I've been meaning to make this recipe for at least a month. Ever since I laid eyes on Fuchsia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, I've been drooling over the recipe on the book's cover: Chairman Mao's Red-Braised Pork. "Men eat it to build their brains," Chairman Mao's nephew is quoted as saying in the book.
The pork in question is pork belly, which is an added plus. Spiked with dried red chiles and star anise, it's a simple dish, not too spicy or over the top. The whole thing could be completed in under an hour—not bad for what amounted to a very authentic Chinese recipe.
Think of the dish as more of a blank slate for other flavors. Dunlop suggests adding every from water chestnuts, mushrooms, mustard greens, to spare ribs. But really, just about anything would taste good in this broth.
- 1 pound pork belly
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 3/4 inch fresh ginger, skin left on and sliced
- 1 star anise
- 2 dried red chiles
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- light soy sauce
- Handful chopped scallions
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the whole pork belly. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until just partially cooked. Remove the pork from the water and let cool for a few minutes. Then cut into a bite-sized pieces.
Pour the oil into a work or a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Then turn the heat to medium, and cook until the sugar turns "a rich caramel brown."
Add the pork and a splash of the wine. Stir well. Then pour in enough water to just barely cover the pork. Add the ginger, star anise, chiles, and cinnamon. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium and season with drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkling of salt and sugar to taste.