Chinese Barbequed (BBQ) Pork

Chinese BBQ Pork recipe red

char siuIt’s incredibly hard to turn down a proper Char Siu (叉燒) / Cha Shao. For those of you who live in big metropolises with a China Town nearby, you have your pick of Char Siu – over rice, over ramen, in a sandwich, along side veggies, in a bun, stir-fried with rice, or even hanging up in a window. There are plenty, plenty of ways to enjoy or cook this little bit of heaven.

I am not saying this is the best Char Siu recipe outside China, but it can definitely hold it’s own and is deliciously Cantonese without a ton of salt. You don’t have to believe me. Make the recipe for yourself.

What I have learned over the years is that the majority of Char Siu recipes “seem” to have some type of hoisin, soy sauce, five-spice powder (not the good kind either), honey, garlic, ginger, rice wine-esk flavorings. Now reading and researching dozens of Char Siu (叉燒) recipes I have been able to rule out ingredients like ketchup, chicken stock / powder, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and citrus – these are just odd. It also does not seem to flow with the history of a Cantonese BBQ pork.

Char Siu Ingredients That Seem 100% Authentic

  • Maltose for the glaze (brown sugar will do)
  • Soy sauce
  • Hoisin
  • Star anise

I judge these based on what was “readily” available and affordable in old China and what would have been brought over during those earlier years in America. What would have been produced? I am also going off of dozens of recipes I found online, some of which were Chinese food bloggers. Also the taste/color largely comes from yeasty things like rice wine or fermented red bean curd.

Char Siu RecipeHow to Make Char Siu

  1. There should be soy sauce to some level. It was staple then and still is now.
  2. A sugary glaze made from brown sugar or maltose.
  3. Hoisin which is sweet potato and spices – a prolific crop in Asia. It adds a deep, robust sweetness.
  4. Fermented red bean curd has been made for many, many years. It has a natural red dye to it which is imparted into the pork with the help of the ethanol/wine that it sits in.
  5. Star anise or even some rose water extract
  6. Some sort of cooked off alcohol (e.g. Shao Shing), The salts help to break the proteins down which again concentrates the flavors.
  7. Pork butt (or shoulder) seems to be the consensus among cooks for the fat content. It makes it juicy and using just a tenderloin tends to dry out during the grilling or broiling. I’m a butt person myself. Hey now!
  8. No matter what, overnight in the marinade is mandatory. A couple hours won’t cut it.

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