I learned one variation of hongshao rou from a family in Shanghai that had neither chili nor spice; I felt something was missing. I’d learned hóngshāo yu (red-braised fish), hóngshāo shanyu (red-braised eel), hóngshāo tuji (red-braised organic chicken), and hóngshāo zhuti (red-braised pig’s feet); all of which included fragrant spices like star anise, chilies, Sichuan peppercorn, cassia bark, and black cardamom. I prefer hóngshāo ròu with a little heat from chilies and some aromatic soul. Hóngshāo ròu is a simple dish and deserves every spice and minute you can give to its perfection.
Make this version and give it your own flavor. If you don't have Chinese wine, bourbon works super fine.