Red-Cooked Meat

Hongshao Rou

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: AniseMeal: Easy, Made in Advance

    “When my maternal grandmother visited us, my mother would make a big pot of hongshao rou, red-cooked meat,” recalls Mrs. Chiang. “My grandmother had lost her teeth, and her stomach couldn’t tolerate peppers any more, but she loved to eat, especially rich meat dishes. A hongshao rou was the perfect way to honor her. When properly prepared, it is simmered for so long that the meat is almost disintegrating and is as soft as paste. Its rich, dark sauce is spicy and fragrant with star anise, but it is not hot.

    “In a sense, this is a Shanghai-style dish because it contains no hot peppers or hot pepper paste, as do most Szechwanese hongshao. And it uses sugar, which is typical of the region around Shanghai.”

    Pork is so rarely stewed in America that you will probably have to get the meat for this dish specially cut. Fresh shoulder, ham, or butt are good. You can also substitute beef, though it doesn’t have the rich flavor of pork. If you add the optional carrots and potatoes to the meat, you will end up with something that looks just like a regular stew. You could serve it that way, with rice of course. This is a useful dish for entertaining, especially if you don’t have the time for a more elaborate Chinese meal. The recipe can be doubled and the whole dish can be prepared way in advance. It actually improves on standing.



    2 pounds pork (the cut is unimportant) Chop the meat into 2-inch cubes. If the meat has bones, leave them in; they add richness to the dish.

    2 medium carrots (optional)

    2 medium potatoes (optional)

    Peel the carrots and slice them diagonally into chunks, roughly the same size as the pieces of meat. Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks as well.
    3 scallions Clean the scallions and tie them together in a bunch.

    2-inch piece fresh ginger

    5 cloves garlic

    Smash the ginger with the flat side of the cleaver; you don’t have to peel it. Do the same thing to the garlic cloves, but peel them after they have been smashed.


    3 tablespoons peanut oil Heat your wok or pan over a moderate flame for 10 seconds, then add the oil. Let the oil get warm, but nowhere near as hot as it usually gets when you cook Chinese food.
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar Add the sugar and stir it very carefully for 20 seconds with your cooking shovel or spoon to make sure it doesn’t burn. It will turn dark brown.
    (ginger, pork cubes) Turn up the flame and add the ginger and the pork cubes. Stir-fry them for 1 minute, using your cooking shovel or spoon to scoop the pork cubes off the sides of the pan and then stir them around in the middle. Make sure they are all well coated with the caramelized sugar.
    (garlic) Add the garlic cloves and continue to stir-fry everything for another 1-½ minutes.

    (carrots and potatoes)

    4 whole star anise or the equivalent in pieces

    Now toss in the scallions, the optional carrots and potatoes and the star anise, wine, soy sauce, and salt.

    2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    6 tablespoons soy sauce

    ½ teaspoon salt

    Bring the liquid to a boil and let it cook for 3 minutes, without stirring, then cover the pan and continue cooking the pork about 7 more minutes.
    ¾ cup water Add the water. Bring it to a boil over a high flame and let it boil vigorously for 5 minutes before covering the pan and lowering the heat.
    Simmer the pork for 1 hour, or until it becomes very soft. Serve immediately, or reheat and serve later.