Sweet, savoury, garlicky, and smoky– just some of the things a slice of this Char Siu Pork brings to the table!
It seems only proper that I squeeze in this little recipe for Char Siu Pork after writing about New York’s Chinatown. I didn’t really get to go on a food trip there, but we did eat a late lunch at one of the restaurants, and since we were in a hurry I didn’t bother documenting that bit anymore. It was nothing unfamiliar to me after all!
My encounter with this recipe was a coincidence of sorts. One of my favourite food bloggers posted a recipe for a pork bun, and in it the reader was encouraged to make their own char siu. Typically when I come across recipes that call for the Cantonese roast pork, I buy it from our local Chinatown. It’s just so much easier. But this time I felt like I wanted to try my hand at making it at home.
My expectations for myself weren’t particularly high. If you’ve ever gone into a Chinese restaurant that sells dimsum, then you’d know that they employ a special technique to ensure maximum flavour for their char siu by hanging them. I neither had the “technology” nor the patience for such an undertaking, so I just kind of shortcut-ed my way through, but thanks to this recipe it worked out for the best.
The char siu, though not tasting like those made by the trained dimsum experts, has its own beautiful thing going on. Packed with sweet-smoky flavour, juicy, perfect for just over rice, or for pork buns!
The meat had just enough sweetness and just enough kick from all the flavourings to make it something I’d find an excuse to make again. And as you will see, it’s an incredibly non-fussy recipe!
You start by mixing together the concoction for the marinade. Exact measurements are down below, but it’s basically composed of lots of Chinese staple flavourings, plus honey for that dose of sweetness. Five-spice powder gives it a nice depth in flavour.
Once you’ve mixed the marinade all together, obviously you marinade your pork in it. But make sure to save about 4 Tablespoons or more of the marinade for basting later on. The longer you marinade, the more flavourful the char siu will be of course. It will also have more of that signature reddish hue.
Once you’re ready to roast, place the marinated pork on a rimmed baking sheet so that the sauce doesn’t drip all over when you pour it all in. Pop in a preheated 275°F (135°C) oven for 1 hour. Brush the pork with the saved marinade every 15 minutes as you roast it.
Ta-dah! To be honest, I really like the dark colouring this marinade gives the char siu. Sometimes when I eat in restaurants I get bothered by overly red char siu. Something about it just feels unnatural.
As I mentioned above, I initially made this to fill some pineapple buns because I had this delusion that I could make those popular melt-in-the-mouth Tim Ho Wan buns at home. For those of you who don’t know, Tim Ho Wan is a Michelin-starred restaurant from Hong Kong. We also have a couple of ’em here in Manila so I’ve eaten my fair share of their famous pork buns. As always, I wanted to see if I could make them at home.
Of course since I didn’t have the complete set of ingredients I opted to make just regular buns, and thanks to this yummy char siu they still ended up tasting great! So to turn the pork into a filling for buns, first we chop up said char siu. (I hope you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, because I had to hide a portion of the one I made!)
Because we’re using the meat for the filling, we want to cook it with a thick sauce that will help it bind together. I really hate biting into a bun only to find the filling dry and falling out of the middle! This one is cooked with a bit more of the same flavourings used for the marinade, plus a slurry to help the pork hold together inside the bun.
And then it’s all a matter of making the dough for the bun. You can check out the full recipe for this over here. It’s a pretty basic Asian bread recipe using the tangzhong method.
As I was making this, I really love seeing the red char siu against the white dough of the bread. I get some of the sauce onto the dough sometimes when I pinch it closed, but that’s okay! By the way, I added a few drops of Sriracha to the filling to make it a little spicy.
These buns are seriously cute. Nice and bite-sized! Meaning you’ll probably end up eating at least two of them in one sitting! And I really can’t blame you. I always love having these kinds of things for either breakfast or snack-time. If you’re a fan of dimsum or yumcha, you’ll want to give this a go! 🙂
I’m pretty sure I’ll be attempting another pork bun version soon enough, but for now, enjoy this char siu pork recipe, everyone!
Cantonese-Style Char Siu Pork
- 230 grams boneless pork ribs or pork shoulder or ribs
- 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1. Place pork in a long dish or resealable container to prepare it for an overnight marinade. In a bowl, whisk all the flavourings together to create a marinade. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the marinade for basting, and pour the rest over the pork. Cover and refrigerate the pork for at least 8 hours, and up to two days for best flavour.
- 2. When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C) and move the rack to the upper middle position. Place the pork on a rimmed baking sheet, pouring the leftover sauce on top, and let it roast for 1 hour or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). Every 10 to 15 minutes, turn the pork over and brush with the reserved marinade, just to make sure both sides are well-flavoured.
- 3. You can broil the pork for a few minutes to caramelize the top layer, if you wish. Otherwise remove the pork from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, and slice into strips. Serve immediately, or you can reserve it for pork buns.
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