Chinese red braised pork

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This would have to be one of my all time favourite Chinese recipes. The red braising stock is a Cantonese classic and its richness stands up to the robust nature and character of the pork shanks. This is a very complex recipe but one that I find well worth the effort. It is a very versatile stock and can be used for ducks, beef (chuck, brisket, short rib or cheeks), chickens or even quails and squabs.
You can prepare the red braising stock in advance and bring it to the boil before using it.
The multiple cooking methods of the pork shank are very important. It may seem strange to braise the shanks, chill, deep fry and braise them again, but this removes a lot of the fats and changes the texture of the pork. These multiple cooking methods had to be developed in China, because ovens where scarce, so the Chinese realised that a similar result could be obtained by braising and frying.
These shanks are also great served cold just like any ham, and they eat well with a simple pickled cucumber and salad!!!! (recipe below)


For the red braising stock;

2 chicken carcasses
8ltrs water
1 bottle of shoaxing
5 large knobs of ginger, sliced
2 heads of garlic, sliced through the centre
2 onions, diced
500ml light soy
100ml dark soy
12 star anise
6 cinnamon sticks
12 pieces of dried orange peel
1 box lump sugar

Cooking the pork shanks;

4 pork shanks boned and soaked in water for 24 hours, reserve the bones
12 dried shiitakes, soaked, rinsed and steams removed
100ml sesame oil


For the red braising stock;

Place the chicken bones into a large stock pot, cover with the water and add the remaining ingredients, except the sugar. Place the pot over a high flame and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 3 hours, skimming all the time.
Strain the stock into a large pot and skim well. Place the pot back on the stove and reduce by half. When reduced stir in the sugar and dissolve. Pour the stock through muslin cloth 3 times and allow to cool.
 Store in the fridge ready for use.

Cooking the pork shanks;

Wrap the shanks in muslin and tie tightly with string to hold an even shape while cooking.
Place the shanks and the bones into a large pot, pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 3 hours, skimming all the time.
Remove the pork and the bones from the stock, discard the bones and strain the stock.
Chill the pork and the stock overnight.

The next day remove all the fat from the top of the stock and place into a pan. Place on the heat and bring to the boil, skim and add the mushrooms, simmer for 30mins.
Remove the pork from the fridge and deep fry at 180c for 10mins. This will change the texture of the pork and break down the fat. After 10mins remove the pork from the hot oil and drain well, place back into the simmering stock along with the mushrooms and simmer for a further 10mins.
Strain the stock and add the sesame oil. Reduce until the sauce thickens.

Serve the pork sliced with the shiitake mushrooms, some steamed Chinese greens and jasmine rice. Pour over the sauce and serve.

For the cucumber;

1tsp Sichuan peppercorns                                
2 small dried chillies                                         
50g palm sugar                                                 
50ml rice wine vinegar                                  
25ml light soy sauce                                           
1 piece of ginger, peeled and grated 

Heat the oil in a wok until almost smoking. Add the peppercorns and dried chillies and cook for 15-20 seconds, working very quickly add the sugar and allow to melt, pour in the vinegar, soy and ginger and bring to the boil, simmer for 2mins then remove from the heat. Toss the cucumbers in the pickling mixture and place in sterilised jars. It is best to let the cucumber sit for a couple of days for maximum flavour.

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