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.