Chairman Mao’s Red Pork Belly

I have been part of a Cooking Club for nearly two years. It is run from the store, Taste For The Love of Cooking, in the Valley It's a fabulous store with some beautiful kitchenware. We meet each month and bring a dish representing a pre-arranged theme. “Asian” is a pretty broad theme, so I took the opportunity to stretch myself, in the culinary sense, and dropped a line to our friend who lives in China for some inspiration. He is a true foodie. Had he not pursued other avenues, he could have, and perhaps should have, been a chef – a natural talent in the kitchen. He’s one of those people who takes a day out of their schedule to make their own veal stock….you know the type.

Offering a few suggestions, I stopped reading his email after the words “pork belly”. The recipe was “Chairman Mao’s Red Pork Belly” or Mao Shi Hong Shao Rou (phonetically Mao Sher Hong Shao Row – impress your guests by crackin’ out that one!). It is said to be Mao’s favourite dish. It is believed to be the brain food that provided Mao with the wits to defeat his enemies. It is from Hunan province in lower central China and is a very popular dish there, served as part of a banquet.

The recipe is very simple and the only ingredient new to me was red sugar ‘hong tang’ (pronounced hong tung in Mandarin) which I sourced at Yuen’s Asian grocer at Sunnybank.

The first step of boiling the whole piece of meat is to remove impurities so you don’t have to spend the whole cooking time skimming it.

When you first start to caramelise the red sugar you may feel you’ve burnt it. It doesn’t matter, after the long slow cook, it just melts away. It is fail safe.

I’ve cooked pork belly many ways, but this is a recipe I will repeat many times. It is very flavoursome with a hint of heat from the dried chilli. Delicious.

The recipe is from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop, however I have tricked it up, as I often do, by increasing the cooking time and adding the garlic - a delicious treat you get when eating the dish. 

I hope you try it and tell me what you think!

Chairman Mao's Red Pork Belly

500gm pork belly, leave skin on (I use a 1kg piece and double the following ingredients)
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 Tbsp red sugar
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
Fresh ginger (a 5cm piece), skin left on and sliced
1 star anise
2 dried red chilies
A small piece of cassia bark
Light soy sauce
Scallion greens (shallot tops)

1. Plunge the pork belly into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes, until partially cooked. Remove and, when cool enough to handle, cut into bite-sized chunks.
2. Heat the oil and red sugar in a wok (I use a heavy based stockpot) over a gentle flame until the sugar melts, then raise the heat and stir until the melted sugar turns a rich caramel brown. Add the pork and splash in the Shaoxing wine.
3. Add enough water to just cover the pork, along with the ginger, star anise, chilies, and cassia. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 1-2 hrs, lid off.
4. Toward the end of the cooking time, turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, and season with soy sauce, salt, and a little sugar to taste. Add the shallot greens just before serving.


  1. Great to see you have started a new blog! I did wonder about the origin of Sensible Spice! ha - recipe looks good. I like cooking club but haven't been able to go much. Working away really plays havoc with night time activities.

  2. YUM. I have been hunting for a pork belly recipe for Christmas - this looks like it could be a contender...


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