Pork fat, soy and sugar makes such a heavenly combination. Sweet and salty cube of melt-in-the-mouth mix of tender meat and fat. Red braise pork is the consummate dish that ALL shanghainese restaurants should have and reputedly Chairman Mao’s favorite and ladies swears by the gluttonous giddiness of its bountiful collagen wonders. Almost all the people who had tried this dish will be addicted it. Who wouldn’t fall in love with melting succulent pork fat and caramel?
A lot of friends asked me what is Shanghainese food? Shanghai cusine can be sumed up with 4 words- Nong (浓), You (油), Chi (赤), Jiang (酱). Nong means strong and rich flavours usually in thick sauce. You literally means oil, where most dish are cover with an inch of oil. Chi represents Shanghaiese love of the complexed caramelising dark red sauce and Jiang refers to soy sauce. This is the backbone of some of the most reowned Shanghai recipes.
While I was writing this post, I googled recipes for hong shao rou, just to check out how others does it. Going through dozens of recipes both in english and chinese sites. tube and blogs. I find none that have authenticity. I am sure those recipes on the internet will taste fabulous but it’s not the real stuff and will kind of taste different from what you will taste when you order in a Shanghai restaurant. I begin to wonder. A dish that is so popular and yet still have it’s secrets unrevealed? The simple hongshao method is not that simple after all. According to the recipes on found on the internet, most methods calls for long braising method more similar to cooking Taiwanese lu rou (braise pork) which is not correct. With this method, the pork cubes will be disintegrated and lose its angular cube shape. How to make hongshao rou? I shall reveal in my class soon at Palate Sensations.
While you can almost hongshao everything, this Shanghai cooking style of sweet glossy red braising sauce is paired most famously with giant cubes of pork belly or the pork hock. Both cooking methods are almost the same however the hock recipe requires more spices but less steps. I had been making a lot of belly version so I thought I should try the pork hock.
This was many years ago. I first had the pork hock version when I was in Shanghai at 小南国 when my brother came on a business trip with his colleagues. The pork hock is a special order where you need to order in advance. It was amazing to see men in suits ripping it apart like cave man. The flavors was mind blowing. A notch above the belly version. It had a distinctive golden 金香 background. Really darn good.
1 pork hock
Pot of heavy salted water
300g rock sugar
4-5 Star anise
2-3 Cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
6 ginger thick slices
2-3 orange peel
2 tablespoon canola oil
2-3 tablespoon light soy sauce
1-2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup huang jiu (yellow wine) or shaoxing wine
1000 mL water or enough to cover.
Parboil the pork hog in salted water to remove scums. Drain and dry with kitchen paper. Set aside.
Next, in a wok, add the rock sugar and about half cup of water. Let the sugar syrup simmer until it turns into a thick syrup (with a tint of yellow). Now add the pork hock and coat it with syrup. Continue cooking until the sugar is slightly caramelized. Remove pork with all the syrup and set aside.
Clean the wok, heat the oil and add the ginger slices. Sauté for about 1 minute on medium heat. then add the aromatics. Stir about until the aromatic release it’s fragrance, then add the light and dark soy, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce and shaoxing wine. Toss the pork and all its syrup into the wok. Let the sauce coat the meat and add the water to cover. Bring to boil, then turn down the heat to a low-simmer stirring occasionally. Simmer covered with lid until meat is tender approximately 3 hours)
Remove the pork hock and sieve the sauce to remove all the spices. Return the the sauce and hock to the wok.
Let the sauce reduce on medium high heat until the sauce caramelize into a thick sticky syrup.
Serve with blanched bok choy and rice.
– till next post, ss.