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Recipe: Yunnan-style Hongshaorou

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Editor's note: Roz Weitzman has been working in China for seven years as an international school principal. An avid cook, Roz has epublished a cookbook entitled "Roz Weitzman's World of Chinese Comfort Food." It can be purchased at both Lulu and Amazon.

Since moving to Kunming she has begun to explore the cooking traditions of Yunnan. More of Roz's recipes can be viewed on her blog (requires proxy) and PDF versions of her book can be obtained by reaching her at roz[at]candismail[dot]com[dot]cn. Bon appétit.

About the Recipe

Hongshaorou (红烧肉) is made throughout China with many variations — some emphasizing sweet over spicy and vice versa. It is often served as a soup-noodle dish (especially in Taiwan) and pork is commonly substituted for beef. The following recipe blends both sweet and spicy while utilizing beef as the protein.

Star anise is an integral part to hongshaorou's flavor, regardless of where it is prepared. Although white sugar is used in other provinces around China, brown sugar is favored in Yunnan. Any variety of dried mushrooms will do for this dish although I prefer black Shiitakes, which provide rich, smokey undertones to the overall taste.

Supplementing the recipe with carrots and potatoes makes this version of hongshaorou heartier and also thickens the sauce more quickly. Their addition is entirely up to you. Personally, I enjoy the recipe without them because the sauce thickens nicely on its own the longer it is cooked.


500 grams stewing beef, cut into 2-centimeter chunks
2 potatoes and 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 inch cube of fresh ginger, chopped
3 green onions, whites and greens, cut into 2-centimeter lengths
10 dried whole Shiitakes, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, squeezed to drain
2 tablespoons cooking wine
1 teaspoon meat tenderizer
3 tablespoons oil
2 whole star anise
10-20 grains prickly ash (or to taste)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup water
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro


In a bowl, marinate beef chunks in cooking wine and meat tenderizer. Chinese meat tenderizer is extremely potent so marinate for no longer than 10 minutes — otherwise the meat will turn to mush when cooked.

Heat the wok and add oil. Wait until oil is hot and add ginger and green onion. Reduce heat to medium and stir fry for one minute. Maintaining heat, add beef and brown lightly on all sides.

Pour water, star anise, peppercorns, soy sauce, brown sugar and mushrooms into the wok. If using potatoes and carrots, add them as well. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20-30 minutes while stirring often. Remove the lid and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and the meat is cooked to temperature but still tender.

Add cilantro and continue simmering for one minute. Remove the star anise and pour onto a serving dish. Can be served over steamed rice with other dishes. Enjoy!

Images: Roz Weitzman

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