7 Pork: Braised Pork Belly

Oink! The pigs we eat no longer wallow in mud.

Braised Pork Belly (aka “red-cooked pork”) is known in China and other parts of East and Southeast Asia as Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉). (Photo from Ruocaled, made available under CC License)

Play Your Part          Jump to Recipe

When I came to the US, I had trouble finding ground pork. All that was available was ground beef. I was quick to find out that ground pork isn’t as popular in the US, as it is in China.

Turns out China consumption of pork surpasses that of any other country. With rising income, meat consumption increases – and the choice of meat for Chinese was pork, and so pigs were placed in line to join the cattle and chickens into confined animal feeding operations (better known as CAFO).

Smaller-sized pig farming has lesser environmental impacts. (Photo from Keith Evans, made available under CC License)

Pigs like any other agricultural livestock produces manure. Manure have their benefits – they can be used to fertilise the lands and provide much-need nutrients. However, when operations are scaled to thousands of pigs in one small area, excess manure has to be managed – treated and disposed of. Unfortunately large quantities fail to be properly managed – entering our waters and releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Not all is loss. Research has shown that environmental impacts of pork production today compared to that of 50 years ago is better – due to improved technologies and knowledge. Other studies also show that smaller-scale operations are able to better utilize their manure. A combination of our current knowledge can be put together to raise pigs and produce pork sustainably.


Play Your Part:

  • Limit consumption of pork (note: this does not mean completely going vegetarian) – start small. Check out this TED talk, by Tree Hugger founder, Graham Hill, on why he is Weekday Vegetarian
  • Support the sustainably sourced – small-scale, local, humanely raised
  • Talk, learn and teach others about their meat consumption impacts


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The recipe below is for a Shanghai-style braised pork belly – a favourite for locals and foreigners. However, be forewarned that this recipe is both time-consuming and aroma-hunger inducing.

Braised pork belly is a dish to be accompanied with vegetables, rice or noodles. (Photo by Robin, made available under CC License)

Braised Pork Belly (from The Woks of Life)

Yield: Serves 2-3



  • 3/4 lbs lean pork belly
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar (rock sugar preferred)
  • 3 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 cups water

Special Equipment:

  • a wok (optional)


  1. Cut pork belly into 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick pieces
  2. Blanch pork belly in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes to remove impurities
  3. Remove pork from water and set aside
  4. Over low heat, add oil and sugar into a wok
  5. Add pork once sugar is slightly melted
  6. Cook under medium heat until pork is lightly browned
  7. Turn heat back to low, and add Shoaxing wine, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce
  8. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until pork is tender (can be easily poke through with a fork). Stir every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning. Add additional water if too dry
  9. Once tender, uncover if there is visibly too much liquid. Continuously stir until sauce has been reduced to glistening coating


Recipe Notes:

  • Important to have light and dark soy sauce for flavour


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Ingredients of the Environment: A Cookbook Copyright © by Hazel Chew. All Rights Reserved.

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