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.
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.
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.
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.
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.