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Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork

I walked past the char siu and BBQ duck hanging in the window in Market Square and had immediate cravings for Asian BBQ.  Unfortunately I’m still reacting badly to pretty much every chemical, colouring and additive so I had to find a work around in my own kitchen if I wanted authentic tasting BBQ pork buns this week.

I also wanted a leaner pork cut than would traditionally be used.  I picked up a piece of pork fillet and that required the addition of some oil to the char siu sauce, an overnight marinade and frequent basting to ensure it didn’t become dry during cooking.  It was a bit of tweaking but turned out succulent and packed full of flavour.

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 and the look on Drews face when I suggested trading in his shiny gas grill for a coal burning alternative convinced me that wasn’t a likely scenario any time soon.  I’m actually cooking it this week in a health oven, a small portable oven suited to caravanning or outdoor cooking outside.  As my kitchen is already well over 30 degrees I prefer to keep the additional heat source outdoors.

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.

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

  • 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
  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).


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 flavouring paste, plenty of marinade time and basting .
  2. Cut your pork fillet in half to give longer and thinner strips for roasting.  This gives better coverage of the marinade for flavour and presents better when carving.  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 a 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.
How to make the perfect authentic tasting char siu at home with a few tweaks to make it healthier with a leaner cut and less colouring & preservatives
How to make the perfect authentic tasting char siu at home with a few tweaks to make it healthier with a leaner cut and less colouring & preservatives

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

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