America’s Test Kitchen Recipe: Red-Braised Pork Belly for Lunar New Year

Red-braised pork belly is a quintessential Hunanese dish, and one that delights in pork fat, according to Kevin Pang, co-author of “A Very Chinese Cookbook: 100 Recipes from China and Not China (But Still Really Chinese)” (America’s Test Kitchen, $35).

To fully appreciate the dish, he writes, “you must view pork fat as a feature, not a bug.”

“There’s no subtlety about what you’re enjoying: distinct striations of skin-fat-meat-fat-meat on the pork, enrobed in a warmly spiced, caramelized and sweet deep-red glaze so luxuriant it would make rubber tires taste good,” he continues as he describes a recipe developed for the book by test cook Carmen Dongo at America’s Test Kitchen.

Red-Braised Pork Belly 紅燒肉

Serves 6 to 8


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup (2 ounces) rock sugar, crushed

2 pounds skin-on center-cut fresh pork belly, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 (4-inch) piece ginger, sliced into thin rounds

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 star anise pods

2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 teaspoon table salt

5 cups water

2 scallions, sliced thin

“A Very Chinese Cookbook” by father-and-son coauthors Kevin and Jeffrey Pang shares a collection of more than 100 recipes aimed at making Chinese cooking more accessible for home cooks. (Courtesy America’s Test Kitchen) 


Heat an empty, 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Reduce heat to medium-high, drizzle oil around perimeter of wok and heat until just smoking. Add sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar has melted and mixture is amber-colored, about 1 minute. Carefully add pork belly and cook, tossing slowly but constantly, until fat begins to render and pork begins to brown, about 7 minutes.

Stir in ginger, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon sticks and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until paring knife inserted into pork offers no resistance, 70 to 80 minutes, flipping pork pieces halfway through cooking.

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Increase heat to medium-high and vigorously simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened and begins to coat pork, 10 to 25 minutes.

Off heat, let pork rest for 5 minutes. Using a wide, shallow spoon, skim excess fat from surface of sauce and remove ginger, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Note: Look for pork belly that is sold as one whole piece, about 2 inches thick, with a decent amount of fat. We prefer skin-on pork belly to achieve traditional textures and flavors; if you cannot find skin-on pork, you can use skin-off.

— Courtesy Kevin Pang and Jeffrey Pang, “A Very Chinese Cookbook: 100 Recipes from China and Not China (But Still Really Chinese)” (America’s Test Kitchen, $35)

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