Char siu or sometimes spelled as ‘char siew’ is a popular Chinese barbecued pork and is one of the most delicious meat dishes. Authentic char siu recipe uses particular pork cuts marinated with a mixture of sauces, condiments and aromatics. The meat is then glazed and roasted using the marinade which is the most important ingredient in resulting the perfect char siu pork. However, choosing the right pork cuts also plays an important role to the taste.
Char siu sauce or marinade
Char siu sauces can be bought off the shelves. This recipe provides you with a guide to making your own Chinese BBQ pork sauce. The base of the marinade is hoisin sauce, which is then mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, five-spice powder besides others.
Char siu without red food colouring
In many Hong Kong, Singaporean or Malaysian restaurants, char siu has a hint of redness to it. It comes from the red food colouring to give it a nice shade. The red tone causes the char siu to be reddish around the edges which are clearly visible when it is cut into slices. For a natural shade of the colouring, red fermented tofu is used instead in this recipe.
Which pork cut is best for char siu?
This depends on your preference. The best cut to use is the pork butt which is also known as Boston butt located on the back of the pig, just behind the head. Pork butt is popular for making char siu as it contains a good amount of marbled fats and connective tissues. When grilled or roasted slowly, the fats and connective tissues melt resulting in delicious flavours.
Pork belly, on the other hand, results in a more fatty char siu. However, if you are looking for leaner char siu, go for pork loin which has a lesser amount of fat.
Char siu over a charcoal grill or in the oven?
In this recipe, I used the oven to roast the char siu but it would be best if you could barbecue it over a charcoal fire. The smoky flavour would further enhance the taste of the meat.
For me, the best part of the char siu is the edges that are slightly charred during the roasting process. These make the meat more fragrant. As it roasts in the oven, it absorbs the honey mixture creating a layer of sweet and savoury coating on the meat, thus making it lip-smacking good.
You may also use a ‘S’ shaped metal hook sold in hardware stores to hang the pieces of char siu in the oven.
‘Halal’ chicken char siu
Instead of using pork, you can use chicken in this recipe. In fact, we've had someone from the community who made this recipe with chicken to sell in his local Ramadan bazaar. For a halal version, omit the wine from the recipe.