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.


Related posts:

  1. Char siu bao – Chinese steamed pork buns
  2. Char siu pastry
  3. Spiced Chinese pork casserole
  4. Fragrant garlic-grilled pork medallions
  5. Crispy Chinese roast pork

29 comments to Char siu – Chinese barbecued pork

  • That sounds absolutely heavenly, I shall have to try it.

  • Great recipe, just like my mom used to tmkae back in Seattle. Much better without red dye #2.

  • 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!)

  • 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… :)

  • Looks and sounds very tasty, I’ll be trying out this recipe soon!! :)

  • 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?

  • Anonymous

    so fantastic had this with friends the other day and had to troll the net to find the receipe

  • It sounded so good that I straight away made 3 fillets – clever me. Divine recipe

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to try your recipe for Char Siu for a family birthday at the weekend…wish me luck!

  • Liz

    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.)

  • roo

    Just popped it in my fridge to marinade… it smells amazing already :)

  • Rob

    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!

  • Liz

    Comments like that make my day, Rob!

  • Q

    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!

  • Rob

    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.

  • I just finished eating it! It was delicious, thanks. Going to make some more to go on the BBQ on friday.

  • Liz

    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*.

  • Anonymous

    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…

  • Liz

    Thanks, Anon! Actually, it strikes me that I haven’t made this myself in a few months – time to fill the freezer, I think!

  • 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

  • Adele

    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!

  • Liz

    Hi Adele – I'm really glad you (and your kid brother!) liked it. Thanks very much for reading!

  • Make sure the pork is dry before applying the glaze to make the glaze stick to the cooked pork.

  • [...] Glazed BBQ Pork* (kant. „char siu„, wymowa zblizona jest raczej do „caaa sił”). Cena 45 dolarów (17 zł) za [...]

  • Andy and Kayeligh

    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:-)

  • The Mighty Eskimo

    I find the only improvement I can make to this recipe is by tripling the ingredient list.

  • hayley

    Apparently, using Maltose instead of honey makes it stickier although its not as sweet as honey.

  • Mike coxlong

    That recipe is fooking marvellous…………just marinated my wife ……she tastes fabulous!!

  • anita

    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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