It’s not hard to understand why this red braised pork belly is believed to have been a favorite of many Chinese. We, too, could indulge in this slow-cooked, spice-infused, sweet-yet-savory pork every single night. (So much so we tend to affectionately call it “pork candy.”)

*What exactly is pork belly?

An inexpensive, fatty cut of meat from near the loin, pork belly becomes bacon and pancetta when it’s sliced and cured. But left whole or cut into chunks, slow cooking turns it fork-tender and sumptuous. Moist heat renders the thick layer of fat meltingly unctuous but it can also be crisped up right before serving.

A blue-rimmed oval platter filled with Chairman Mao's red braised pork topped with sliced scallions and a serving spoon resting on the side.

Red Braised Pork ~ 红烧肉 Hong Shao Rou

5 / 2 votes
Red braised pork belly is an authentic Chinese dish made with pork belly that's slowly braised in soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, and spices until sticky and sweet. It's so good, we're affectionately referring to it as "pork candy."
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories1270 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes


  • 2 pounds pork belly, rind removed
  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • One (1 1/4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 6 scallions, chopped, green and white parts separated
  • 2 1/4 ounces rock sugar or 4 tablespoons superfine sugar (64 g)
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons black or rice vinegar
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 whole dried Thai or Vietnamese chile peppers
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon water
  • Steamed rice


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pork and boil for 10 minutes.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: There will be some significant shrinkage of the pork belly due to being in the water. And that’s okay.

  • Drain the pork belly and rinse it under cool water. Chop the pork belly into 1 1/4 inch (3 cm) pieces. In a large bowl toss the chopped pork belly with the five spice powder to coat.
  • In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Working in batches, brown the pork belly on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer it to a bowl.
  • Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, add the ginger and the chopped white parts of the scallions, and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and stir constantly until it dissolves.
  • Return the pork to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add the soy sauces, rice wine, vinegar, star anise, dried chile, and water.
  • Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Gently simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and sticky and and the sauce is glossy and reduced, 30 to 40 minutes more.
  • Remove and discard the star anise and chiles. Sprinkle the chopped green parts of the scallions over the hong shao rou and serve it alongside the rice.
My Asian Kitchen Cookbook

Adapted From

My Asian Kitchen

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 1270 kcalCarbohydrates: 6 gProtein: 25 gFat: 124 gSaturated Fat: 44 gMonounsaturated Fat: 58 gCholesterol: 163 mgSodium: 1180 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Jennifer Joyce. Photo © 2019 Phil Webb. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Get in my belly, pork belly! This was a delicious dish. The pork got sticky and tender, a pure flavor bomb in your mouth. The seasoning was well balanced. The sauce was delicious, but I almost wish there was more sauce to coat the pork and the rice.

I tossed some raw cut broccoli in a pan, ladled the leftover drippings and sauce on top, and did a quick, delicious sauté. This was a fantastic, solid dish. I would increase the amount of sauce and recommend a veg, then we’d have a home run.

We dried Vietnamese chilies from our garden this season. They are crazy hot, so I only used one. I paired this with jasmine rice and it was a great combo.

My husband and I were so pleased with this hong shao rou. He called it “restaurant quality,” which is his ultimate compliment. This may just be one of my favorite recipes I’ve tested so far.

I’ve never cooked pork belly before, but the results was comparable with the texture that I’ve enjoyed at restaurants. Now that I know I can get such good results at home, I’m encouraged to cook it again.

I loved the caramel-y thick sauce that results and the braised pork paired perfectly with some rice and broccolini. The pork belly was rich and indulgent and tender—just like meat candy.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


    1. Mike, you leave that lovely fat cap on the pork. It turns gloriously soft and supple. Thank us later…

  1. Just a heads up to people who might travel to China and want to try this dish, it’s not known as “Chairman Mao’s Red Braised Pork” but as 红烧肉, hong shao rou.