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Have you ever had a dish that made you break into a big grin and happy feelings of nostalgia the moment after you tasted it? If you have, then hurray, you’re not alone! If you haven’t, well, tough luck! Kidding. That’s what happened when I made this Hong Shao Rou dish. I was practically hopping with glee as I dished it out, for it looked so much like the ones I had eaten back in Singapore. One bite into a tender morsel coated with dark syrupy sauce and I felt transported back to a bustling Chinese restaurant (except that I don’t have tanks of live fish staring at me at home). Speaking of live fish, I can never step into the local marine life park without feeling hungry because of all the fantastic fishes that I recognise as food. I think it’s a Chinese thing. See that stingray swimming by? Cue mental image of barbequed stingray. Being fresh fish-deprived doesn’t help either.
This post is not about fish though, but pork. Pork is possibly the most popular choice of meat in Chinese cuisine, and red-cooking is a popular method of braising. The classic red cooked pork dish called Hong Shao Rou is a comforting and easy to make dish of braised pork belly with aromatics and dark soy sauce, but I have made this Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)-friendly by omitting the soy sauce and playing around with other AIP-compliant ingredients. The small amount of sherry used in this recipe helps provide flavour to the dish and the alcohol gets cooked off. I have not tried cooking it without alcohol, personally. If you have the Instant Pot or any other electrical pressure cooker (Canadian version here), you can make this pretty effortlessly. Don’t have one? I’ve included the stove-top directions in the notes below.
Pork these days are pretty lean, so get the fattiest, best quality pork belly you can find for the juiciest melt-in-your-mouth experience. The texture of fat can weird out some folks (I’m one of them… I used to remove the fat from crispy pork belly, eating only the meat at the bottom!), so blanching the pork plus pressure cooking or slow simmering makes the fat yield easily to the teeth. That’s probably my most decadent paragraph to date!
Traditionally, Hong Shao Rou is served with fluffy white rice but that is obviously out for folks on the AIP (unless if you have reintroduced it successfully, lucky you). Cauliflower rice would make a lovely grain-free side dish, or a simple wrap in greens such as Boston lettuce.
Where to get some of the ingredients:
- 2lb/ 900g fatty pork belly, cut into 1.5" or 3.8cm cubes
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 3 tbsp sherry
- 1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ⅓ cup water or bone broth
- 1 1"/ 2.5cm length fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
- A few sprigs of coriander/ cilantro leaves, to garnish
- Fill a pot with enough water to cover the quantity of pork cubes and bring to boil over high heat
- Add the pork cubes and boil for 3 minutes, then drain and rinse off any scum or impurities
- Set aside the pork cubes in a colander to drain
- Heat the maple syrup in the inner pot of the Instant Pot on 'sauté' setting
- Add the pork cubes to the heated maple syrup and brown the pork for approximately 10 minutes (use a splatter guard)
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot
- Bring to a boil, then press cancel/ keep warm
- Seal the lid, and valve, then select 'manual' setting and adjust the cooking time to 25 minutes
- Allow the pressure to release naturally
- Open the lid and select 'sauté' setting
- Bring the contents to a simmer until the sauce is sufficiently reduced and thickened to coat the pork cubes (or to your liking)
- Serve with coriander/ cilantro leaves as a garnish
After setting the pork cubes aside to drain in a colander over a bowl (step 3), wash and dry the inner pot thoroughly before proceeding with step 4.
STOVE TOP METHOD
This dish can be made on the stove top in a heavy-bottomed pan or wok, covered and simmered over med-low heat for about 1.5 - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and add a splash of water if the dish is drying up before the pork is tender and cooking time is completed. The dish is ready when the pork cubes are tender and coated in a sauce of syrup-consistency.
The pork cubes can be served in a wrap form with Boston lettuce leaves.