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Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork

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All the authentic and delicious flavour of Char Siu with a lower fat content and without the additives.

I walked past the char siu and BBQ duck hanging in the window in Market Square and had immediate cravings for Chinese BBQ pork.  Char Siu has been a long time favourite but as I’m still reacting badly to most processed foods, colourings and additives I had to find a workaround in my own kitchen that was both lower fat and without the additives if I wanted to eat authentic tasting BBQ pork buns again.

I also wanted to use a leaner pork cut than the more traditional pork shoulder and pork butt.  I picked a larger pork fillet despite some reservations about it possibly becoming too dry without the higher fat content. To balance that I added some oil to the char siu sauce, gave it a longer overnight marinade and made sure I basted it frequently during the cooking time not only to infuse that flavour but to keep it succulent. It turned out juicy and packed full of flavour.

Pork fillet marinading in char siu marinade

Char Siu literally translates as ‘fork roast’, the forks being the traditional method of skewering and rotating the pork above the fire while it roasts.  Our recipe is cooked in either an oven or gas barbeque as I don’t have a charcoal grill. We love the versatility, portability and ease of the Weber Baby Q and it’s my preference for cooking the Char Siu being simple and clean but still bringing that BBQ flavour.  

I’ve also cooked this in an Ezycook, a small portable oven suited to caravanning or outdoor cooking.  It’s a great option for keeping the heat and cooking smells outdoors even at home.

The dark red/brown outer colour of the char siu roast is now often emphasised with red food colouring, while I love the look I prefer not to add colourings to my food so I’ve left it out.  The marinade and basting already does a good job of colouring up the meat.  If you prefer a more vivid red colour a couple of drops of red food dye into your marinade will give you that result.

Char Siu road sliced on board

Despite several moves away from the traditional nothing is lost, this makes an authentically flavoursome roast and brings back memories of Hong Kong.  There are a multitude of serving options but generally it will be plated along side rice or noodles, encased in soft bao (buns) or paper thin Asian style pancakes.  A few slices are also fantastic floated on a hearty bowl of ramen, delicious!

Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork

Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork

Ingredients

  • 1 T Sesame Oil
  • 1 T Grape seed Oil
  • 2 T Tamari Soy Sauce
  • 1 t Oyster Sauce
  • 1 t 5 Spice Powder
  • 1 T Shao Hsing Cooking Wine
  • 3 T Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 T Honey
  • 1 kg of pork fillet

Instructions

  1. Trim pork fillet of any excess fat and silver skin. If the fillet is large slice it lengthwise to create a long column shape.
  2. Place pork pieces into a deep dish for marinading.
  3. Mix the remaining ingredients together until well combined then pour over the pork, turn a few times to make sure the meat is thoroughly coated.
  4. Allow the meat to marinade in the fridge at least overnight, 24 hours is better.
  5. Heat oven to 180C (355F) and place the pork on a rack inside a baking dish. Roast for 25 minutes. If using a meat thermometer the internal temperature of the roast should be 65 - 70C (150-160F).

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A few additional tips for preparation and serving of Char Siu

  1.  You can absolutely use a leaner cut like pork fillet in places of the more traditional pork shoulder but you’ll need to make a few tweaks.  A bit more oil added in the flavouring paste, plenty of marinade time and basting to keep it juicy as well as infusing flavour.
  2. If your pork fillet is large cut it in half to give longer and thinner strips for roasting.  This gives better coverage of the marinade for flavour and presents better when carved.  You can also carefully stab it a few times with the tip of a small sharp knife to allow the flavour deep inside.
  3. The recipe makes a good quantity of marinade.  It might seem excessive for the amount of meat but it’s intentional to ensure good coverage.  You’ll want to turn it in the marinade a few times and then use the marinade to baste it on all sides several times while it cooks.
  4. When presenting the dish ‘family style’ cut at least a few slices off the roast and fan them out on the plate to enjoy the delicious outer colour.

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How do you like your char siu?  Are you a fan of  Chinese BBQ Pork buns?

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