Ok, I have done it.
It seems like every Chinese blogger that I could put my finger to has a recipe for Chinese bbq pork or more fondly known as char siu. Together with siu yuk (crispy pork belly), these two are perhaps the two most blogged about dishes among the Chinese community. And it doesn't surprise me one bit as these two dishes are vastly popular, not only among the Chinese, but also in Western countries. This char siu, it is almost like an icon for Chinese cuisines. You could find its charred bit of succulent, juicy, tender, sweetish savoury portion hanging in the windows of practically every Chinese restaurants around the world.
So what makes a good char siu? Here's my take...
1. The taste. The most basic requirement of any cuisines. It has to taste good, right? In this case, it should be sweet, balanced with a certain degree of saltiness. You would be surprised at the amount of sugar required to get that perfect sweetish taste. No compromise here. It has to be sweet or else it is not char siu. The char siu must also have a good amount of smokiness resulting from the charcoal burnt caramelised sugar.
2. The Glaze. It is not a possibility, it is a necessity. The char siu MUST have that ultimate glossy charred sauce coating every bit of the meat. If there is no thick sticky glaze, it is not a worthy piece. Not only people eat with their eyes, the glaze is also where most of the taste is concentrated, all in its reduced and caramelised glory.
3. The texture. Juicy and tender but at the same time not too oily. This can be achieved by cooking the meat with just the right temperature. Overcook your meat, and it will become tough. Traditionally, pork shoulder/neck is used to make char siu but some genius came out with the idea of using pork belly. And like they say, the rest is history. It has become my favourite cut for making char siu ever since. The layering of fats oils and protects the meat from being tough, providing a good balance to the bite. The burned fat itself exude the perfect fragrance to complement this bbq pork. Absolutely divine.
Making char siu is not difficult at all. But if you managed to make good char siu out of this recipe, it is not entirely my contribution either. You see, I could only help with the marinade. The appearance, the charring and the texture which makes the char siu, depend on your oven and how well you control the temperature. So, my piece of advice, get to know your oven and work around it. Happy trying!
Recipe for Chinese Bbq Pork/Char Siu 叉燒Ingredients
450 g pork belly, cut into 1.5 inch wide strips
1 tbsp maltose (could be replaced with honey)
1 inch cube red fermented tofu (nam yue), mashed
5 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp Shao Xing wine
2 drops red colouring (optional)
1. Cut away the pork belly skin. Cut the pork belly into strips of about 2 inches wide. Wash and dry completely.
2. Combine ingredients for marinade together and mix well.
3. Add in pork belly. Make sure the meat is covered with the marinade completely. Cover and leave to marinade overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 250C. Remove pork from fridge and arrange on a wire rack with a lined baking tray below (to collect the drippings). Put meat on the highest rack. Bake for 12 minutes, turning once.
5. Meanwhile, reduce the marinade and add in the maltose. Immediately, the marinate would turn glossy. Continue to simmer marinate in until it becomes as thick as possible.
6. Remove pork from oven and dunk pork into the pot of thickened sauce. Coat the pork thoroughly. Return to the oven. The pork should be as near to the heat source as possible in order to get a nice caramelisation and char. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, turning once to get an even char on both sides (Can also use grill function). Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
7. For sauce, deglaze the thickened sauce in the pot with a little water and add 1/2 tsp of soy sauce if necessary.
You could replace pork belly with other cuts if you prefer something leaner. Add one tablespoon of oil into the marinade if you are using lean meat instead.
Find out how to cook Siu Yuk (Crispy Pork Belly) here: