Chairman Mao's Red-Braised Pork Belly


Red-colored meats are eaten for good luck because red is the color of fire, a symbol of good fortune and joy. “Red cooking” is a Chinese method of stewing or braising with both dark and light soy sauces and caramelized sugar; it imparts a red color to the prepared food. Despite its appearance, dark soy sauce is actually not as salty as the light variety, and it is often the soy sauce of choice for hearty dishes like stews that require added body and color. Perhaps the most famous revolutionary dish from the Hunan province, this red-braised pork is symbolically tied to Chairman Mao Tse-tung because it was his favorite dish; supposedly he ate it every day.


1 pound pork belly, skin on

2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine

1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, sliced

1 star anise pod

¼ cup dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 bunches scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced separately

Perfect Steamed Rice, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the pork belly and cook for about 3 minutes to remove any impurities. Remove it from the water and cut it into 1-inch chunks.

In a wok, heat the peanut oil and sugar over low heat until the sugar caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium and add the cut-up pork. Cook for about 5 minutes, occasionally turning the pork so it is browned and well coated in the caramel.

Reduce the heat to low and add the rice wine, ginger, star anise, both soy sauces, the scallion whites, and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil; then cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 1 hour, until the meat is fork-tender.

Uncover the pot and continue to cook the pork over low heat until it is coated with the syrup, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meat and sauce to a platter, and garnish with the scallion greens. Serve with steamed rice.