With the season changing our household is starting to crave comfort food. This Chinese Braised Pork Shoulder is certainly that. Chunks of pork shoulder simmered with a few aromatics and soy make the pork tender and flavorful. Our kitchen smelled like a real Chinese restaurant. I am not talking about an American Chinese takeout place, but the traditional places we get a roast duck and pork. The smell is so comforting.
This dish is pretty traditional and I have followed the same methods. For instance, when braising, the meat is boiled for a few minutes first. This helps to remove all the impurities and gook on the meat for a cleaner sauce/gravy. I thought about skipping this step, but the more research I did, the more I learned how important it was. I did make this dish my own by using pork shoulder instead of the traditional pork belly. Also, this dish is made ahead. The meat is cooked and chilled overnight and heated back up. There is a Chinese story about a mother cooking this dish for her son and he didn’t come home when she thought he would, so she heated it back up several times while waiting for him. This resulted in the most tender unctuous pork. Who am I to argue with tradition!
Also, there are few ingredients that you may have to seek out, like the cassia and Shaoxing wine. Cassia is not a traditional cinnamon that we are used to. It is more like a bark. If you can’t find it, traditional cinnamon or canela (Mexican cinnamon) will work. Shaoxing wine is a traditional Chinese cooking wine, and I would not leave this out. Same goes for the Dark Soy sauce, it gives the sauce its reddish color. It’s a must in this recipe! You should be able to find both at any Asian grocery store. Once you have these ingredients, you will be able to Chinese braise any meat you want, so it’s worth finding the right ingredients. This dish is best served with plain white rice and preferably a simple green. I highly recommend sticking with the tradition, the pork is very flavorful, so simple sides are the best compliment.
- 2½ pounds of pork shoulder
- 1 2" (25g) piece of ginger, skin on
- 1 scallion, white part only
- 1 tbsp neutral flavored cooking oil (canola, grapeseed etc.)
- 1 star anise
- 1 small piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
- 3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
- 2½ cups hot water
- 1¾ tbsp light soy sauce
- 1½ tbsp dark soy sauce, plus 1-2 tsp
- 2½ tbsp sugar
- Cut the pork into 1½'' cubes and place into a pot. Cover the pot with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse the meat under cold water. Allow to drain.
- Smash the ginger and scallion gently with a rolling pin to loosen the fibers.
- Add the oil to a Dutch oven, or heavy bottom pot over high heat. Once hot, add the ginger, scallion, star anise, and cassia and stir-fry briefly until they smell aromatic about 2 minutes. Add the pork and fry for another 2-3 minutes or until the meat is barely golden. Splash the Shaoxing around the edges of the pan. Add the hot water, light soy sauce and 1½ tbsp of the dark soy sauce, and the sugar. Bring to a boil, then cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Pour into a glass bowl or pot. Allow to cool, then chill overnight. The next day, remove the layer of pale fat that has settled on the surface. Put the meat and jellied liquid back into the dutch oven and reheat gently. Then boil over a medium-high flame to reduce the sauce, stirring constantly. Remove and discard the ginger, whatever you can find of the spring onion, and spices. After 10-15 minutes, when the liquid has reduced by half, stir in 1 teaspoon of the dark soy sauce. Taste it. If it tastes like it needs more salt, add the remaining 1 tsp.
- Shortly before you are about to serve. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce the sauce to a dark sleek gravy. Then transfer to a serving dish. Serve with hot white rice and greens. If you have any leftovers, reheat with a little water.
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