Red-Braised Sous Vide Pork Belly (红烧肉Hong Shao Rou)
Red-braised sous vide pork belly, a traditional classic Chinese recipe turned revolutionarily simple with the original melt-in-your-mouth texture and the authentic flavors!
The famous red-braised pork belly, or hong shao rou, is one of the classic pork dishes that originated in East China. In Chinese, hong means red, shao means braised, and rou means meat. In this case, it refers to pork belly.
Anytime you see a Chinese dish with hong shao in the name, 99.9% of the time, it’s cooked with some type or types of soy sauce. The food is heavily imbued with the reddish-brown color of the soy sauce through the cooking process, hence, the name, red-braised.
Born and raised in Shanghai, China, I had the privilege to enjoy homemade red-braised pork belly, which my mother cooked frequently. Her recipe is now a regular in my house. If you have ever made the Chinese-style pork belly on a stove as it’s traditionally done, you know it’s a labor of love. It requires a lot of effort from the cook to produce that juicy and melt-in-your-mouth texture with the sticky sauce as a shiny coating.
With a toddler at home, I no longer have the luxury of devoting my attention to making a good dish like red-braised pork belly, at least not the traditional way of cooking it, because it’s very easy to overcook the pork if you’re distracted.
So I experimented with sous vide pork belly using the same ingredients. Oh.My.Lord. You are not going to believe how incredibly tender and juicy the pork belly turns out! On top of that, it lost none of the authentic flavors from the traditional cooking method. In fact, the flavors were actually intensified. The best part? I simply set it and forgot about it. No babysitting required at all.
If you think making traditional red-braised pork belly is a bit intimidating, try to cook it sous vide. Trust me—you’ll be so happy you did because it’s blessedly simple!
- How to Cook Red-Braised Pork Belly Sous Vide
- How to Finish Sous Vide Pork Belly
- How Long Can Sous Vide Pork Belly Last in the Fridge?
- How to Reheat Sous Vide Pork Belly
- What to Serve with Red-Braised Sous Vide Pork Belly
- What Tools, Equipment, and Sauces You Need
- Red-Braised Sous Vide Pork Belly (红烧肉Hong Shao Rou)
How to Cook Red-Braised Pork Belly Sous Vide
Converting the Traditional Pork Belly Recipe to the Sous Vide Method
First and foremost, there are two things that you don’t want to sacrifice by taking the sous vide route for a classic recipe like this—the texture and the flavor.
Since sous vide temperature control is known for producing the most tender and juicy meat, you don’t have to worry about your pork belly texture. Trust your sous vide machine. You are in good hands.
What you want to recreate from the traditional recipe is the flavor. Oh, I almost forget to mention—make sure that your pork belly has skin on. That’s the good stuff.
The traditional cooking sauce is a combination of light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and Shaoxing cooking wine, along with herbs and spices. The pork belly is slow-braised in the sauce for hours on a stove until the sauce is completely absorbed by the pork.
With sous vide, you can cook the pork in the same sauce by packing the sauce into the sous vide bag with the meat. To even out the flavor, let’s blend everything in a food processor to make a nice marinade for your pork belly.
Slide the pork belly into a sous vide bag (divide the pork and use multiple sous vide bags if you’ve got a large piece). Pour the marinade over and seal it. You might let it marinate overnight in the fridge. When ready to cook, all you need to do is drop the bag in your preheated water bath.
Now, let’s look at the sous vide cooking time and temperature.
How Long to Sous Vide Pork Belly and at What Temperature
You have two options depending on the texture you are looking to create.
- Option #1: 176°F for 7 hours. This will result in a succulent, fall-off-the-bone texture, which is very close to braised pork belly cooked using the traditional cooking method. This option is my personal choice for this particular recipe.
- Option #2: 154°F for 24 hours. ChefStep suggested this option for a steak-like pork belly. I haven’t tried it yet. If you decide to give it a shot, I would love to hear how you like it. Please leave a comment below and let me know.
How to Finish Sous Vide Pork Belly
Once your pork belly is done, that bag of goodies contains not only the perfectly “braised” pork but also the cooking sauce, along with the heavenly pork juice. There are a few ways for you to finish the pork belly. Take your pick and enjoy!
Keep It Simple with a Glaze
You don’t necessarily have to sear the pork belly, but a glaze is a must! How else are you going to get that amazing red-braised color and flavor all over the pork? It’s super simple, so don’t skip this step.
Open up the sous vide bag and pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Place the pork on a cutting board to cool.
Let the cooking liquid settle down in the saucepan and tilt it a little; use a spoon to skim off the fat on the surface. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and simmer until it’s reduced by half. The glaze should be thickened at this point. If not, dissolve 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in an equal amount of cold water and add to the glaze. Stir frequently until it reaches your desired consistency.
Pro tip: In order to easily and thoroughly remove the fat from the cooking liquid, you can let it chill in the refrigerator for an hour. The fat will solidify on the surface. Then it’s super easy to scrape it off with a spoon.
To recreate the traditional red-braised pork belly presentation, cut the pork into cubes and toss them in the glaze before serving. Alternatively, you could slice the pork belly, if you prefer, and pour some glaze over the slices. Or pour the glaze over the entire piece and cut it into big chunks for single servings. However you want to present it, this is going to be a mind-blowingly tasty dish.
Broil It in the Oven
If you yearn for a crispy and charred skin, heat your broiler to high, pat the pork belly with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible, and broil the meat for about 3 minutes, the skin side up.
Make the glaze. Again, it’s a must!
How Long Can Sous Vide Pork Belly Last in the Fridge?
If you don’t plan on serving the pork belly right away, you can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks as long as the bag remains sealed. Make sure it’s thoroughly cooled before putting it into the fridge. To speed up the cooling process, you can place the bag into a cold water bath with ice.
How to Reheat Sous Vide Pork Belly
Say you are ready to enjoy the pork belly in your fridge. The best way to reheat it is to put it back into the water bath at a slightly lower temperature than the pork was originally cooked at.
I dropped my refrigerated pork belly into a 175-degree water bath (one degree lower than the original cooking temp) for about two hours. It was perfectly heated through. Depending on the size and thickness of your pork belly, the reheating time could vary. The chefs at ChefSteps put together an amazing guide on how to reheat pretty much anything with sous vide. I use it as a reference to reheating my sous vide goodies.
What to Serve with Red-Braised Sous Vide Pork Belly
For a well-balanced meal, here are a few ideas for dishes to accompany the pork belly.
Sautéed Bok Choy with Shiitake Mushrooms and rice
Garlic Dressing Spinach and rice
The Best Steamed Broccoli Ever and rice
Mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower (for a low-carb meal)
What Tools, Equipment, and Sauces You Need
Tools & Equipment
Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker
There you have it. If you get a chance to make traditional Asian-style red-braised pork belly in this untraditional way, leave a comment and let me know what you think. Were you proud of yourself? I sure was!Print
Red-Braised Sous Vide Pork Belly (红烧肉Hong Shao Rou)
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 7 hours 10 minutes
- Total Time: 7 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Meat, Main Course
- Method: Sous Vide
- Cuisine: Chinese
Asian-style sous vide pork belly, a traditional recipe turned stupidly simple without sacrificing the melt-in-your-mouth texture and the authentic flavors!
- 2 pounds pork belly (skin on)
For the marinade:
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 2 stems green onions
- ½-inch chunk fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 whole star anise
- Rinse pork belly and pat dry with paper towels. Slide it into a sous vide bag. If your sous vide bag is not big enough to hold an entire piece of pork belly, cut the meat to divide into two or three portions if needed.
- Combine all marinade ingredients except the star anise in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the marinade into the sous vide bag over the pork. Gently tilt the bag to allow the marinade to cover the entire piece. (If using multiple sous vide bags, divide the marinade into equal portions for each bag.) Drop in the star anise and seal the bag(s) using a vacuum sealer or a hand pump. You can leave the pre-packed pork belly in your fridge to marinate overnight, or you may cook immediately.
- When ready to cook, preheat water to 176°F using a sous vide immersion circulator. (I use Anova.) Lower the pork belly bag(s) into the water and make sure the pork is immersed. Cook for 7 hours.
- Once the pork is done, remove the bag(s) from the water. Open it, transfer the pork belly onto a cutting board, then carefully pour the cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Discard the star anise.
- Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and simmer down to half. If the consistency is not to your liking, dissolve 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch in cold water and add to the sauce, stirring often until the sauce is thickened.
- Cut the pork belly into slices, 1-inch bites, or 2-inch pieces; plate it and pour a generous amount of sauce over. Pass the extra sauce around the table. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 821
- Sugar: 5.2g
- Sodium: 412.5mg
- Fat: 80.5g
- Saturated Fat: 29.3g
- Carbohydrates: 7.3g
- Fiber: 0.3g
- Protein: 15.5g
- Cholesterol: 109.1mg
Keywords: sous vide pork belly
I focused on the Sous Vide component, but used the Instapot Sous Vide instead of the more conventional Sous Vide. Generally the Instapot works fine for Sous Vide even though it doesn’t circulate the water. In this case, I just dispensed with the bag completely and just cooked directly in the pot. It was cooked, but it tasted very rubbery and so it didn’t work for me.
It’s hard to imagine that using a bag would have made a difference, but maybe?
Hi Han, thanks for trying out this recipe and leaving a comment to let me know your experience. I have never used Instapot Sous Vide, so I can’t really comment on how to convert this pork belly recipe from using a conventional sous vide machine which does circulate the water to using an Instapot Sous Vide. However, if you are looking for a more traditional way of making the red-braised pork belly, here’s my original recipe: https://www.streetsmartkitchen.com/shanghai-style-braised-pork-belly/
Hope that helps. Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks again for dropping by.
I love pork belly! It’s so delicious when it’s cooked well and your pictures just look amazing. Great recipe!
This pork belly looks amazing! I’m definitely pinning for later.
That marinade looks amazing..am tempted to try that..maybe with tofu
Wow, these came out perfectly tender and delicious. We love our sous vide so much!