Red stewing is uniquely Chinese, similar to ordinary stewing, but here the food is cooked in large quantities of soy sauce and water rather than in water alone. It is the soy sauce that makes the dish rich, tasty, and reddish brown. It is usually made of pork, beef, ham, chicken, duck, or carp. When these are prepared without soy sauce, but by the same technique, the color will always be light.
The technique is essentially that employed for making a general stew. The meat is browned and then the liquid is introduced and brought to a boil over high heat, which is progressively reduced until quite low. Red stewing is used primarily for cooking meats. Vegetables if included, are added later just before serving or towards the end of cooking. Various seasonings, flavors and condiments are added to red-stewed dishes such as soy, sherry, ginger, scallions, cilantro and many more.
Stewing is also a slow process and the meats may stew one to six hours, depending on the cut of meat, and may even he cooked a day ahead and rewarmed. In fact, with some dishes the flavor may be enhanced if the stew is refrigerated. It may be kept so for a week and sometimes reheated a number of times without harm. When served cold, vegetables should not be added. Hung-shu bean cake, squab, and chicken are commonly served cold. Cooked stew can also be poured into a mold and chilled, so that the sauce will become a rich aspic.
In Chinese cooking, Red cooking is a slow braising cooking technique that imparts a red color to the prepared food. There are two types of red cooking: “Hong Shao” which can be done in less than 20 minutes and usually does not require much water. And “Lu” which usually requires prolonged cooking of up to several hours and the items must be submerged in the cooking liquid.
Red cooking is popular throughout most of northern, eastern, and southeastern China. The name is derived from the dark red-brown colour of the cooked items and its sauce.