The simple and easy to prepare dish was said to be one of Mao Zedong’s favourites. Indeed it is sometimes referred to as "The Mao Family's red-braised pork." Mao loved it, and apparently insisted his Hunanese chefs cook it for him in Beijing.
It's a robust concoction, best eaten with plain steamed rice and simple stir-fried vegetables, but the sweet, aromatic chunks of meat are irresistible.
There are variations in terms of the spices used but the method is essentially the same. What you’ll need is a nice 500 gram piece of pork belly, some fresh ginger, spring onions, dark soy sauce, Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine and crystal sugar. As for the spices star anise is a must, though some cooks also add a piece of cinnamon stick and a couple of dried chillies.
To start, blanch the pork in hot water for a few minutes and then cut into cubes, leaving the fat and skin intact on each piece.
Heat some oil in a heavy pan or wok and fry the meat, stirring occasionally. Then add around half a litre of stock, a couple of spring onions cut into 3 cm lengths, a piece of crushed ginger, a star anise - and other spices if using, 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine or sherry, a tablespoon of dark soy, a little salt and about 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer until nearly all the liquid has reduced.
The same method can of course be applied to many meats including rabbit, chicken and beef. Pork spare ribs may also be prepared this way, though they are often deep fried first.