There are two types of red cooking:
- hongshao (simplified Chinese: 红烧; traditional Chinese: 紅燒; pinyin: hóngshāo): can be done in less than 20 minutes and usually does not require much water
- lu (simplified Chinese: 卤; traditional Chinese: 滷; pinyin: lǔ): 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.
Soy sauce (usually a mix of light and dark soy sauce), fermented bean paste, red fermented tofu or caramelized sugar is commonly used to give an appetising reddish brown hue and flavor to the items being cooked. Food coloring is sometimes added for a more intense red. Both lu and hongshao are forms of stewing or braising and are characterised by the use of soy sauce, Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing wine, huangjiu etc.) and caramelized sugar. Whole spices (star anise, black cardamom (caoguo), cassia, and/or fennel seeds) or five-spice powder are crucial elements in these dishes but are used in moderation so that their flavors do not overwhelm the main ingredients.
Red-cooked stews may be heavy in meat content or contain a variety of meats, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. Such dishes may be served hot or cold, and the sauce or stock is often reused as master stock.
- Charmaine Solomon's Encyclopedia of Asian Food, Charmaine Solomon, 1998, Tuttle, ISBN 962-593-417-0
- Chinese Cooking for Dummies, Martin Yan, 2000, For Dummies, ISBN 0-7645-5247-3
- Martin Yan's Invitation to Chinese Cooking, Martin Yan, 2000, Bay Books, ISBN 1-57959-504-9
- Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Modern Chinese Dictionary), Shang Wu Press, Beijing, 1996, ISBN 7-100-01777-7