Red-Cooked Pork Hocks – 紅燒豬腳
Red-cooking (紅燒) is a Chinese cookery technique involving braising or simmering meats or other food products in a medium containing a good amount of soy sauce. When cooked this way, the food in question takes on a rich, red, or mahogany color, thus giving the cookery method its name. One way of doing this is by using a Chinese Master Sauce as the cooking medium. Not only does the Master sauce benefit by acquiring some of the flavors of the meat, but the meat become beautifully tender while being infused with the rich seasonings of the sauce. Here, Pork Hocks are first simmered in a full pot of the sauce, then some of the sauce is drawn off and the Pork is baked in it along with a little celery and onion.
A Note on the Chinese Master Sauce
A Chinese Master Sauce is not really a sauce as such, rather it is richly seasoned broth in which meats are cooked. The ‘sauce’, also known as a 滷水 (pronounced lǔshuǐ in Mandarin), can be re-used almost indefinitely and gets progressively richer each time while infusing whatever get cooked in it with the complex blend of seasonings used. If you are not very familiar with the idea, you may wish to have a look at my introductory post on The Chinese Master Sauce.
The Basic Method for Making 紅燒豬腳
The first step is not critical, but it is a good idea to briefly blanch and then rinse your Pork Hocks before simmering them as this will help keep your Master Sauce from accumulating a lot of detritus. To do this, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then cook the Hocks for two or three minutes until no pink or red meat is visible. Next, remove the Hocks and wash them well under cold running water to get rid of any scum or ‘bits’ on the surfaces.
The Pork Hocks are next simmered very gently in the Master Sauce for about two hours or so. You want them to tenderize a little, and add to the richness of the sauce, but you also want to avoid having them give up too much of their flavor. As you can see, a bit of scum does form at the surface, along with some of the rendered fat, but it is considerably less than there would be without the preliminary blanching, and you can easily skim it away as it arises.
Here are the Red-Cooked Pork Hocks are being retrieved from the Master Sauce. You can see the nice golden reddish color the sauce gives to them. For the next cooking step, the meat, with the skin still attached, will be cut away from the bone in large, bite-sized pieces. Once this is done, the bones, along with any skin trimmings or other scraps, can be put back into the Master Sauce and simmered for a bit longer to extract as much goodness as possible.
For the final cooking process, the Pork Pieces are placed into a casserole or clay-pot over a bed of sliced celery and onion. Some extra onion is strewn over top, and a generous ladleful of the Master Sauce is poured over everything before baking in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven for another two hours or so.
Here is the紅燒豬腳 once it has finished cooking. The Pork is delightfully tender, and, as you can see, the sauce has reduced quite a bit. The whole dish can be served to the table as is, and individual diners can spoon a few pieces of Pork, along with some of the sauce, over their rice.
Your Recipe Card:
Red-Cooked Pork Hocks
- 4 Pork Hocks
- Chinese Master Sauce a full pot
- 1 small Onion sliced into thin shreds
- 1 large stalk of Celery cut into matchstick slices.
- Blanch the Pork Hocks in salted boiling water for approximately two minutes, then rinse well under cold running water to remove detritus.
- Simmer the Hocks in a pot of Master Sauce for two hours and remove.
- When cooled, cut the meat and skin into bite-sized chunks, reserving the bone and any scraps for the Master Sauce, or other stocks.
- Make a bed of onion and celery in a Casserole or Clay-Pot and place the Pork on top, scattering a little extra onion over it all.
- Add enough of the Master Sauce to the Pot to almost cover the Pork, then bake in a 325-degree Fahrenheit for two hours.
- Serve while hot.