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Hong Shao Rou: Red-Cooked Pork Belly

Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 12
Hong Shao Rou: Red-Cooked Pork Belly
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
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In this classic Shanghai braise, chunks of pork belly soak up sweetened soy fragrant with five-spice. (Olivia Wu likes to make her own blend with whole spices, but you can swap in a spoonful of store-bought powder.) The meat burnishes to deep red, a lucky color for new year’s celebrations, and becomes infused with flavor. The pork is delicious on its own, but even better with Chinese preserved vegetables. Salty and sharp, they balance the lip-coating richness of the fatty pork.

1

If you’re using the preserved vegetables, put them in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Let stand at room temperature until rehydrated and softened, 2 to 4 hours.

2

Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan with water and add the scallions and garlic. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then add the pork. Return to a boil and cook until there’s a lot of scum on the surface. Drain in a colander. Discard the scallions and garlic.

3

Combine the soy sauce and sugar in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then put the pork in the mixture skin side down in a single layer. Cook until the skin is the color of dark caramel, about 5 minutes.

4

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add enough water to just cover the meat and bring to a boil over high heat. While the water comes to a boil, put the cassia, both cardamoms, mace, and fennel in a tea strainer or wrap in cheesecloth and tie shut. Nestle into the boiling liquid.

5

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until a chopstick inserted into a piece of pork slides easily through meat, fat, and skin, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.

6

Lift the greens out of the water and squeeze out excess water with your hands. Trim off and discard the tough ends, then cut the stems and leaves into ½-inch dice. Fold into the bubbling braise and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

7

Taste the braise. The vegetables are salty, so you may want to add a pinch of sugar. Stir in a little a time, tasting after each addition. Serve hot.

Make Ahead: The braise can be made up to 3 days ahead and is, in fact, better made ahead. You can remove the fat that solidifies after chilling or keep it. Bring back to a simmer over medium heat and serve.