Char siu – Chinese barbecued pork

char siuChar siu is a brilliantly versatile thing. Even if you’re not familiar with it by name, you’ve almost certainly tasted it before; it’s the reddish pork that appears in little pieces in every Special Fried Rice in every Chinese restaurant and takeaway in the country, in those wonderful fluffy buns you get as dim sum (my recipe for those buns is here), on its own over rice as a roast meat, and sliced thickly in a million different noodle dishes. It’s a sweetly glazed, aromatically spiced, perfectly delicious piece of meat, and one of my very favourite things to do with pork.

This recipe makes a single fillet of char siu. I’d recommend you at least double it – you’re going to need a whole fillet of the stuff for Monday’s recipe, and you’ll probably want to eat at least some as soon as it comes out of the oven. Char siu freezes well too, so you don’t need to worry about cooking too much.

A note on the glaze and colour. The strips of char siu you’ll see in Chinese shops are usually glazed with maltose, a sugary by-product of the brewing industry. It does achieve a really gorgeous, crackly sheen, but it’s not got a lot of flavour or sweetness, and I find it’s not as tasty as glazing with a honey/soy mixture, thinned with a little vegetable oil to help the sugar catch and caramelise. Shop-bought char siu is normally very red, because a little food colouring is used in the marinade. Feel free to add half a teaspoon to yours if you like – I find I’m happy with the less shocking colour the meat gets from the hoi sin sauce in its marinade.

To make one strip of char siu (enough for three as a roast meat on rice) you’ll need:

1 pork fillet

5 tablespoons light soya sauce
3 tablespoons dark soya sauce
5 tablespoons runny honey
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
½ glass Chinese rice wine (sherry will do if you can’t find any)
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (I like Lee Kum Kee)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, crushed
4 fat cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons runny honey
1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and warm through in a saucepan until the sugar has all dissolved. Pour the warm marinade over the pork, and leave for at least eight hours in the fridge.

To cook the char siu, heat the oven to 210° C and place the meat, basted with some of its marinade, on a rack over a roasting tin with a couple of centimetres of water in it. Roast for 20 minutes, then baste again on both sides, turn the meat over and reduce the heat to 180° C. Roast for another ten minutes, then baste and turn again, and roast for a final ten minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate, empty the tin of water and line it with foil. Place the meat and rack back on the tin, then brush it liberally with the glaze and put it under the grill for about five minutes, until the glaze is glossy and starting to catch at the edges. Turn the meat, glaze again and put back under the grill until the other side is also glossy and starting to caramelise.

33 Replies to “Char siu – Chinese barbecued pork”

  1. I have just discovered your blog and I tried this recipe yesterday. Heavenly!

    You have some great recipes on here, I shall keep reading 🙂

    (Incidently I am also in Cambridge!)

  2. Absolutely fantastic recipe, can’t wait to try it again with a double or triple batch, as a single batch just isn’t enough for my wife and I, let alone company… 🙂

  3. It was delicious – thanks for the recipe (but I found it really difficult to make anything (the baste, the glaze) stick to the pork… maybe my honey was too runny?

  4. Excellent – hope it works out for you, Anon! (I recommend you cook more than you think you’ll need. It’s amazing how quickly people will eat this one.)

  5. Tried the recipe last night (Monday) after marinading since Sunday, and earned serious brownie points with my partner!

    We both loved the combination of the sweet marinade and glaze alongside the saltiness of the pork, and also how the pork stays lovely and moist.

    The fact that we finished a whole fillet of pork between us in one sitting speaks volumes I think, I couldn’t move afterwards!

    Goes really well with some homemade egg fried rice and stir fry vegetables.

    Can’t remember life before this website!

  6. Super yummy recipe and super easy!

    Even though I’m from Vancouver, BC where Chinese food is par-none, I much rather make char-siu at home now.

    Love your blog and will definitely try other recipes!

  7. Fantastic recipe. Worked really well with Pork Scotch Fillets. As a really nice garnish lightly batter and fry some squid rings, it compliments really well.

  8. A smart move, Allan – it’s very good barbecued. I’d planned this week’s shop around the probability that we were going to get some good barbecuing weather in the next week or so – there’s a Thai chicken marinade and a Malaysian one waiting in the fridge to be deployed *just as soon as it stops bloody raining*.

  9. This was delicious and really authentic-tasting – I made a double batch and my husband and I just finished the lot in one go! 😉

    Will definitely make this again – easy, tasty and good value…

  10. have made this today wife asked if i had actually been to the takeaway.
    going to have it with fried rice and left overs are going in sandwitch's
    thank you so much its gorgeous

  11. I tried out your recipe and it's utterly fantastic – even my fussy little brother loved it!
    I am only 13 and love to cook!
    Any more great recipes would be great!

  12. This was amazing! So easy to make and soooo much better than what you get at the takeaway! Intentions were there to have leftovers but we ended up eating the whole lot in one go:-)

  13. You say place on the grill. I just wanted to make sure, do you mean in the oven again or on an actual ‘grill’. If you could explain.

    Much appreciated!

  14. Liz I’ve just put my marinade in the fridge for tomorrows dinner. I used red wine as I’d no sherry and added orange juice and sliced up an orange into the marinade. I added a cinnamon stick in too. Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow! many thanks!

  15. this was delicious, but it was a labor of love. I found I had to cook longer and baste more for the right crusty yummy goodness.

  16. In the recipe …When you say a pork fillet.. what weight are we talking about?.
    Also would this work with pork shoulder..thanks.

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