There’s something about this dish that just seems, well, un-American. First of all, it’s Chinese. But even more so, it’s associated with that despicable character Chairman Mao. And it’s red-braised pork. It’s even Communist in the name!
Luckily, I’m not actually Joe McCarthy and I don’t care about those things. What I do care about is whether or not it tastes good.
This is one of those foods that can only be described as tasting interesting. Interesting can be code for both good and bad but in this case it just means different. Caramelized sugar isn’t frequently encountered in savory dishes in the west. Neither is cinnamon. I’m also not particularly used to meat that’s quite as fatty as pork belly.
None of these things make the dish bad, just different. And, in this case, different really is good. I don’t like it as much as Chairman Mao did but I wouldn’t mind having it on occasion.
I was intrigued by the texture difference between the fat and meat but Angela wasn’t such a big fan of that. I’d probably consider making it with pork butt in the future simply to alleviate her concerns. I’d also consider thickening the sauce at the end with a corn starch-water slurry as it never really became thickened and I think that the sauce might be better that way. It probably wouldn’t be authentic but I think I’m okay with that.
I also noticed a lot of scum coming to the surface as it was braising. I think the first simmering is supposed to remove the scum from the meat but didn’t for whatever reason. I just skimmed the surface of the scum and went on with it.
This pairs quite well with plain white rice as well as a stir-fried vegetable. I did button mushrooms with a bit of ginger which was good if not particularly Chinese.
Mao Shi Hong Shao Rou (Chairman Mao’s Red-Braised Pork)
Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province
1 lb. pork belly, skinless
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
a 3/4″ piece of ginger, skin left on, sliced
1 star anise
2 dried red chilies
1 small cinnamon stick
light soy sauce
scallion greens from 2 scallions, sliced
- Bring a pan filled with enough water to cover the pork belly to the boil. Plunge the pork belly into the water and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pork belly from the water and discard the water.
- When the pork belly has cooled enough to handle, cut the pork belly into bite-sized pieces.
- Heat the oil with the sugar in a wok over medium-low heat until the sugar melts. Raise the heat and stir regularly into the sugar caramelizes.
- Add the pork and Shaoxing wine. Add enough water to cover the pork and add the ginger, star anise, chilies, and cinnamon stick. Simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, skimming any scum off the surface.
- At the end of the cooking period, increase the heat to reduce the sauce. Season the sauce to taste with the light soy sauce, salt, and sugar.
- Serve the pork covered with the sauce and sprinkled with the scallion greens.