If you have ever visited Hong Kong (or visited a Hong Kong restaurant in the west), you will almost certainly have tried Char Siu, barbeque pork. This succulent red glazed dish of roasted pork is hugely popular with locals and visitors alike. Having left Hong Kong, and now living in an Islamic country, this is almost impossible to find so I decided to learn the recipe myself. It is especially good to take to a BBQ, it’s usually a big hit.
1.5kg boneless pork shoulder/pork butt
¼ cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon five spice powder
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons molasses
1/8 teaspoon red food colouring (optional)
3 cloves finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hot water
Five Spice Powder
In case you can’t buy this (like me), you can grind together the following ingredients to make your own five spice powder: Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, cloves and star anise cinnamon.
Preheat your oven to ‘bake’ at 240°C (475°F) with a rack positioned in the upper third of the oven. If you have a convection oven, keep in mind the oven will heat more quickly and your char siu will roast faster.
Line a sheet pan with foil and place a metal rack on top. Using the metal rack keeps the pork off of the pan and allows it to roast more evenly, like it does in commercial ovens. Place the pork on the rack, leaving as much space as possible between pieces. Pour 1 ½ cups water into the pan below the rack. This prevents any drippings from burning or smoking.
Transfer the pork to your preheated oven. Roast for 25 minutes, keeping the oven setting at 240°C for the first 10 minutes of roasting, and then reduce your oven temperature to 190°C (375°F). After 25 minutes, flip the pork. If the bottom of the pan is dry, add another cup of water. Turn the pan 180 degrees to ensure even roasting. Roast another 15 minutes. Throughout the roasting time, check your char siu often (every 10 minutes) and reduce the oven temperature if it looks like it is burning!
Meanwhile, combine the reserved marinade with the honey (maltose is very viscous–you can heat it up in the microwave to make it easier to work with) and 1 tablespoon hot water. This will be the sauce you’ll use for basting the pork.
After 40 minutes of total roasting time, baste the pork, flip it, and baste the other side as well. Roast for a final 10 minutes.
By now, the pork has cooked for 50 minutes total. It should be cooked through and caramelized on top. If it’s not caramelized to your liking, you can turn the broiler on for a couple of minutes to crisp the outside and add some colour/flavour. Be sure not to walk away during this process, since the sweet char siu BBQ sauce can burn if left unattended.
Best served on a bed of rice with some blanched choy sum.