Shanghainese red braised pork belly

Have you ever thought about replacing “honey-glazed ham” with something else, potentially more divine for your holiday celebration? What about some sweet and savory braised pork belly?

Pork belly?! Does not sound very appetizing? What about this? Bacons? Better? Better yet, bacon IS pork belly, it is nothing but thinly sliced pork belly – but pork belly can be so much more and beyond! 😛

I cooked this traditional Shanghainese household dish during Christmas and received many compliments over how salivating this dish was. This dish is THE dish that will remind most of the Shanghainese kids of home. And today, let’s make this dish and satisfy your tummy!

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Ingredients:
2 lbs of pork belly (after cooking the meat shrinks about 30-40%, 2 lbs probably last 5-6 people for one meal, I cooked about 4 lbs of pork belly on Christmas Eve), chopped into 1 cubic inch chunks – the chunks should be cut so that lean/fat/lean/fat/… layers alternate and see picture below for reference.
Soy sauce, about 1 cup
Rock sugar or slab sugar, about 1 – 1.5 cup
Coconut oil, about 1/2 cup
Star anise, 5 – 6
Sichuan peppercorn, 10 – 15
Cinnamon bark, a few small pieces
Salt and pepper
Chinese cooking wine, 1/2 cup

Heat up coconut oil in a large wok and prepare a dutch oven/Chinese ceramic pot on the side. Add the sugar while turning heat to medium-high. Continuously break down the sugar by stirring until the sugar completely melts and the mixture of oil and sugar will look a little brown. Add the pork chunks and stir fast until all the pork chunks are coated with sugar/oil mix.

Quickly dish all the pork into the dutch oven/ceramic pot. Add cooking wine, soy sauce, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn, and cinnamon bark pieces. Set the heat on low and let simmer for at least 1.5 hours but not necessarily longer than 3 hours. Add water in the process if needed. About 15 -20 min before finishing, add salt and pepper and let cook till done.

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The meat should be extremely tender and juicy – when eating it, the fat layer melts in your mouth while the lean part provide a tiny bit of resistance. And the sauce bursts out so easily, it was the most fabulous thing! It is salty from soy sauce and sweet from the sugar and once reaching the balance between the two, the finished dish is to die for!

If you do not have enough meat, you can add a few hard boiled eggs or tough tofu chunks into the ceramic pot to bulk up the dish volume. I understand this will be tough competition but I hope once you tried this way of eating pork belly, you will never miss bacon again! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Shanghainese red braised pork belly

  1. I love this dish though I’ve never been to Shanghai and we just call it “Chinese Red Braised Pork Belly”. I love it with some boiled eggs but some people find it weird. I never seem to remember to buy rock or palm sugar so have used soft brown sugar instead. Seems to work fine and breaks down very quickly 🙂

    • Yeah, brown sugar can be a good substitute too. 🙂 White suagr seems to cook too quickly though. Just that different kinds of sugar seem to require different amount of cooking time and it wil) be interesting to if there is a distinguishable difference in using different sugars.

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