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back in action

Recipe: chinese barbecue char siu pork

H’okay! I can now stand and sit for longer than 15 minutes at a time without breaking into a cold sweat and THAT my friends, is a GREAT feeling. I’ve been watching the snow falling outside our house all week long and I just keep telling myself that it’s laying down a good base for the rest of the season. Not being able to stand or sit for long also means I’m now well behind in just about EVERYTHING I had planned this month. However, being forced to stay inside means that I actually read the user’s manual when this arrived in the mail.

nikon 1 v1

just a little bigger than the iphone

We’re still getting to know each other, but it’s a nice addition to my Nikon family. I think I’ll call it Baby Bear. I’m kidding – I don’t name my cameras. This one will get a lot of miles in the backcountry and on the slopes this winter and spring (and hopefully summer too). I can’t get over how small it is and how well it performs so far…

test shot on the v1

test shot on the d3x

snowy boulder (v1)

Before my back went to hell in a handbasket, I had tested out a recipe that is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s Chinese and it’s pork, so yeah – that makes complete sense. Char siu pork or Chinese barbecue pork was this special treat you could get at the good Chinese restaurants back in the day. They would serve it sliced with the cold appetizer plate or more commonly we’d have it in the barbecue pork steamed buns at dim sum. My sister and I used to fight over these, we loved them so much. She usually won.

five spice, white pepper, garlic, honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, shaoxing wine, oil, pork

heat honey, hoisin, soy sauce, shaoxing wine, spices, and sesame oil together

People have often asked me if I have a recipe for Chinese barbecue pork, and I never did. This wasn’t something our family made at home. That didn’t mean I wasn’t wanting to learn to make it though. I’ve searched through a lot of recipes and made my decision based on what sounded right. The traditional barbecue pork is pink in color because of red food coloring, but I opted out of that. And a few of my trusted recipe sources called for maltose which my local Asian grocer did not carry. I subbed in honey for the maltose.

slicing the pork shoulder

sauce, pork shoulder, and minced garlic

Which cut of pork should you use? Your choice, really. If you like tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth then pork belly is the obvious choice. If you prefer lean cuts, then pork tenderloin. Somewhere in between the two is the pork shoulder (also called pork butt) which is what I wanted.

marinate the pork with the garlic and some of the sauce

mix the oil in with the remaining sauce

I let the pork strips marinate for 24 hours. I’m a big fan of pushing that marinate time as far as it can go. Once the pork was ready, the strips were roasted in the oven for fifteen minutes. Then they were skewered and finished on the grill, basted in the remaining sauce… in the snow. That’s how we roll.

roast in the oven

skewer the pork

baste and grill

The purpose of the maltose is to create a nice crispy exterior as the sugar caramelizes during the grilling. Maltose is more viscous than honey, and sticks to the meat better. But… I found the honey substitute to be perfectly fine and we still managed to get a nice finish on the pork with our gas grill.

hot off the grill

slice the pork

I’ll fess up. I doubled the recipe in anticipation of my plans for the pork. Chinese barbecue pork is great on steamed rice, in fried rice, on noodles, in steamed buns (bao), or by itself. The flavor is spot on with the best of them. I worried that the texture might be too tough since I only cook pork shoulder until it is falling-apart tender, but it had the right chew to it (and not tough). When I spoke to my mom on the phone and mentioned that I made char siu pork, she immediately exclaimed, “Have you posted the recipe?” So I’ve let this one jump the queue for my mom. I’m sure you’d do the same for your mom.

char siu pork on ramen

Chinese Barbecue Char Siu Pork
[print recipe]
from Rasa Malaysia

1 lb. pork shoulder (cut into 4 pieces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsps cooking oil

1 1/2 tbsps maltose (or sub with honey)
1 1/2 tbsps honey
1 1/2 tbsps hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
1/8 tsp white pepper
3 drops red food coloring, optional (I omitted)
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until blended and let come to a bubble. It should thicken a little. Remove from heat and let cool. Mine came out to just under a half cup in volume. Place the pork, garlic, and 2/3 of the sauce in a ziploc bag or container. Mix together well, seal or cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours. Whisk the cooking oil into the remaining sauce (remember, you only used 2/3s of it for the pork) until emulsified and store covered in the refrigerator. When the pork is done marinating, preheat the oven to 375°F. I placed my pork in a baking dish, making sure to shake off any excess sauce. Roast for fifteen minutes then remove from the oven. Skewer the pork and grill at about 400°F, basting the pork with the remaining sauce, turning, and basting more until the pieces are nicely charred. Remove from the grill and slice the pork to serve over rice or noodles. [Alternatively, if you can’t finish the pork on the grill, you can skewer the raw pork and set them across a large roasting pan to roast (to catch the drips) at 375°F for 30 minutes. Then char them over a flame or with a blow torch (fun!).]

35 nibbles at “back in action”

  1. Kitt says:

    Well, that looks delicious. I had not heard of maltose being used in that way before. Is it a powder or a syrup?

  2. Katherine says:

    This looks really good!!! But looks like a lot of work?

  3. Sherry says:

    Maltose is pretty common here in the Asian shops in Oregon… I remember eating it on a chopstick as a kid. I’ve always wanted to make some char sui, mostly to make baked char sui buns but it seems like it would be too much work. Now you’ve got me thinking about it again…

  4. swan says:

    hey jen:

    made the cuban pork sandwiches for my family and we were in LOVE! going to make that a staple. probably gained 4 pounds as well, but it was worth it. making the Albondigas next. love your photos as well. i wish we had such amazing sunrise/sets here! give my girl kaweah a big hug!


  5. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    I LOVE char siu pork and will have to try your recipe soon. We used to fight over it too, and us kids always won. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Christine says:

    I’m so eager to try this recipe out! I can’t stand the powder mixes that turn the pork into a wannabe cha siu. Our family always fights for the flavour-packed end pieces. They never have a chance of surviving past lunch.

  7. Sumner says:

    Wow, that sounds good – I’m going to brach out my cooking repertoire and give it a try. Sam will thank you!

  8. Sumner says:

    *branch* out.

  9. Kath Dedon says:

    Oh. My. That looks so good! I really appreciate that you adapted it to use honey for the sweetener and you omitted the red food coloring. That’s my kind of cooking. I’m pinning this so it will remain on my radar screen to try sometime!

  10. jo-lyn@jo-lyn's cup cakes n' candies says:

    this sounds amazing! :)

  11. Melissa @ Baking For The Boys says:

    Glad your back is on the mend. I have been wondering about those tiny cameras-he’s a cutie. I too would like to expand my repertoire and this recipe might be the one to inspire me. It looks delicious.

  12. Bee | Rasa Malaysia says:

    Hey Jen – glad that you finally made the char siu. Next time, try it with maltose it just makes it extra sticky gooey-ly good. You can get the maltose online. :)

  13. ryan says:

    just had to give a shout out for Boulder. Its beauty brings inspiration for cooking. Dish looks legit. I’ll describe my experience once i cook it.

  14. Jo says:

    Looks delicious.

  15. Rita says:

    Pork on skewers sound so delicious especially as this recipe is described. Looking forward to trying this one out.

  16. Connie says:

    This looks really good. I can’t wait to try it. I love the way you take asian cuisine and make it look easy.

  17. sweetmaddy says:

    That’s so cute about your mom! Of course it would jump the queue! :)

  18. Skinny Fat Kid says:

    This look really good, but I don’t think I’ll be grilling anytime soon! Will have to find another way to get this one done.

  19. Margie says:

    ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ kind of good, and then some… This has Christmas appetizer written all over it.


  20. Joy says:

    Oh my goodness. That looks so good.

  21. Andrea Meyers says:

    Ahhh, good stuff. I adore char siu. When I get my taste buds back, this will be first in line.

  22. Nate @ House of Annie says:

    I like it grilled or roasted because it gets those nice charred bits on it that’s so yummy. But we also do a braised, no-back char siew that doesn’t call for such a long marinating time:

  23. jenyu says:

    Kitt – I believe it’s a syrup from what people have described.

    Katherine – it’s not much work at all (I guess it’s all relative).

    Sherry – making the buns is a good deal of work… but I’ll post the recipe soon!

    Swan – yay!!

    Eva – yes, it’s about time I posted it! Sooo good!

    Christine – I’ve never used a powder mix before. Sounds scary :)

    Sumner – I hope you guys like it! *hugs*

    Kath – yeah, I couldn’t find maltose and I figured honey would work.

    jo-lyn – it’s really good.

    Melissa – it’s not that hard to do, but it’s totally worth the wait!

    Bee – I’m gonna keep my eyes peeled next time I go to the city and see if I can find some. Thanks for the recipe, Bee!

    ryan – h’okay!

    Jo – thanks!

    Rita – I hope you like it. It’s one of my favorites.

    Connie – aww, you’re very sweet. I now think all cooking is easy as long as I don’t have to photograph it ;)

    sweetmaddy – :)

    Skinny Fat Kid – you can roast it in the oven!

    Margie – mmmmm.

    Joy – try it! It’s great :)

    Andrea – oh, hugs to you sweetheart. I know how that goes :(

    Nate – I’ve not tried that before. Sounds interesting.

  24. Stefanie says:

    hi – i tried this and it came out great! thanks so much and have a wonderful holiday!

  25. Holiday Round-Up « Omnivorous Cravings says:

    […] on the meat and multiple sides tradition. Instead, we made xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and char siu bao (BBQ pork dumplings). If broken down into small daily tasks, the only real challenge of dumplings lies in the assembly. […]

  26. Chinese Barbecue Pork Buns (Bao) | In One Kitchen says:

    […] not difficult at all. We didn’t take the time to actually make the legit Char Siu pork that Jen used, which looks fantastic and I hope to try someday. Instead, we just pan fried the pork and […]

  27. rose kerry says:

    Wow, this looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it. I am not familiar with shaoxing wine, can you buy it in a grocery store? Thanks for sharing. Rose

  28. jenyu says:

    rose – you can buy it in an Asian grocery store, but I rarely see it in regular grocery stores.

  29. tony buck says:

    My dad used to make this when I was a kid and I would do chores and clean my room for it! He always told us it was cow tongue and I thought till I was at least 18 that cow tongue was the best thing I ever ate!! Truly is the best thing I’ve ever eaten

  30. Wendy-Lee says:

    Wow! I have just found my new favorite website! I have made char siu pork several times before, but always using a jarred sauce that I got from my local Asian supermarket. This recipe looks wonderful and I even have all the ingredients (except the maltose). Guess what we’re having for dinner tomorrow?! Thanks!

  31. Natalie S says:

    I just tried your recipe and it is absolutely delicious! Used agave instead of honey because that’s what I have on hand and finished it with the propane torch, as suggested for indoor cooking; it turned out great. This is so much better than buying char siu on Federal Blvd; that stuff always seems to be too dried out yet paradoxically fatty. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe!

  32. Chinese Barbeque Pork (Char Siu – 叉燒) | Kitchen, Jessamine. says:

    […] Carol for the recipes! I used My Asian Kitchen’s version, but you can refer to Use Real Butter’s recipe as well. I used pork butt, which I enjoyed – the texture tasted like the real deal. I […]

  33. Chinese Barbeque Pork (Char Siu – 叉燒) | blue asparagus says:

    […] Carol for the recipes! I used My Asian Kitchen’s version, but you can refer to Use Real Butter’s recipe as well. I used pork butt, which I enjoyed – the texture tasted like the real deal. I […]

  34. Homemade Char Siu Bao – Chinese BBQ Pork Buns | Pintertesting says:

    […] using a few of her posts because it’s kind of a multiple day process. I made her recipe for char siu pork one day, and then spent a boatload of time the next day making the filling and the dough for the […]

  35. EwaBrah808 says:

    I am with you I don’t add food coloring there is it in the Hoisin and I use some Chinese BBQ sauce from Kun chop sauce factory brand.

    I live in Hawai’i and usually do my Char Siu on my BBQ grill with a water pan in middle of the Q. Then I put coals banked on both sides of BBQ. You can either use a electric bbqrotisserie like weber’s and I hang my long metal skewers off the rack over the drip pan. This keeps the meat from burning before the meat is cooked and keeps it moist so it doesn’t dry out before you can get that caramelization.

    You can also go to a Home improvement store and buy an aluminum rod cut it to fit your cue and cap the ends with wing not stops. to keep it from spinning or sliding of the BBQ. I just monitor the coals and water every 15-30 min. and don’t have to overheat the house (I live in on the hot dry side of O’ahu) or use electricity, a little more work but great results, I even add some guava wood chips to add some extra smokiness.

    Truly Ono Bbq Pork!

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