When I was a kid, I ate a lot of barbecue pork, or char siu. It was a busy weeknight dinner staple, something we’d have about twice a month. Chinese takeout, as we knew it, was usually char siu, roasted pork, soy sauce chicken or roast duck with some greens and white rice.
Nothing beats hot, steamy white rice with sticky, glistening red char siu and a sunny-side up fried egg. Breaking into the runny yellow yolk of the egg with my chopsticks and mixing it into the rice was my favourite part. Char siu with rice is comfort food at it’s best.
My mom never made char siu at home, much like bánh mi, most people don’t tend to make char siu when they can buy perfectly delicious barbecue pork at a Chinese butcher. Traditionally, char siu, which means “fork roast or fork burn,” is made by roasting marinated pork over a fire. The trademark red colour comes from food colouring.
Char siu is a favourite of Mike’s, so I’ve made quite a bit of it over the years; this is the recipe that works best for me. Unfortunately I don’t have any open flames at home so I’ve created a way to make char siu in the oven. There’s no red food colouring in my recipe so your pork won’t end up the colour of the hanging pieces of pork you see in the roast meat window, but it will be terrifically juicy, tender, sweet and savoury.
Chinese Barbecue Pork/Char Siu Recipe
2 pounds pork butt cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons maltose (you can find this at most Asian grocery stores)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
half a head of garlic, peeled and sliced
1. Combine all the ingredients except the pork in a small sauce pan and simmer on medium heat until the maltose and honey are melted and the sauce is slightly thickened. Cool completely.
2. Marinate the pork in about 3/4 of the sauce overnight in the fridge. Give the pork a couple of turns in the sauce to make sure that all sides have marinade on them. Save the remaining sauce in a container in the fridge in a separate container.
3. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Shake the excess sauce off the pork and roast the pieces on a rack over a roasting dish that you’ve lined with tin foil.
4. The char siu should be cooked after about 45 minutes depending on the size of your meat. The internal temperature of the pork should be 160˚F.
5. To char your char siu, brush the pork with the remaining reserved marinade and turn the oven up to broil. Turn the pieces to char on all sides. Keep a close eye on your pork, this won’t take long.
6. Slice and enjoy. I love char siu with rice and a fried egg or with some ginger scallion noodles, but you can enjoy it any way you like!