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Red-Cooked Fresh Ham

New format recipe

From Irene Kuo, The Key to Chinese Cooking

Serves: 8


  • fresh ham, shank end, about 7.5 lbs.
  • 2 tbs. oil
  • 6 quarter-sized slices ginger
  • 4 scallions, cut in half
  • Sauce:
    • 1 c. dark soy sauce
    • 3/4 c. dry sherry
    • 5 c. boiling water
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 4-5 tbs. crushed rock sugar
    • 2 whole star anise
    • 1 stick cinnamon, broken in two


  1. Heat large heavy pot until hot. Add oil, swirl to cover bottom and sides of pot, and heat for 30 seconds. Toss in ginger and scallions, press into oil, then add ham and sear it, turning, until surface has whitened.
  2. Add dark soy sauce and 1/4 c. dry sherry. Turn ham from side to side to color it all over. Add boiling water, then scatter in salt, 4 tbs. rock sugar, star anise, and cinnamon sticks. Stir until liquid boils again, cover, and adjust heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Simmer 5 hours, turning and basting meat every hour.
  3. Add another 1/2 c. sherry, and 1 tbs. rock sugar (or to taste). Cover and simmer 30 minutes more, by which time the ham should be glistening and ready to fall apart. Raise heat to bring the sauce to a gentle bubble, and baste meat continuously for 5 minutes to deepen the color of the meat and thicken the sauce.
  4. Carefully lift meat from pot onto serving dish. Skim fat from sauce, bring to a boil, then pour it over the meat, discarding ginger, scallions, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Serve remaining sauce on side.


  • Fresh ham is hard to find. I tried this once with a store-bought cooked ham. My father complimented me on the best ham he'd ever tasted, but I found it bitter around the edges. The second time I made this was on finding a very small (2.5 lb.) "fresh ham" in a Vietnamese grocery store. I cooked it about 3 hours, and got pretty much the result that I expected, except that the meat tasted more like pork loin than ham. Don't know whether that was mislabeling (there was no bone) or the effect of the cooking process, but it was delicious. One of these days I'll find a butcher and order a proper ham.

Keywords: Chinese, Pork, Ham.