Char siu: learn to make Hong Kong’s sweet barbecued pork
Written by Foodie
Hong Kong’s sweet barbecued pork is famous. It’s easy to make but tricky to perfect.
Siu mei (Chinese barbecued meats) shops are instantly recognisable by whole roasted birds and large cuts of barbecued meats hanging by the window. Behind them, you will usually find an aproned chef, wielding a cleaver to cut different kinds of delicious meats skillfully.
Roast goose and roast duck are usually served with a sweet plum sauce to complement their slightly gamy flavour. Served with mustard and salt, roast pork has tender meat and crispy skin. Whole roasted suckling pig is commonly found at celebratory occasions in order to usher in wealth, prosperity and good health.
But arguably the most famous of all siu mei is char siu — it is so popular that you can find this Cantonese term in English dictionaries. The distinctly coloured pork is juicy on the inside and covered in a caramelised glaze. The key to making delicious char siu at home is using a fatty cut of pork — too lean and it will be dry — as well as marinating the pork overnight and regular basting during cooking.
Recipe: char siu
Prep time: 5 minutes + marinating overnight
Cooking time: 45 minutes
1 kg pork shoulder (or another fatty cut)
2 tbsp honey, diluted with 2 tsp water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp five-spice powder
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
a few drops of red food colouring (optional)
Cut the pork shoulder into long, even strips, roughly 4 cm wide. Poke each side a few times with a fork to allow the marinade into the meat.
Mix the marinade ingredients. Reserve and refrigerate 3 tbsp for glazing. Pour the remainder into a resealable food storage bag with the pork. Marinate overnight in the fridge but bring to room temperature before cooking.
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil or baking paper (the glaze will caramelise and become very sticky and hard to clean). Add a little water to the baking tray to keep the oven moist and prevent the drippings from burning. Place the pork on a baking rack over the tray and baste well with the marinade.
Cook the pork for 45 minutes in total whilst basting regularly (when the pork is fully cooked, the internal temperature should read 63°C). Baste the pork with the marinade at the start of cooking and finish with the honey/water mixture:
Cook for 15 minutes, baste both sides with the marinade
Cook for 10 minutes, baste both sides with the marinade again
Cook for 10 minutes, baste with the honey/water mixture
Cook for an additional 5–10 minutes at an increased heat of 230°C
Baste both sides one last time with honey and let cool for 10 minutes before chopping dramatically with a meat cleaver and serving.
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