Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CHAR SIU (叉燒) / CHAR SHAO (Chinese Barbecue Pork)

You will see the eyes of any Chinese person literally light up at the mention of Char Siu, especially good Char Siu !  It is a classic and it is classified as a type of siu mei (燒味), Cantonese Roasted Meats.   I may be slightly partial but the Chinese do their barbecue well and the flavors of Chinese roasted meats is hard to match and beat.  

The sight of bad Char Siu turns off your appetite especially when even the color is not of the correct red hue - it looks anemic, dry, lifeless and unappetizing. 

Char siu is a Cantonese word that translates into “fork burned”, which describes the traditional method of skewering the meat on a long fork and roasting it on spits over an open fire.  Char Siu is very versatile, it goes well with rice, noodles, stir-fry dishes, wrapped in a bun or simply all alone by itself.  My first bite of excellent Char Siu (prepared the traditional way) is when I was under 10 years of age and it was an unforgettable experience.  Today, that bite still lingers in my memory.  It is my personal quest to continue to improve my Char Siu each time I make a batch.  

I hope that this recipe will help you make some finger-licking good Char Siu right in your own kitchen.


1 pound pork belly without skin or boneless pork butt (which is front shoulder meat)

2 Tbs. Rose Wine (Mui Kwai Lo 玫瑰露酒)
2 Tbs. Dark Soy
1 Tbs. Light Soy
2 Tbs. sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
1 tsp. five-spice powder

1 Tbs. honey for glazing

Pre-heat oven to 325 F and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
Cut cleaned and dried pork into 2" strips and prick the meat with skewer all over.
Mix marinade in a small bowl and rub all over the meat.
Let the meat marinate in a ziploc bag for at least 2 hours, overnight is ideal.
Drain meat of excess marinade and place pork strips on wire rack placed on a roasting pan or baking sheet (lined with 2 layers of foil).
Brush the top part of the meat with honey and roast for 45 minutes.
Flip the pork half way through and brush the other side with honey.
Turn the oven to broil and broil pork until evenly browned (7-9 minutes)
Turn meat over to the other side and broil an additional of 7-9 minutes.
The pork will look a bit charred in different areas especially the ends.
Let the meat rest for 10 minutes, slice and serve.

Note:  It is worthwhile to make a few batches of Char Siu and keep extras well-wrapped in your freezer as it will brighten any stir-fry, a good addition to fried rice, make a filling for buns or a stand alone for an appetizer.  Also, not forgetting that when you assemble some slices of Char Siu and some sliced cucumbers over a piping plate of hot rice you will have a delicious meal of Char Siu Rice on short order.