Chinese BBQ Pork – Char Siu
Chinese BBQ pork is loved the world over, and it’s not hard to make at home! With some key ingredients and a couple of technique, it might even be better than buying, actually, it probably will be 🙂 Once done, you can slice and have it wit rice, noodles, use it in a sandwich or a steamed bun. Or just have it straight up!
Choosing Pork for Char Siu:
This is perhaps the most important step. Classically, Chinese BBQ pork uses pork butt, a.k.a. pork shoulder for this dish. It is a flavourful and fatty cut of meat that is perfect for this dry roasting application. I go to the butcher and ask for a pork shoulder roast, something that is at least 5 inches long so you have a nice long-ish piece at the end. It’ll be at least 4 lb, more than what you need for this recipe, but you can double the recipe or save the rest for pulled pork or a beautiful pork stew. Oh, and make sure you get boneless roast so you don’t have to debone it!
The only thing about pork butt is that it is a highly irregular piece of meat. The whole roast is made up of various different muscles that look (and taste) slightly different, which I think keeps it interesting and when you eat char siu. This is also why some pieces don’t taste the same as others. It’s also got lots of fat and some connective tissue running throughout the piece, so it can be a bit intimidating to breakdown for some. But don’t worry, you’re just literally cutting it down into log shaped pieces, cut right through any irregularities, you’ll be fine. Chinese BBQ pork is supposed to be rustic and irregular looking anyway!
How About Something Leaner?
Because of this, some people like to use easier more “manageable cut” for Chinese BBQ pork like pork loin or pork tenderloin. Is that okay to do? Sure, you’re the chef! But please remember that pork loin and tenderloin are extremely lean, and so if you overcook them they become dry very easily. So I would suggest using a meat thermometer, even better, get a leave-in probe thermometer like this one so you are guaranteed to have perfectly cooked pork. For well done pork (typically how char siu is made) you want to get the pork to 155°F and then let it rest, loosely covered in foil for another 10-15 minutes which should bring the pork to just about 165°F which is well done.
Pork loin and tenderloin are also not as naturally flavourful, but if you’re going to end up using the pork in another dish where you will drench it in sauce, it will be fine. But if you want to eat it simply sliced with rice or noodles, you might want to stick with pork butt.
The glaze is what makes this pork shine and glisten and gives it a sweet caramelized crust. I like to just use some honey mixed with a bit of the red bean curd juice, but for an extra oomph of flavour you can also take some of the leftover marinade, heat it up to boiling to cook off raw pork juice, and then combine that with the honey to make a glaze. It’ll be less red that way, but it’ll give you more of the flavours of the spices, either one works well.
- 2 lb pork shoulder roast
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 Tbsp cubes red bean curd + 1 Tbsp liquid
- 1 Tbsp five spice powder
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine, optional
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil, optional
- 2 cloves garlic, finely grated or mashed
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2-3 tsp red bean curd liquid or cooked leftover marinade
Cut the pork roast, along the direction of the meat's grain, into long strips no larger than 2-inch thick. You can trim off big chunks of fat but don't trim off too much.
In a small mixing bowl, mash the red bean curd until there are no more big chunks. Add all remaining ingredients (except for the glaze ingredients) and whisk until combined.
Pour the marinade over the pork and make sure all pieces are coated. Marinate in the fridge for 24-48 hours (do not do less than this!), turning the pork half way through to ensure even distribution of marinade.
When ready to roast, preheat the oven at 375°F/190°C convection (if your oven has a fan) or 400°F/200°C regular (no fan).
Line a baking sheet with foil then put a roasting rack on it. Place the pork on the rack. Roast for 15 minutes.
While the pork is roasting, combine the honey and the red bean curd liquid (or cooked leftover marinade) to make the glaze.
Remove the pork after 15 minutes, brush the glaze on it (don't worry about the bottom side), then put it back for another 5-7 minutes or until the glaze has dried onto the pork.
Remove the pork and glaze again, then put it back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes.
Glaze the pork again (you should glaze a total of 3 times), then roast until the pork is done. If using a thermometer, the internal temp should reach 155°F before removing from the oven.
If the pork has not browned or charred to your liking at this point, you can switch the oven to "broil" and broil the pork on the top rack, with the oven door open, for a few minutes to get some charring.
Let the pork rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and eating. Enjoy!