March 17, 2013

Chinese Red Cooked Pork 紅燒肉

chinese, pork, recipe, red cooked, red cooked pork, soy sauce, soy sauce pork, 紅燒肉

I must confess to love, love, love chinese red cooked pork, or 紅燒肉.  This is meat cooked to fragrant, mouth melting perfection.  It is an all time favorite comfort food from my childhood, never failing to elict oohs and aahs from happy eaters.

Whenever my dearest grandmother, my 奶奶, decided to make her famous red cooked pork using the ham hock I would hover anxiously near the simmering pot on tiptoe, peeking in, fascinated to observe the beautifully huge round of thick skin, luscious fat and dark meat circling the thick leg bone slowly transforming into melt in your mouth porky deliciousness.  Let me tell you that grandmother's red cooked pork was not just was an event!  I remember we had to use our biggest deepest soup bowl to dish up the pork when done and bring it to the family table.  What a spectacular sight!  

And then finally, at the go ahead, everyone's chopsticks diving in and  coming away with a bit of the skin, a bit of the creamy fat and a bit of the tender meat for each bite. Yummy, yummy, yummy!!  And dearest 奶奶 made it all look so easy, just throwing things casually into the pot and watching with half an eye, but let me assure you that her Red Cooked Pork 紅燒肉 is still the best I have ever had.

I have yet to attempt to make this dish with the ham hock as it is a bit over sized to say the least for a family of three (well, two and a half).  I sure wish that someone had thought to take a photo of 奶奶's gorgeous Red Cooked Pork back in the day so that I could show you the succulent vision in my mind's eye.  Alas, food photos were pretty much non existant in those days of yore.  

Someday, I promise, I will make 紅燒肉 with the ham hock but for now the fast and just as yummy way I make it is by using sliced pork belly.  You still achieve the melting fat and tender skin but it cooks faster and you can control the amount of Red Cooked Pork you want to serve.  But whatever you do, don't use a cut of pork that does not have an awesome amount of fat in it.  That would be fairly pointless and maybe you need to look at making some other kind of meat dish.

When buying the pork belly look for nice even striping of fat and meat.  It should be something like this: skin, fat, meat, fat, meat, etc.  This will make the best Chinese Red Cooked Pork.

chinese, pork, recipe, red cooked, red cooked pork, soy sauce, soy sauce pork, 紅燒肉
Chinese Red Cooked Pork
(Adapted from recipe in The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo) 
Prep time: 32mins  Cook time: 1 hour



Wash the pork belly and slice into 3/4 inch slices.  

Heat wok (or Clay Cooking Pot for better flavour) til hot then add oil.  Carefully add the ginger and the spring onions and stir a few times until the scent rises.  Add the pork and stir until no longer pink.  Add soy sauces, wine, sugar, salt and anise and stir to coat everything evenly.  Add the boiling water and stir.  When boiling again, lower heat to simmering.  

Cook for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom sticking.  Remember to keep an eye on the water level and add boiling water as necesary to prevent from burning the whole dish.  (I've done this before and it is not funny!)  

Check the pork for readiness by poking the fat gently with a chopstick.  If the fat is still hard it is not ready.  Once your chopstick can easily penetrate the fat, it is ready.  The liquid in the pot should be cooked down to somewhat syrupy consistency.  If not, remove the pork to serving dish and boil the sauce down at high heat until thick and glossy.  Pour over pork and serve.



  1. I've made this recipe 5+ times now. Just want to thank you for the delicious Cantonese style home cooked dishes.

    1. Hi Dr. Joyce - You're so very welcome, just glad that you liked it! ~ellen

  2. wow this was really good. thank you.