U’ng zao (red lees or ang chao in Hokkein) is veritable red gold for any Foochow cook. U’ng zao is the sediment from making u’ng jiu, Foochow red wine. It is the seminal ingredient in the famous Foochow dish, zao cai hoon ngan (rice noodle with mustard green pickled in red lees), and also gives a very unique flavour to savoury dishes. The red lees is sweet, a little tangy and quite alcoholic, like the wine. U’ng zao can keep for many months in the fridge; a little goes a long way.
I guard my supply of u’ng zao jealously, though Mum now has a friend who makes these and she brings yearly supplies from Christchurch (a.k.a. the Foochow capital of NZ). I typically use u’ng zao to marinate pork belly or chicken before roasting.
The colour of u’ng zao is simply stunning, – vivid crimson, which this dish displays in all its glory. I grew up with this dish, but surprisingly, had never cooked it. A quick phone call home put an end to that.
500g pork belly (without bone) sliced into small pieces
1 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine (or Foochow red wine if you have some)
1 heaped Tbsp u’ng zao
5cm ginger, julienned
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Heat a Tbsp of oil in a heavy based pan or pot. Sauté the ginger and garlic under medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the pork and fry until cooked and lightly browned.
Add the u’ng zao and salt and stir until the pork pieces are well coated. Add 100mL water and Chinese cooking wine. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until meat is tender.
Add sugar to taste. Reduce the liquid if you prefer a thicker gravy. Serve with rice and sautéed pak choy.