Shen Fui

“Fantasy Pork”

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    8 to 10

    as Part of a Chinese Meal, or 4 to 6 as a Single Dish.

Appears in

I was very encouraged when I tasted this dish because it catered to my ideal of Chinese cooking with its straightforward, careful preparation and attention to a balance of flavours. Friends took me to a privately-owned restaurant in Kunming, Yunnan, where I sampled this “fantasy pork.” It was properly braised, with just the right enhancing seasonings that gave the meat a robust but not overpowering fragrance. The rich wine sauce and subtle sweetness of the other ingredients combined beautifully with the taste of pork. It was a true pleasure to partake of this meal, and, in memory, it remains a minor masterpiece. This dish is easy to prepare, and can be made ahead of time. It reheats well and is also very good served cold — perfect for a dinner party or large gathering.


  • Fresh ham, about 2.3 kg/5 lb
  • 8 spring onions
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 8 slices fresh ginger root
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Braising Liquid

  • 1.1 L/2 pt hot water
  • 225 ml/8 fl oz dark soy sauce
  • 225 ml/8 fl oz rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons whole roasted Sichuan peppercorns
  • 6 tablespoons rock or ordinary sugar
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks or bark
  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Dry the ham thoroughly with kitchen paper.

Cut the spring onions into 7.5-cm/3-in segments.

Choose a heavy casserole pot, large enough to hold the ham comfortably. Heat the pot and then add the oil, ginger, garlic, and onions, and stir-fry in the pot for 2 minutes. Push the aromatics to the side and brown the ham on each side until it has some colour, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour off the oil.

Add all the braising liquid ingredients to the pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot tightly, and cook for about 4½ hours, turning the ham from time to time. When the ham is tender, remove it gently with a large spatula. The meat should be literally falling apart. Carefully place it on a serving platter.

Strain the sauce, skim off any surface fat, and reduce the liquid until it is slightly thickened. Pour this over the ham and serve.