There’s nothing like Char Siu. That sweet, savory and tangy Chinese BBQ pork would send most meat lovers drooling. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods and I have many fond memories of my father returning from work with styrofoam containers filled with this delicious treat. Recently I picked up the book Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, And More by Andrea Nguyen and flipping through the pages I discovered a recipe for this delicacy that I had to try out.
The one thing I noted from reading the recipe inside this book is that it’s remarkably easy. I’m not sure if this is how Chinese restaurants make Char Siu, but the taste is remarkably close if not better than what I’ve eaten. So beware – if you make this chances are you’re family will want you to make it more often. I have 2 picky eaters when it comes to eating meat and more often than not one will eat what is put in front of them and the other will refuse. This is one of those rare recipes that they both agree is yummy!
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 4 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 3 tablespoons of quality honey
- 2 tablespoons of Chinese rice wine
- 3 tablespoons of light/regular soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons of black bean sauce (my variation)
- 2 1/2 pounds of pork shoulder
- Rimmed Baking sheet lined with tinfoil.
- A wire roasting rack to cook the meat on. I used one that came with a turkey roaster.
Step #1 – Slicing the pork
Your first step is to cut the pork shoulder lengthwise in 6 inch strips. The author recommends 1.5 inches in thickness; when I made this for the first time I ended up only making my strips a half inch thick! I almost thought it was ruined, but it turns out it’s less fussy making thinner strips. The marinade ends up penetrating more of the meat with the thinner cut, plus it’s the right thickness for children to eat properly.
Step #2 – Making the Marinade
Whisk all of the ingredients together. Place the pork in a ziplock bag or deep baking dish and pour in the marinade; reserve up to a third of the marinade for basting during the cooking process. Make sure everything is mixed well together and let it sit 6 to 8 hours in the fridge.
Step #4 – Cook the meat
If you’ve cut your meat to 1.5 inch thick strips, preheat your oven to 475F; if you did what I did, 350 degrees will be fine. Position your rack in the upper third of the oven. Place your roasting rack on top of the tin-foil lined baking sheet and place your strips of pork on top. Keep about 1 inch of space in between to promote air circulation. With the amount of meat given in the recipe you may need to cook two batches depending on the size of your roasting rack.
Cook the meat for 30-35 minutes and baste every 10 minutes. If you’ve used a large enough bowl for the reserved marinade just use tongs to grab the meat and dunk it in liquid. Otherwise a basting brush is fine, although not as entertaining flinging around hot chunks of pork around.
The pork is done when it’s slightly charred and registering 145F on a meat thermometer.
Step #5 – Let the Char Siu Rest
You will be tempted to slice into the meat right away, but don’t! You want to let the Char Siu rest for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute into the meat and not spill out like a flood when you cut into it – there’s nothing worse than having tough, dried meat because you were impatient. You can wrap it tightly and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I luckily had a few small chunks that I intended to slice up immediately for tasting and it was fantastic. I’m a pretty good cook, but there has been very few times that I can truly say I experienced bliss with something I’ve made. This is one of those rare times that I had an OMG moment and when my 6 year old daughter tried some it was very difficult for me to make her stop eating. This recipe is so simple that I’m sure that even the clumsiest of home cooks can’t mess it up so it’s no excuse that you can’t try making this delicious Chinese delicacy for yourself.
If you Google for “Char Siu” all of the recipes are fairly similar with the amounts being the main difference. So you are free to adjust the marinade to your liking as it appears to be very forgiving. I’ve seen some exchanging hoison sauce with oyster sauce, but one ingredient in particular is either mentioned or not mentioned which is taucheo – soybean paste that I’ve never seen at major supermarket. You may not appreciate it’s taste, but I found that adding 3 to 4 tablespoons of black bean sauce gives the meat a bit of tanginess that’s missing. Try the recipe with or without the bean paste/sauce – you may notice it at all.
Still not Convinced? The Meat Men will change your mind
If you’re still not convinced to try this Char Siu recipe, watch this video from the Meat Men. I’m certain you’ll want to try it for yourself. Just be aware that the recipe shown doubles the quantity of meat, but I’m sure you’ll find a good use for 2kgs once you’ve tasted it.
Let me know in the comments section below if you’ve tried this recipe. I’d love to hear if you’ve made any changes. I’ll post more results from the book Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, And More; if the Char Siu is any indication, this book is a winner.