What Is Hong Sue Pork? The Ultimate Guide

Are you a fan of Chinese cuisine? Have you ever heard of Hong Sue Pork?

This beloved dish is a classic in mainland China, featuring tender pork belly cooked in a combination of aromatic spices, soy sauce, and rice wine. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth texture that is both savory and sweet.

Hong Sue Pork, also known as red braised pork, is a dish that has been enjoyed for generations and has even been codified by the Hunan provincial government.

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of this dish, its unique cooking process, and how you can make it at home.

Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the delicious flavors of Hong Sue Pork!

What Is Hong Sue Pork?

Hong Sue Pork, also known as red braised pork, is a classic Chinese dish that originated in mainland China. The dish is made using pork belly, which is cooked in a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, chilies, sugar, star anise, light and dark soy sauce, and rice wine.

The pork belly is cooked until the fat and skin are gelatinous, soft, and melt easily in the mouth. The sauce is usually thick, sweet and fairly sticky. The dish has a melt-in-the-mouth texture that is formed as a result of a long braising process, during which the liquid reduces and becomes thick.

Hong Sue Pork is generally served with steamed rice and dark green vegetables, often over holidays. The dish is often prepared with hard-boiled chicken eggs or vegetables, which are used to soak up the juices from the recipe.

Many Chinese provinces have slightly different versions of Hong Sue Pork, but the Hunanese one is often said to have been one of Chairman Mao’s favorite dishes. It is served at many Hunan restaurants across China specializing in so-called “Mao-style cuisine”.

The popularity of the dish has led the Hunan provincial government to codify the recipe of the dish, in particular deciding that only meat of the celebrated Ningxiang breed of pig should be used in authentic Hong Sue Pork.

The Origins Of Hong Sue Pork

Hong Sue Pork has a long history in China and is considered a classic dish in Chinese cuisine. It is believed to have originated in mainland China, where it was traditionally served during holidays and special occasions.

The dish is often associated with Chairman Mao, who is said to have loved the Hunanese version of the dish. In fact, many restaurants in Hunan call it “The Mao Family’s red-braised pork.” Mao insisted that his Hunanese chefs cook it for him in Beijing, and it became a favorite at his dinner parties.

Over time, Hong Sue Pork has become a popular dish across China, with different regions putting their own spin on the recipe. However, the Hunanese version remains one of the most well-known and beloved.

In recent years, the Hunan provincial government has taken steps to protect the authenticity of the dish by codifying its recipe. They have specified that only meat from the Ningxiang breed of pig should be used in authentic Hong Sue Pork.

Despite its long history and cultural significance, Hong Sue Pork continues to be a popular dish around the world. Its complex flavors and melt-in-your-mouth texture make it a favorite among food lovers everywhere.

The Unique Cooking Process

The unique cooking process of Hong Sue Pork involves a technique called blanching. This is done to remove any impurities, such as blood or excess fat, from the pork belly. To do this, the pork belly cubes are placed in a pot of cold water and brought to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling, froth will appear on the surface, and this should be removed with a spoon. The meat is then drained and rinsed under running water.

Next, the pork belly is browned in a wok or pan until it is crispy and golden brown. Aromatics such as ginger, garlic, and scallions are then added to the pan and sautéed until fragrant. The pork is then returned to the pan along with the braising liquid made of soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, and spices.

The dish is then simmered over low heat for several hours until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced. The dish should be stirred occasionally to ensure that the pork is evenly coated in the sauce.

Once the dish is finished cooking, it can be served immediately or left to cool and reheated later. Some recipes call for adding hard-boiled eggs or vegetables such as daikon radish to the dish during the braising process to add more flavor and texture.

Ingredients Used In Hong Sue Pork

The ingredients used in Hong Sue Pork are crucial to achieving the dish’s signature flavor and texture. The dish requires pork belly, which is a fatty cut of pork that becomes tender and flavorful when slow-cooked. In addition to pork belly, Hong Sue Pork is cooked with a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, chilies, sugar, star anise, light and dark soy sauce, and rice wine.

Ginger and garlic are used for their pungent and aromatic flavors, while the spices and chilies add depth and heat to the dish. Sugar is used to caramelize the pork belly and create a sweet glaze. Star anise is a key ingredient that adds a licorice-like flavor to the dish. Light and dark soy sauce are used to add saltiness and umami to the dish, while rice wine adds a subtle sweetness and helps to tenderize the meat.

The combination of these ingredients creates a rich and complex flavor profile that is both savory and sweet. The long braising process allows the flavors to meld together and the pork belly to become melt-in-your-mouth tender. Hard-boiled chicken eggs or vegetables are often added to the dish to soak up the flavorful juices.

How To Make Hong Sue Pork At Home

Making Hong Sue Pork at home is easier than you might think. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating this delicious dish in your own kitchen:

1. Cut the pork belly into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

2. Trim the ends off the green onions and cut them in half.

3. Slice the peeled ginger into four equal pieces.

4. Slice the chili lengthwise and set all ingredients aside.

5. In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, and Chinese Five Spice, and stir to combine.

6. In a large wok, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the sliced ginger, onions, chili, and pork belly.

7. Bring the water back to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

8. Remove the pork belly from the wok and dry it with a paper towel when cool enough to handle. Discard the water and contents from the wok.

9. Add vegetable oil to the hot wok and add the pork belly pieces. Stir-fry until browned on all sides, then remove from the wok and drain on a paper towel.

10. Leave at least 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the wok and discard the remainder.

11. Add brown sugar to the wok and cook over medium heat until it melts and bubbles.

12. Carefully and quickly add 1 cup of hot water to the wok and stir to mix thoroughly (this will sputter).

13. Add the soy sauce/spice mixture and the browned pork belly to the wok. Stir to coat the pork, cover, and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until tender and shreds easily when pressed.

14. Remove the lid and allow sauce to cook and thicken for 5 minutes more.

15. Serve with steamed rice and top with finely chopped chives.

Note that you can use a substitute for Shaoxing wine such as dry sherry or other types of rice wines. Additionally, if you’re looking to cut back on fat content/calories, you can use pork shoulder instead of skin-on pork belly, but keep in mind that it won’t have the same melt-in-your-mouth texture that makes Hong Sue Pork so beloved.

Variations Of Hong Sue Pork

While the basic recipe for Hong Sue Pork remains the same, there are many variations of the dish that have developed over time. Some versions of the dish use different cuts of pork, such as pork shoulder or pork ribs, instead of pork belly. Other variations may use different spices or flavorings to achieve a unique taste.

One popular variation of Hong Sue Pork is the Shanghai-style version, which uses dark soy sauce to give the pork its signature red-brownish shine. Another variation from Hunan cuisine involves melting rock sugar in hot oil to a caramel color to give the meat an appetizing appearance. Some versions may also include additional ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, tofu knots, or even squid.

In addition to regional variations, there are also many modern twists on the classic Hong Sue Pork recipe. Some chefs may experiment with different types of alcohol, such as whiskey or bourbon, to add a unique flavor to the dish. Others may add additional spices or seasonings, such as star anise or cinnamon, to enhance the taste.

Health Benefits Of Hong Sue Pork

Hong Sue Pork has several health benefits, making it a great addition to your diet. Firstly, pork belly is a good source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscles, tissues, and cells in the body. Additionally, pork belly contains essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are important for maintaining healthy blood cells and supporting the immune system.

The dish also contains ginger and garlic, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. These ingredients can help reduce inflammation in the body and may help alleviate symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Furthermore, the use of star anise in the recipe may have digestive benefits. Star anise has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to aid digestion and relieve bloating and gas.

Lastly, Hong Sue Pork is a great source of energy due to its high fat content. While it’s important to consume fat in moderation, healthy fats like those found in pork belly can provide sustained energy throughout the day.