Char Siu – Chinese Roast Pork

char siu by The Aimless Cook

Char siu is that famous Chinese red roast pork that you see hanging in the windows of your favourite meat shops in Chinatown. So delicious and savoury with that hint of sweetness from that incredible caramelized marinade. It’s easier than you think to make so let’s get cooking!

 

You will need:

  • ⅓ cup Hoisin sauce
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • ½ teaspoon 5-spice powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons maltose (or honey)
  • 3 lb pork shoulder*

 

*For a great balance of fat and lean, go for shoulder. If you want extra lean, get yourself pork tenderloin. If you want to go for broke, get pork belly.

 

The first thing we’re gonna do is make our marinade. You want to do this the day before so that your pork will have maximum flavour.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ⅓ cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of shaoxing cooking wine, 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, a ½ teaspoon of 5-spice powder, and ⅓ cup hoisin sauce. For nostalgia, I’m also adding about 6 drops of red food colouring. Finally, add 1 ½ tablespoons of maltose, which is the secret to that wonderful caramelization that this dish is famous for. You can find maltose in most Asian grocery stores. If not, you can substitute honey.

Maltose is a very thick and very sticky ingredient, so be patient. It will slowly dissolve as you mix it with the other ingredients.

When the marinade is ready, put it into a large ziplock bag and then add about 3 lbs of pork shoulder. These steaks are about 2 inches thick, so for our home recipe, they should cook up fast. Coat the pork evenly and pop into the fridge to marinate overnight. Be sure to turn the bag over every few hours or so.

When the meat is ready, take it out of the bag and keep the marinade in a small bowl. Place the pork in a roasting pan on a rack and put in into a preheated 375F oven until done. You want to baste it with that marinade every 10-15 minutes. Also be sure to flip the pork over halfway through cooking. It will be done when the edges start to caramelize and the surface is glistening red. If you have a meat thermometer, the inside should read about 160F.

Once you know the meat is about done, turn the oven up to broil and briefly hit it with that high heat to caramelize the rest of the surface. Take out of the oven and set aside to rest for a few minutes before slicing.

Char siu is crazy versatile so make lots and keep it handy for whatever you want to use it for. It also freezes well, so you can store it whole or sliced, thaw it and use it whenever you get a craving. Enjoy!

 

What is your favourite dish with char siu?

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