This is a very basic Eastern Chinese dish but so yummy, especially for Winter. It's a bit indulgent, since the success of the dish relies heavily on the fat-content of the pork but I promise you it makes for a tasty meal!
'Red cooking' something basically means braising in soy sauce. You can get fish, chicken, pork, lamb - whatever cooked in this way. The dish I'm talking about involves a whole chunk of pork meat and takes a bit longer to cook.
I got the basics of the recipe from my dad and did a bit of research online too. I've never cooked this before (although I've done red cooked chicken) so it was pretty much working spontaneously. I'll try to explain what I did and what I learnt to do differently next time.
Chinese Red Cooked Meat
- 4 pork rasher pieces
- 1 slice of ginger about 1/2cm thick and 5cm in diameter
- 2 shallots - just the white part cut into thick slices
- 6 or so pieces of star anise
- 1/2 tbsp of black peppercorns
- approx 1/2-1 cup Chinese cooking wine
- approx 1/2 cup light soy
- approx 1/2 cup dark soy
- white sugar to taste
1. But the pork pieces in a wok and cover with water. Bring to the boil on high heat.
2. Drain the pork and cover again with cold water. Let it sit for 1-2min and drain again. Place pork aside in a dish for the time being.3. Reheat the wok with a bit of oil. Add the piece of ginger and let it infuse the oil for a bit. Pressing the ginger into the wok with your wooden spoon will help this. Add the shallots and let it all fry for a while.
4. Lower the heat and add the meat again. Quickly add the Chinese cooking wine and soy sauce. Toss to make sure all surfaces of the meat is covered. There should be a decent amount of liquid in the wok. Add the star anise and peppercorns by distributing evenly around the meat.5. Put the heat to low and pop the lid on the wok. Let the meat sit undisturbed for about 1-2hrs (depending on size of individual pieces) till nice and tender. You might want to check the meat at intervals to make sure the fluid level is not getting to low. If it does, the meat will burn and the flavors will be wrong. If there's not enough fluid, add water, soy or cooking wine (depending on how salty it is). A mix of light soy and cooking wine is probably the best option.
6. Once the meat is done, take the lid off and increase heat to medium. Add sugar to adjust the taste. A rule of Chinese cooking is that sugar is always needed where soy sauce is used. Stir the meat to prevent burning or sticking to the pan and the sauce should thicken in this time.
7. Serve with some steamed or stir-fried bok choi and some rice. Enjoy!
I didn't check the fluid level of my meat and it burnt after 30min. In a fit of panic, I added more soy sauce. In a taste test later on, I thought it was too dark and salty so I countered the soy with water. I think this can be avoided if you don't use too much dark soy in proportion to light soy. Dark soy can be quite over-powering.
This dish relies heavily on the quality of meat so make sure you chose a good piece. My dad recommends meat with at least 30% fat, preferably with the skin. No fat = dry meat. His cooking method doesn't involve blanching the meat with hot water (step 1). I think blanching removes some of the fat - my meat dish wasn't as juicy as his. Do as you will to compromise between health and taste.
When I was fiddling around with the saltiness/fluid-levels, I thought this dish was going to be an epic failure. Luckily, it turned out much better than what I thought. The end result was tender and fragrant. I should have put a bit more sugar but that mistake is easy enough to avoid if you taste-test your dish before serving (I was in a rush tonight). A steamy bowl of red cooked meat and rice is great on a Winter day.