Red cooking

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Red-cooked pork belly served with thickened braising sauce.

Red cooking, also called Chinese stewing, red stewing, red braising and flavour potting, is a slow braising Chinese cooking technique that imparts a red colour to the prepared food.

There are two types of red cooking:

Red cooking is popular throughout most of northern, eastern, and southeastern China. The name is derived from the dark red-brown colour of the cooked items and its sauce.


Soy sauce (either light and dark soy sauce), fermented bean paste, or caramelised sugar is commonly used to give an appetising reddish brown hue and flavour to the items being cooked. Adding colouring is unnecessary. Both lu and hongshao are forms of stewing or braising and are characterised by the use of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine, huangjiu etc) and caramelised sugar. Whole spices (star anise, black cardamom (caoguo), cassia, and/or fennel seeds) or five-spice powder are crucial elements in these dishes but are used in moderation so that their flavours do not overwhelm the main ingredients.

Red-cooked stews may be heavy in meat content or contain a variety of meats, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. Such dishes may be served hot or cold, and the sauce or stock is often re-used as master stock.

Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly (hong shao rou, 红烧肉), or “red cooked pork,” is a very famous dish in all over China. There is the purest and most traditional that you find in a lot of restaurants including big cities like Beijing, that are cooked soft until the pork belly falls apart in your mouth like warm tofu. Here is a recipe and picture of the classic Hong Shao Rou dish found in most restaurants .

While everyone in China knows this dish, there are many versions made in home cooking. In Shanghai, there are versions even cooked with squid, but more common is the use of hard boiled eggs, soy puffs or tofu knots.

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