simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
- Drain and place the eggs in an ice bath to cool them quickly and keep them from forming the bluish ring around the yolk. Cool for 5 minutes and then peel the eggs and set them aside.
- Peel the daikon and slice it in half lengthwise. Cut the daikon into ½ inch thick slices. Set aside.
- Once the pork has been cooking for 40 minutes, add the daikon, pushing them down into the sauce. Cover again with the lid and cook for another 35 minutes, again stirring a couple of times through the cooking process.
- Push a fork through the meat or take a little taste. The meat should easily flake and be tender and flavorful. If it’s still a little firm, continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes.
- Add the boiled eggs and move them to the bottom of the pot so they can cook in the sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork, daikon, and eggs, to a platter. You can strain out the cinnamon and star anise with the spoon or leave it in if it doesn’t bother you.
- Pour the sauce over the meat and garnish with some scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Keywords: red pork, shanghai style pork, red cooking, chinese food, braise