Chinese BBQ pork (char siu) 蜜汁叉燒

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Chinese BBQ pork or “char siu” is a awesome Chinese dish that is delicious comfort food for any meal, with a familiar taste no matter where it is served.

Char siu is a Cantonese dish where skewers of pork meat are marinated in a honey hoisin sauce, and then roast in oven to charred, savory, and sticky sweet perfection.  I would venture to say that if there is a staple in Chinese cooking, I think char siu would be a great candidate.  I’ve seen it served at traditional Chinese weddings, eaten at Chinese New Year, and incorporated in a multitude of other Chinese style cuisines such as fried rice, noodle soup, egg dishes, and certain baked favorites.

There are certain secret ingredients to the best char siu, which I am happy to share here.

Good meat – if you prefer your char siu tender, juicy, moist, and a little fatty, I recommend that you use pork belly.  If you prefer a more meaty recipe, then go for pork loin.  If you like it somewhere in between, then pork butt will be a great choice.  This cut of pork is from the upper part of the shoulder next to the shoulder blade.  Personally, I like having some fattiness in my meat choice to give it that extra taste in addition to tenderness.
Maltose – also called “maiya tang” (麦芽糖) in Chinese.  Maltose is what gives char siu that sticky texture.  If you don’t like working with Maltose (because I admit it is SO messy), you can omit it and just use honey instead.  I also use honey as the after baking to give it that extra layer of taste upon touching the palate.  The honey also gives it that shiny, juicy look when served.
Chinese rose wine (玫瑰露酒) – this ingredient gives a very nice fragrance that is familiar to those who are connoisseurs of this recipe.
Chinese five-spice powder (五香粉) – this is popularly used in Chinese cuisine or just Asian dishes in general.  I find that while this ingredient is used widely in restaurant cooking, a lot of Chinese households do not use it on a daily basis.

My recipe has been refined three times; each time I made tiny improvements and asked my father-in-law for his honest critique.  He is quite the connoisseur for char siu, just like my husband!  And to my delight, they have told me that my recipe is better than any Chinese restaurant they have tried.  It turned out to be deliciously juicy, moist, and tender, with the right amount of sweetness.

Warning:  Feedback shows that the results are positively addicting that the suggested quantities may not be sufficient.  If you are feeding a houseful of guests or meat lovers, please consider doubling the recipe.  Individual results may vary.

Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)

 Grocery list

2 lbs pork shoulder chuck (pork blade steak), 梅頭瘦肉
1/4 cup liquid honey
1/4 cup maltose, 麦芽糖
1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 海鮮醬
3 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce, 老抽
3 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce, 生抽
3 tbsp Rose Wine, 玫瑰露酒
1 1/4 tsp five spice powder, 五香粉
3 dashes of white pepper powder


Rinse the pork and cut lengthwise into strips about 3/4-inch thick.  Place the meat in a shallow bowl or casserole pan.

Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)  Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)  Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)

Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan or saucier.  Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until well blended and thickened (approx. 5 – 8 minutes).  Remove from heat and let cool.

Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)  Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)  Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)

Pour over the meat to coat well.  Let marinate for at least 3 hours at room temperature, but the best flavor comes from marinating overnight in the refrigerator.

Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)

I made this recipe again, this time using a leaner cut of pork butt.  It turned out just as delicious!  Here is how it looks like when marinating:

Transfer the marinated meat to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bring it up to room temperature.

Meanwhile, position an oven rack in the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 375oF.  Roast for 15 minutes on one side, and then turn over the meat and roast for 15 minutes on the other side.

Heat the oven’s broiler to high.  With oven mitts, position an oven rack about 4 inches from the broiler.  Brush the meat with some honey and broil the pork until it is slightly charred in some places.

Slice the meat into bite-size pieces and serve with the remaining marinade sauce immediately with steamed white rice or hot noodles.

Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)  Chinese BBQ pork (char siu)


Related posts:

  1. Braised pork trotters (滷豬手)
  2. Chinese New Year red date cake 紅棗年糕
  3. Dan Dan Noodles 担担面
18 Responses to Chinese BBQ pork (char siu) 蜜汁叉燒
  1. Jill Mant~a SaucyCook
    January 16, 2012 | 9:04 pm

    Oh my God this looks so good! I absolutely must try this. This is my first visit to your blog, but it won’t be my last. Your recipes look wonderful, your photo’s are beautiful and I love the stories you weave through your posts. Cheers!

    • Dr. Grace
      January 16, 2012 | 9:12 pm

      Thank you for your comment! I’d love to hear how it goes! By the way, I like the name of your blog; very creative.

      • Jill Mant~a SaucyCook
        January 23, 2012 | 10:45 am

        Hello Dr. Grace,

        Well I made your Char Siu last night for my Chinese New Years Dinner Party. I made it will Pork Belly (rind removed) and I marinaded it for 24 hours. The only issue I had with the recipe was that you do not suggest to people that they really should double the recipe. Even with two appetisers, a Green Papaya Salad (yes, I know this is Thai), General Tso’s Chicken, Rice and Spicy Eggplant my company devoured the whole two pounds of pork! Thanks again for this wonderful recipe. Despite the fact that you are an over achiever I will continue to follow your blog!!

        • Dr. Grace
          January 23, 2012 | 3:50 pm

          Hi Jill! Thank you kindly for your comment and suggestion! Done. I have included a suggestion in my Char Siu post to consider doubling the recipe when necessary. I’m so glad to hear that you and your guests enjoyed it; it really makes my day to provide something that will bring smiles around the table. Green papaya salad is a great idea! Your General Tso’s chicken recipe looks delicious!!

  2. Sandy
    February 2, 2012 | 5:49 pm

    I will definitely try this recipy. Thanks for the tutorial it is very clear and with my anniversary coming soon is the perfect oportunity to try such an interesting dish.

    • Dr. Grace
      February 2, 2012 | 6:19 pm

      Happy anniversary, Sandy! Let me know how it goes! :)

  3. Cinthia
    February 7, 2012 | 6:16 pm

    This pork looks amazing, not only I bet it tastes delicious, but the color is exquisite to the eye too. A white rice would go perfect with this meat.

    • Dr. Grace
      February 8, 2012 | 9:25 pm

      You’re welcome to try it out sometime; let me know how it goes! White rice, bed of noodles, noodle in soup…. this pork goes well in many places! :)

  4. sun
    January 31, 2013 | 9:50 am

    First of all, I want to say thanks for the great recipe! It was delicious. I grew up eating char siu and I’ve always wanted to learn how to make it. My parents don’t know how because they usually just buy it at the butcher’s since it’s so cheap. After searching online for hours I decided to try your recipe. I made a variation of this last night – I didn’t have maltose so I substituted with honey, and I didn’t have rose wine so I used red rice wine (Shaoxing) instead. I’ve seen a lot of recipes use this wine.
    So, it turned out fantastic! But not quite like the butcher’s and I was hoping you could help me figure out why. I noticed that your char siu is considerably more red than mine. Did you use food colouring? Also, even though I left my pork belly to marinade for 24 hours, when I cut it open I noticed that the colour didn’t infuse into the meat – the colour was only on the outside. So I wonder if mine didn’t absorb as much flavour as yours?
    I will definitely try this recipe again (hopefully with some suggestions from you). I think I’ll also use less hoisin sauce next time because the flavour was more hoisin-y than I’m used to.

    • Dr. Grace
      May 3, 2013 | 12:10 pm

      Thanks for stumbling onto my site and leaving this wonderful comment! I’m so glad you liked my recipe, it took me a couple tries to perfect it. Good call about using Shaoxing wine, I’ll have to try that. I think the infusion of redness has to do with how lean your cut of meat is. I tried my recipe again on a leaner cut of meat (about 70-80% lean), and I also noticed that the color was only on the outside. This is not a problem though, although I understand that it looks better with more color.

      So I tried it again on a cut of meat marbled with fat (about 50-60% lean), and it was wonderful. When you marinade overnight in the fridge, be sure to bring it to room temperature before putting it in the oven. Also try cutting your meat into thinner strips before marinating. Just a tip: if you want a greater infusion of flavor, I know that the butchers and restaurants out there stretch out the meet between skewers and roast it stretched like that.

      This is a bold suggestion, but try adding some fermented bean paste to your marinade if you want to use less hoisin sauce. I hope this helps! So sorry for taking so long to reply!!!

  5. Susan
    March 13, 2013 | 12:03 pm

    This recipe is the real deal! I usually don’t comment on recipes I find online, but I love char siu rou and never thought I’d be able to make it at home. I did and it’s delicious! Honestly, it ranks right up there with the best I’ve had. The only thing that I changed is lowering the temperature of cooking to try to make it more moist. Thanks so much!

    • Dr. Grace
      May 3, 2013 | 12:14 pm

      Thank you for your wonderful comment! I’m so glad you stumbled on my site and enjoyed my char siu recipe. And I appreciate your tip! I’ll try lowering the temperature as well! :)

  6. Terrance Cleveland
    April 5, 2013 | 8:29 am

    I had been looking for a char siu recipe for a while. This is the best one I have found. The addition of honey at the end really made it perfect! I am looking forward to reading your blog!

    • Dr. Grace
      May 3, 2013 | 12:16 pm

      Thank you for your kindness! I discovered you can either add honey or more maltose at the end; they both work. :) I’m so glad you enjoyed my char siu recipe, and I hope to hear more about your culinary adventures!

  7. Jay
    May 9, 2013 | 9:40 am

    I made this recipe last night with a few changes and I thought it was fantastic. It will definitely become one of my “show pieces.”
    I didn’t have any maltose, so I doubled the honey. I also doubled the hoisin sauce. I didn’t know what Rose Wine was, but I had some Mirin, I used a fourth a cup. I threw in 2 dashes each of onion and garlic powder and some fresh ground ginger to taste.
    My oven is small, so I baked on the middle rack, and with the changes I guess it didn’t end up needing the broiler because it ended up caramelizing at 375 with the same cook times you used.
    I know it seems like a lot of changes but you did all the work. Thanks Dr. Grace!

    • Dr. Grace
      May 26, 2013 | 5:19 pm

      Hi Jay! So glad you stumbled upon my blog and tried this recipe! Sounds like you had a great time perfecting it with what you have, and I’m certain your guests enjoyed it very much. I’ll have to try your version asap. :)

  8. Jonathan
    December 22, 2013 | 8:53 pm

    I made this delicious recipe this weekend and my family LOVED it. Question. in the main marinade is it 1/4 of honey AND 1/4 maltose? Or is it a 1/4 of maltose and the other 1/4 of honey is for the glazing at the. THANKS!!

    • Dr. Grace
      December 28, 2013 | 11:44 pm

      Yes, I put both honey and maltose in the marinade. For the glaze I just brushed with honey before broiling. Hope this helps! Glad you enjoyed my recipe.

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