A few years ago, when Ming Tsai was a contestant on Iron Chef, he prepared his family recipe for pork shoulder in a Chinese style known as “red cooking.”   Red cooking usually refers to a braise that’s intensely flavored with soy sauce, sugar, peppers and spices.   The snag is that pork shoulder requires hours of cooking – a luxury he didn’t have in the hour-long show. Ming adapted the recipe to use a pressure cooker, with great success. If you like pork that’s fork-tender, with a delicious oriental flavor, then this recipe will knock your socks off.   Even without a pressure cooker you can still prepare it on the stove or in the oven, but make sure to cook the meat long enough (with gentle heat) to tenderize it.


(from Ming Tsai, recipe published in Food and Wine magazine)

3 cups soy sauce
1 + 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 + 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pound dark brown sugar
6 scallions, white and light green parts cut into 2-inch lengths
3 small, dried red Thai chiles
One 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise (I used 4 cloves only)
1 medium orange, quartered
One 4-inch cinnamon stick
One 4-pound piece of boneless pork shoulder, cut in large chunks
Freshly ground pepper

In an 8-quart pressure cooker, combine the soy sauce, wine, water, vinegar, sugar, scallions, pepper, ginger, garlic, orange and cinnamon stick. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Season the pork with pepper and add it to the pressure cooker. Close and lock the cooker and bring to full pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain pressure and cook for 1 hour or until the pork is very tender. Slowly release the pressure and open the cooker. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cover with foil.

Strain 1 cup of the cooking liquid into a small saucepan; discard the remaining liquid. Boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds and thick, about 5 minutes. Brush a light coating of the sauce over each piece of pork to glaze it. Thinly slice the pork and serve.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve made this dish several times and it’s a favorite,  because we use the meat in different types of meals: over white rice, as a fajita filling (with a shameless, Tex-Mex-Chinese twist), and over mashed potatoes or pasta.  It freezes so well that when I make it for the two of us I save small portions that go straight into storage for easy dinners later.   My pressure cooker is a little smaller than 8 quarts, so I proportionally reduce the amount of liquid to leave enough empty space in the pan.  Sometimes I also reduce the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, but the sauce remains  flavorful.  Depending on the quality of the meat, 1 hour of cooking may not be enough.  In that case simply close the pressure cooker and bring it to full pressure for 15 minutes more.

This was a perfect recipe for us last week when we were back home in Oklahoma. Our poor pressure cooker was feeling neglected, left behind with the crockpot, the mixer, the juicer, and a few other appliances that couldn’t make the trip.   When your ride is a pickup truck and your destination is the nano-kitchen, difficult choices must be made! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Paris, je t’aime

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  1. I don’t have a pressure cooker and have never used one. How would you suggest adapting this recipe for, say, a crockpot/slow cooker? Or would just low and slow braising on the stove-top or in the oven work?


    • Paula, I would do it in the oven, using a Le Creuset type dish or another covered Dutch oven type container. Make sure the liquid goes to 2/3 of the height of the meat, and place a parchment paper over it (inside the covered dish), to contain the steam even further. I would leave it on a 325F oven for 4 hours or more, checking after 3 hours to see how it’s going. You can always add a little water if the liquid reduces too much before the meat is tender, and once it’s all cooked you can just reduce the liquid as Ming Tsai’s recipe calls for.

      This type of recipe is even better made the day before, left in sauce overnight and finished next day, by the way…


    • Back home my Mom makes pot roast quite often in the pressure cooker, but it’s such a common appliance in Brazil, I was surprised when I moved to the US to find out that lots of folks are very afraid of it…


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  3. Oooh, the flavours on this look great. Pressure cookers can be such time savers, though I would be curious to see how this would turn out with the normal low and slow meethodology.


  4. I made this over the weekend and it was wonderful! Very easy to put together and it was a unique flavor. I enjoy finding recipes that are not simply another variation of the same thing I’ve had many times. I used Pinot Noir Barefoot wine, South Indian dried red peppers and green vidalia onions.

    I also shared this with my mother and she made hers in her slow cooker. It took about seven hours, but she doesn’t have a pressure cooker. She said it turned out wonderfully and she would definitely make it again. She also tried my suggested changes in that she lowered the liquid amounts, lowered the sugar (1lb is a lot!), and she tried using thai chili sauce since she didn’t have peppers. In the pressure cooker, the amount of liquid, in my opinion, was too much. Especially considering the liquid released from the pork.

    The wonderful part about the recipe made as listed in the pressure cooker is the dark “crust” that forms on the outside. It made for some gorgeous pictures and it was very tender and flavorful.

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Wonderful! Thanks so much for the feedback, I love it! It is true that it’s A LOT of sugar… and I think the changes you made are perfect! good to know that it works also in a slow cooker. It’s a fantastic recipe which I haven’t made in a while… thanks for bringing it back into my radar!


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