This dish, called hong shao rou or red braised pork, is a specialty of Shanghai. It's an impressive looking and tasting dish – rich, glossy and sticky, and it's very simple to make. The wood-ear fungus is not a classic inclusion, but I love the texture of it with the fatty and moist pork. Take the trouble to source some quality free-range pork for this recipe – it makes a real difference.
4 pork belly ribs* (about 600g), each cut in 6 pieces
10cm piece ginger, julienned
1 bunch spring onions, white and green parts, cut into 4cm lengths; plus five extra spring onions, finely sliced on an angle, for garnish
200ml shao hsing wine
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 cassia bark stick
3 star anise
½ tsp ground white pepper
60g rock sugar**
2 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar (black rice vinegar)
150g wood-ear fungus, roughly chopped into large pieces
steamed rice, to serve
Asian greens, blanched, to serve
1. Fry the pork in a wide-based saucepan (no oil needed) over medium heat until the fat renders out and the pieces are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan.
2. Cook the ginger and spring onion in the pan for 3 minutes. Return the pork to the pan and add the shao hsing wine. Deglaze the pan, scraping any residue from the edges, and simmer for 1 minute, then add the soy sauces, cassia, star anise and pepper. Add enough hot water to cover and stir in the rock sugar, then simmer very gently, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
3. After 40 minutes, add the vinegar and reduce the sauce over a medium heat until it becomes a syrupy glaze. Watch it closely: you want it to be thick but still saucy. Add a little hot water if you take it too far.
4. Once the sauce has reduced, add the fungus pieces and toss through for about 30 seconds to wilt them slightly.
5. Serve with blanched Asian greens and steamed rice garnished with the sliced spring onion.
*Pork belly ribs are often sold without the bone – rib-less ribs, if you will – which is what you're after for this dish.
**Rock sugar is available from Asian grocers. It gives the dish a super-shiny gloss, but you could use castor sugar instead.