This is a recipe that we don’t do often enough. And it’s attributed to Chairman Mao himself, who always made sure he was eating well while expecting the rest of the nation to survive basically on revolutionary zeal alone. The melt-in-the-mouth results of this recipe don’t take long to achieve, and you can fiddle with the cooking time depending on your tastes – a bit shorter for a saucy conclusion, or a bit longer if you want a more caramelised result.
This crash test draws on Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe as published in the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. We had nearly twice the amount of pork she specifies so we adjusted the quantities accordingly.
Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork belly
800g or roughly 2lb pork belly
groundnut/peanut or vegetable oil
fine white sugar
shaoxing wine or dry sherry
ginger, 30g (1oz)
bit more ginger for grating
clove of garlic
star anise, 1-2 bits
dried red chillies x 3
spring onions/green onions
pak choi, bok choi or similar Asian green
Half a chicken stock cube (or real stock)
– Parboil the pork belly for a few minutes, then cut into strips, then bite-sized chunks
– Put 3 tablespoons (75ml) oil in a heavy-based pan over medium high heat. We don’t recommend a wok.
– As the oil heats, add 3 tablespoons sugar and stir in to melt. Continue to heat, stirring, until it caramelises nice and dark but is still liquid (as per the video).
– Tip in the pork and then recoil from the hotplate as things start to pop and spatter.
– Splash in the shaoxing wine or dry sherry, around a third of a cup
– Mix the pork around to coat and top up with just enough water to cover. Raise the heat to get it bubbling.
– Slice the ginger into thin rounds and add to the pot, along with the star anise, cinnamon stick and chillies. Sprinkle a bit of salt and mix, then turn down to a simmer.
– This is braising, and there’s 50 minutes’ cooking overall, so we suggest doing it with the lid on for 30 minutes, then taking the lid off and turning up the heat a bit for the last 20 minutes to reduce the liquid.
– In the meantime, prepare rice however you like to do it (we favour the lid-on absorption method).
– Towards serving time, chop Asian greens into separate stalky and leafy bits. Dissolve stock cube in some hot water.
– Chop the garlic clove and grate a tablespoon of ginger.
– Heat a splash of oil in a wok or frypan, toss in the garlic and ginger, then almost immediately add stalky greens and about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chicken stock. Turn down low and cover for a few minutes.
– Back to the pork, where we splash in about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and (optionally) sprinkle a bit of salt.
– Chop 3 spring/green onions/scallions into inch lengths and add to the pork. Mix in so they soften a bit, though you still want some crunch.
– Add the leafy greens to the wok and toss – 30 seconds to a minute and they’re done.
– Serve up and eat like a dictator!
Chairman Mao’s favourite red braised pork recipe