This better than takeout Char Siu Pork is the last char siu recipe you will ever need. This versatile sweet, savory, juicy, and tender Chinese bbq pork can be served on its own or with rice, noodles, dim sum and so much more.
A good char siu recipe has multiple layers of flavor. The Chinese BBQ pork gracefully balances the line between sweet and savory. With each bite of pork, you are warmly greeted with spices, a beautiful sweet glaze, and a rich umami flavor that will make you savor every moment of the dish.
With this recipe, you will master the art of making char siu at home so that you can enjoy it fresh without having to pay a premium at your local Chinese shop. This recipe is definitely one you should keep in your arsenal because 1) it is absolutely delicious and 2) it is incredibly versatile. If you make Char Siu pork at home, you can also use this recipe to venture off and create other delicious favorites like Baked Pork Buns, Steamed Pork Buns, Fried Rice and so many other delicious dishes.
What is Char Siu?
Char siu stems from Cantonese cuisine, and the word chā sīu 叉烧 literally means “fork roasted." It originated from Guang dong province in the south of China. Traditionally, the pork was skewered with long forks and cooked over an open fire. the chef would baste the pork with a sweet glaze multiple times to create that appetizing glossy sheen. Char siu is tender, juicy with a vibrant rich deep red color. It is sweet, savory, and has a touch of umami from all the different sauces in the marinade. Char Siu is considered Chinese however, many other Asian cultures have adapted the recipe and fused Char siu into their cuisines.
Cuts of Meat
There are so many different cuts of pork that can be used to make char siu from boneless lean pork loin to pork shoulder to pork belly. The choice of meat depends on personal preference. For this recipe, I wanted a juicy and fatty char siu with a decent amount of meat so I went with pork shoulder. As an alternative, I also recommend using pork butt as well for similar results.
You will also need a meat thermometer if this is your first-time slow-cooking pork shoulder. This will take all the guessing out of cooking the meat. The USDA recommends pork to be cooked to 145°F (62°C) with a three-minute resting time.
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Half sheet baking pan: a standard half sheet baking pan is all you need for this recipe.
- Wire baking rack: the wire baking rack lifts the meat off of the pan and allows the meat to evenly cook like in commercial kitchens.
- Tongs: you will need tongs to flip and baste the meat in between each session.
- Aluminum Foil: the aluminum foil will provide an easy clean up.
- Basting Brush: the basting brush is necessary to evenly coat the meat with the marinade.
- Thermometer: using a meat thermometer will help you know immediately when the meat is ready to be taken out of the oven.
Ingredients For this Recipe
- Garlic: you can also substitute fresh garlic out for 1 tablespoon of garlic powder or garlic salt.
- Chinese Five Spice: the five spice gives the pork a burst of rich aromatics.
- Brown Sugar: gives the pork that sweet irresistible flavor. You can substitute brown sugar with granulated sugar.
- White Pepper: adds a subtle layer of smokiness without the punch of black pepper.
- Hoisin Sauce: is a fermented soybean paste that adds a sweet and salty addition to the marinade. You can buy Hoisin sauce online or at your local Asian grocery market.
- Oyster Sauce: is made from caramelized oysters and adds an extra savory umami component to the char siu. You can buy Oyster sauce online or at your local Asian grocery market.
- Shaoxing Wine: is a traditional rice cooking wine used in Chinese cooking. You can buy Shaoxing wine online or at your local Asian grocery market.
- Light Soy Sauce: my go to light soy sauce is Lee Kum Kee's Premium Soy Sauce. Make sure to use a light soy sauce which has less sodium than a traditional soy sauce.
- Molasses or Honey: the molasses provides a deeper and richer color and flavor to the pork that sticks better than honey. However, if you do not have molasses at home honey works as well.
- Red Fermented Tofu or Red Bean curd: Red bean curd is the source of sodium and red color in the char siu. This is usually found at your local Asian grocery market. However since it may be hard to find, you can substitute this with 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce OR 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce. As always, substitution may not produce the exact flavor but it will be somewhat close.
- Red Food Coloring (optional): using food coloring is entirely up to your personal preference. I liked to use it for the photo effect but it is unnecessary since the color does not change the flavor.
- Maltose: is a thick syrup that is commonly used in traditional Chinese cooking. It is what gives the char siu that beautiful glossy look. To use the maltose, you will need to microwave the jar for about 20-30 seconds to loosen it up. Be careful the sugar will be very hot. Lightly grease your measuring spoon before scooping out the maltose. You can buy maltose on Amazon or at your local Asian grocery market. You can also substitute maltose for honey as well, but the flavor and glaze will taste and look subtly different.
How To Make This Recipe
Making Char Siu is a labor of love. You will need to carve out time for the marinade and for the slow roasting in the oven. Other than a little patience it is fairly easy to make! All you need to do is
Marinate the Pork
- Prepare the pork. Slice the pork into long strips about 2-3 inch wide and about 7 inches long. Then tenderize with a fork for about 2 minutes this allows the meat to absorb the marinade.
- Make the marinade. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the garlic, five spice powder, brown sugar, white pepper, Shaoxing wine, molasses, red fermented tofu (red bean curd), red fermented tofu sauce, light soy sauce and food coloring (if using). Mix the marinade, smashing the red fermented tofu until evenly mixed and smooth.
- Marinate the pork. In a large ziploc bag, add the pork and pour in the marinade. Using your hands, massage the bag so that the meat is thoroughly marinated. Remove all the air from the bag and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 24 hours. After 24 hours the meat will become tough.
Prepare the Glazes for Basting
- Before cooking. Take the meat out of the bag and let the meat sit out for 1 hour to bring to room temperature before cooking. Pour the remaining marinade from the bag into mixing bowl and remove any garlic chunks. Set aside.
- Mix together the maltose (honey) and boiling water. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the maltose and boiling water until it turns into a spreadable syrup. You may need to microwave the maltose for 30 seconds or so before scooping it out to make it easier to work with. Set aside.
Cook the Pork
- Prepare the oven and baking tray. Preheat the oven to 425° F (218° C). Line a sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack tray on top of the sheet pan. This allows the air to circulate throughout the entire meat evenly. Place the meat on the wire rack leaving some room in between each piece. Add about ½ cup of water into the sheet pan below the wire rack to prevent the drippings from burning or smoking. This also allows the meat to gently be steamed while baking.
- Bake for 15 minutes and baste with leftover marinade. Gently place the tray in the oven in the middle wrack and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, lather both sides with the leftover marinade.
- Continue baking for an additional 10 minutes and baste again. Repeat by lathering the leftover marinade on both sides.
- Cook for 10 minutes and glaze with maltose syrup. Glaze both sides of meat with the maltose syrup.
- Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Take the pork out when it is slightly charred and has an internal temperature of 155°F-160°F (68°C-71°C). Immediately when you remove the meat, brush both sides of the meat with the maltose syrup one last time. Cover with foil and let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
Tips for This Recipe
- Choose a fatty cut of meat. The fat on the meat is what aids in providing a rich, juicy tender cut of meat. The slow roasting process allows the meat to absorb some of the fat making it even more juicy and delicious.
- Microwave the maltose before measuring it out and grease the measuring spoon. Microwaving the maltose will allow you to easily manage the maltose. And greasing the spoon will allow you to easily remove the maltose from the spoon. Mixing the maltose with boiling water will thin out the maltose making it easier to use for glazing the pork.
- The pork should rest for 5 minutes before cutting. The meat should look juicy, glazed, and slightly charred on the edges. The meat should have an internal temperature of 155°F-160°F (68°C-71°C) checking on the thickest portion of the meat. If the pork does not have some charred bits, you can always turn on the broil at the end for an additional 30 seconds-1 minute. The meat needs to rest to absorb the juices before you slice the pork.
You can store this homemade char siu pork in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the char siu pork in the freezer for up to 1 month.