I love food that you can just gooi into a pot, forget about for a few hours and it still comes out tasting like heaven. Thankfully, Asian food is abound with such dishes, particularly so in Chinese cuisine.
Whilst synonymous with the much hackneyed “stir-fry”, Chinese food does love a jolly good braise. Beef ribs, pork belly, chicken feet – it would seem that the Chinese maxim is clear: if you have a pot big enough for it, then it’s good for a braise. Thankfully, it seems, pork hock fits both the maxim and the pot!
Richly flavoured, red-braised pork hock is an old school Chinese classic and is the perfect way to cook an otherwise troublesome cut of meat. Slowly simmered in what is essentially a classic master stock, the meat and fat is rendered meltingly soft – so much so, one can “cut” through it with just a chopstick. Stained a redish brown from the dark soya sauce, the silky sweet meat is tempered with depth, whilst the aromatic sauce is enriched with the rendered juices from the braised pork.
Admittedly, however, like most home-style Chinese cooking, braised pork hock isn’t the most aesthetically appealing dish. Resembling something of a gelatinous heap of meat, skin and bone, it is hardly a feast for the eyes. Rest assured, however, once you’ve taken your first bite you will quickly forget what it looks like.
Indeed, this dish is a triumph of flavour over style.
Note: the stock quantities may initially seem excessive, but the Master Stock can be kept indefinitely and develops depth of flavour each time it is reused. Simply strain the stock and store in the freezer until needed. Add a fresh set of aromatics to the stock and you are good to go.
Red-braised Pork Hock 紅燒蹄: Serves 4
- 1 pork hock (approximately 1kg)
- 1 tsp. corn-flour (optional)
- 1 tsp. chilli bean paste (optional)
Master Stock ingredients:
- 1 cup Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/2 cup light soya sauce
- 1 cup dark soya sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 spring onions, trimmed and cut into 3cm lengths
- 5 garlic cloves, skinned and lightly bruised
- 5cm fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 large star anise
- 5cm cinnamon stick
- 2 pieces of dried naartjie (tangerine or orange) peel
- 4 dried Chinese mushrooms
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- Place the pork into a suitably sized saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer the pork for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the pot and rinse to remove any remaining impurities. Rinse the saucepan out to be reused for the stock
- Add all the stock ingredients to the clean pot, along with 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle
- Place the pork hock in the stock. The pork must be completely submerged under the stock, so add some extra water if necessary. Bring the stock back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover
- Simmer gently for at least 3 hours, checking every so often to see if you need to add more water. You will know when the pork is done when you can insert a chopstick without any resistance
- When you are ready to serve the pork, ladle some of the stock into a separate saucepan. If using, add the chilli bean paste and bring to a boil. Combine the corn-flour with a couple of teaspoons of water and slowly add to the boiling stock which will thicken and become glossy. Pour over the pork hock and serve immediately