Hongshao Rou (Red Braised Pork 红烧肉)
What is it?
Hongshao rou is popular in Hunan cuisine. Pork belly, ginger, cooking wine, soy sauce, chilli and rock sugar are all cooked in a large pot at a low heat. The dish is eaten with plain steamed rice or stir-fried vegetables.
Why is it famous?
Mao Zedong, a native of Hunan Province, loved the dish so much he insisted that his chefs cook it for him regularly in Beijing. It was believed that Mao Zedong first encountered the dish back in 1914 when he was studying at Hunan First Normal University and it was love at first bite. However, he refused to eat soy sauce after a visit to a soy sauce factory, complaining that the process was unsanitary. As a result, the chefs at Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Communist Party, had to come up with a new way to prepare the dish for the Chairman. They decided to use caramelised sugar to give the pork colour and a lot of salt to make it savoury. Mao was such a fan of the dish he was reportedly pleased with the adaptation.
The Hunan government recently released new guidelines on how to cook the dish. Only restaurants that follow them will be able to claim they serve authentic Hunan cuisine.
Where to eat it?
In Beijing you can find Hunan food at the Cui Qing Restaurant. Address: No.1 Jia, Cuiwei Dongli, Haidian District; Tel: 86-10-6825-2634.
In Hong Kong, Hunan Bistro serves authentic Hunanese cuisine in a sleek contemporary setting. Be sure to order the fish head with yellow and red chillies. Address: 409 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; Tel: 852-2788-0897.
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