Recently I asked viewers to fill out a survey. And one thing 41.8% of you told me is that you’re interested in Chinese cooking!
So today, I’m going to teach you how to cook a famous Chinese dish, Hongshao Rou, or Red Braised Pork Belly! And by that, I mean I’m going to let someone who actually knows what they’re doing teach you.
Hongshao Rou was the favorite dish of the Great Helmsman himself—Chairman Mao Zedong. Even as 30 million of his people were starving to death during the Great Famine he helped cause, Mao managed to enjoy the best food out there, and that’s Hongshao Rou. Not just because it’s delicious, but also because Mao never brushed his teeth—and by the time he was older they were so rotten he could only eat soft foods.
Incidentally, when Mao’s doctor expressed concern about his dental hygiene, Mao replied, “A tiger never brushes his teeth.” Which I fact-checked. And it turns out tigers do sometimes clean their own teeth.
But anyway, there’s a lot of regional varieties of Hongshao rou out there. And all of them are soft and delicious. Mao Zedong was from Hunan province, so he liked the spicy style Hongshao rou. But Cici and I are going to cook a different style—an even more delicious style. It’s from Zhejiang province. And here’s the story behind it.
During the Song Dynasty, there was a famous poet named Su Dongpo. In China, he’s known for creating the bold and unconstrained style of poetry known as Háofàng, or “heroic abandon.” But in the West, if he’s known at all, it’s for his bold and unconstrained style of pork belly known as Dongpo rou.
Now like most famous Chinese poets, Su Dongpo liked to drink. A lot. And as one among many versions of the story goes, one day Su Dongpo told his chef that he wanted a bit of meat and a bit of wine. But the chef misunderstood, combining the wine and pork before cooking the hongshou rou. It was a weird mistake to make, but it turned out to be a delicious one. And so this dish became a thing, and it was eventually named in Su Dongpo’s honor. Of course, it’s impossible to verify this story. But it would be awesome if today we’re enjoying the fruits of a drunken poet’s mistake 900 years ago.
So once again here’s the full recipe! If you try it, let me know how it turns out.