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 techniques, 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. It is a flavourful and fatty cut that is perfect for 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, a slow braised pork dish like adobo, or make Thai street-style grilled pork skewers. 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 and it can be intimidating for some to deal with. The roast is made up of various different muscles that look (and taste) slightly different, which I think keeps it interesting. This is also why some pieces don't taste the same as others. It's also got lots of fat (yum) and some connective tissue running throughout the piece which means some parts are a bit chewier. The chewiness will be mitigated by slicing thinly when serving.
Despite its irregular shape, breaking it down is simple—you're literally just cutting it down into log-shaped pieces and don't let the connective tissue or fat get in your way. Cut right through them. Chinese BBQ pork is supposed to be rustic looking anyway!
How About Something Leaner?
Some people like to use pork loin or tenderloin as they are more "straightforward" cuts and they are leaner, not to mention easier to find. Are these okay to use?
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 if using a lean cut, I suggest using a meat thermometer to make sure you don't overcook it. 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 for another 10-15 minutes, which should bring the pork to just about 160-165°F which is well done.
Pork loin and tenderloin are not as flavourful, so it's not my preferred choice, 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.
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Flavourful marinated pork with a sweet-salty glaze, roasted to perfection. It's a classic Chinese BBQ that can be served with rice or noodles. (Prep time above doesn't include 24-48 hr marinating time.)
- 2 lb pork shoulder roast
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 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!
Keywords: char siu, chinese BBQ pork, moo daeng, moo dang, pork