Red Braised Meat
This one's super rich in flavor but also surprisingly easy to prepare. Most of the work involves throwing everything into a pot, and simmering on low for a long time.
I've provided you with a spice pack. That contains most of the dry ingredients, especially the ones that are tough to source or uncommon in most households.
The rest, you'll have to procure on your own. Most of these can be purchased at your local grocery store, Asian market, or online through the links I've provided below.
This recipe works with all sorts of proteins, including:
Pork - pork belly or pork shoulder ideally, something with a blend of fat and meat.
Beef - go with a cheap cut with some fat between the muscle.
Chicken - chicken thigh or drumsticks work best. Chicken breast could work, but it might turn out dry.
Papa Kwan's Red Braise spice pack (friends and family - send me a message if you need more)
Protein, 2-4 pounds, ideally a cut with approximately 2/3 meat, 1/3 fat. I personally really like making this with pork belly.
Ginger, thumb-sized piece of ginger
Garlic, 4 cloves
Dark brown sugar, 30 grams. Add more for sweetness.
Dark soy sauce, 1/4 cup. Add more for saltiness and color.
Regular soy sauce, 2 tablespoons. Add more for saltiness.
Xiaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon
Cooking oil, I prefer vegetable oil
Scallions, sliced thin for garnish (optional)
Cut the protein into bite-sized pieces. Each piece should ideally have some fat and meat on it. Set this aside.
Pick out a pot with a lid, and heat it up to medium on the stove. Add some cooking oil and allow the oil to heat up.
Add the cut protein to the pot and lightly sear the surface of the protein. Stir periodically. Cook for about 3 minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute.
Add the dark brown sugar and stir regularly. You want the sugar to caramelize a bit and bond to the meat. Be careful not to burn the sugar. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the soy sauces and Xiaoxing wine and stir.
Add enough water to fully submerge all the ingredients.
Toss in Kwan's Red Braise spice pack and submerge it in the liquid mixture.
Cover the pot and simmer on low for 90 minutes. Give it a taste test about halfway through, and adjust the ingredients as you see fit.
Remove the pot from heat, discard the spice pack, and serve with some plain rice. Optionally garnish with sliced scallions.
Equipment: I prefer cooking this in a 5-quart enameled dutch oven. I find that it helps regulate the temperature pretty well, and the heavy lid does a great job of sealing in the flavors and moisture.
Cooking time: The cooking times are recommended and may need to be adjusted based on your particular situation. If the meat isn't tender enough, simmer it a bit longer. But be careful not to go for too long, that might make the meat fall apart or dry out.
Pork belly: First, I usually hold this with tongs, fat side down over an open fire to burn off any surface impurities (i.e., small hairs).
Chicken thighs: you have two choices here - debone the thigh, and then cut the edible parts into bite-sized pieces, or go to town on the whole chicken thigh with a butcher knife.
Chicken drumstick: Not much needs to be done with this. Just throw it into the pot.
What's in the spice pack?
If you're curious, this is what goes into it:
Star anise, 3 pieces
Szechuan peppercorns, 1 tsp
Dried red peppers, 5 pieces
Cloves, 1/2 tsp