This classic eastern Chinese dish is an example of red braising. Many recipes say that the pork only needs to simmer in the juices for forty minutes, but the longer it has to absorb the tasty juices, the better. The result is a wonderfully sticky sauce, with a jelly-like layer of savoury, succulent fat. Serve as a single dish as part of a Chinese banquet, or just with a bowl of steamed rice for a complete meal.
Recipe: Chairman Mao’s Pork
800g pork belly
2 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tsbp Shaoxing rice wine
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 star anise
2 dried chillies, sliced
3 inches of fresh ginger, grated
1tsp liquid from a jar of hot fermented tofu or bean curd
1tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp preserved salted black beans
1. Blanche the pork belly in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Cut it into bite sized pieces – roughly 3cm cubes.
2. Heat the sugar and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat to caramelise. This will take a few minutes. At first the sugar and oil will form a syrup, and then it will separate, and the sugar will start to darken. Once it’s a light, golden brown take it off the heat and stir in a tablespoon of Shaoxing rice wine.
3. Pour in the stock, and then add the star anise, chillies, grated ginger, tofu juice and dark soy. Rinse the salted black beans, and then add them to the pan, and place the pork cubes into the liquid.
4. Simmer over a gentle heat for a minimum of 40 minutes – though the longer you leave the pork, the more tender it will become.
5. Remove the pork from the pan with a slotted spoon. Turn up the heat and reduce sauce by half. Put the pork back into the now syrupy sauce, and serve.