Chinese Braised Pork (“Red Cooked”) with Tofu (Chinese from Southeast Asia)

Chinese Braised Pork (“Red Cooked”) with Tofu  (Chinese from Southeast Asia)

“Red Cooking” is an old Chinese braising method for meat and poultry, practiced more at home than in restaurants. The “red” refers to the soy sauce in the broth with flavoring vegetables before adding the meat.

This recipe is based on the original method that I learned for braising chicken in Malaysia. The recipe serves six to eight, accompanied by white, unsalted rice.

2 1/2 pounds (before trimming) pork shoulder
1 tablespoon oil
1 large clove garlic or 2 medium cloves
3 medium shallots or 3 green onions
4 slices (1/8-inch) ginger, unpeeled
2 segments star anise
2-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon black soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine or sherry
2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (1-pound) block firm-style tofu
Several sprigs of cilantro or thinly sliced green onion for garnish

Trim off excess fat from pork. Remove, but save, any bone, and cut meat into 1-inch pieces. Bruise garlic and shallots or green onions. Slice ginger.
Red cooked pork and tofu served in antique Chinese bowl

Heat oil in heavy pot. Briefly fry (15 seconds) bone, garlic, shallots or green onions, ginger and star anise. As soon as fragrant, add water and soy sauces, wine and oyster sauce. Bring back to boil.

Add pork pieces a few at a time, the tougher parts first, so as to keep the mixture boiling. Stir, cover and reduce heat. Stew until pork is tender, 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and salt toward the end of cooking. Liquid should be reduced somewhat but not thick. Add a little water if necessary. When meat is cooked, remove ginger, bone, and star anise pieces.

Cut drained tofu into 1/2-inch chunks. Drop these, part at a time into the simmering liquid. Gently shake and swirl pot to mix. After a minute or two, stir very carefully so as not to break tofu pieces. Simmer a total of about 4 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Serve with rice. Accompany with a simple stir-fried green vegetable.

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