It’s hard to pick a favourite Chinese BBQ meat, I love eating them all - roast pork belly “siu yuk”, roast duck “siu ngaap” and barbecue pork “char siu”. But when char siu is done right, it is particularly rewarding to eat. For me, great char siu requires an aromatic savoury, sticky sweet marinade, a nice amount of charredness, the meat should be succulent and not dry….and that red colour that shouts out eat me now! The colour red stimulates the appetite – note how red is the most prominent colour used in fast food logos.
I have to expose that the lovely red colour of char sui is totally artificial! My dad told me that because of the dark ingredients used in the marinade food colouring is added to intensify the colour of the pork and give the meat its characteristic hue - the Chinese associate red with good luck and fortune!
Pork shoulder is generally used to make char sui but I prefer to use my favourite cut of pork – the belly.
• ~500g pork belly (sliced in half lengthways – reduces thickness and more of the marinade can be absorbed)
• 4 cloves crushed garlic
• 1 teaspoon ginger, finely diced/grated
• 1 ½ peanut oil
Char Siu Marinade
• 1 ½ tablespoon maltose
• 1 ½ tablespoon honey
• 1 ½ tablespoon hoisin sauce
• 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
• ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
• 1 tablespoon Chinese rose wine
• 10 white peppercorns, ground
• pinch of salt
• 1 piece of wet/fermented bean curd (red)
• ½ teaspoon five spice powder
• ½ teaspoon sesame oil
• For colouring – ½ teaspoon red powder + ¼ orange powder (optional)
Food colouring powder obtained from my dad’s restaurant. If only the red powder is used, the meat will turn out quite dark so a little bit of orange is used in the mix to lighten and even out the redness. The use of food colouring is optional but it wouldn’t seem like char sui without it.
Recommended - Pearl River Bridge Brand of soy sauces
Chinese rice wine (Mei Kuei Lu Chiew) is very fragrant and provides a very nice flavour to the pork. It’s 54% alcohol! But it’s for cooking only and not to be drunk as a beverage.
Add all char siu marinade sauce ingredients together into a saucepan, heat it up and stir well until all blended together. Transfer into a bowl to cool (around 20 minutes).
Marinade pork with 2/3 of the char siu sauce and the garlic and ginger. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight, turning the pork a few times.
Add 1 ½ tablespoon of peanut oil to remaining 1/3 char sui sauce and keep covered in refrigerator (this will be used to baste pork when roasting).
Preheat oven ~175C, roast the pork for 10 minutes then turn and baste in remaining marinade, roast for another 10 minutes and then turn and baste in remaining marinade again. Turn up oven to 200C and then roast for a further 15 minutes (turning up the heat at the final cooking stage provides charred texture to pork)
Total roasting time = 35 minutes. Pork should have glazed red appearance and be slightly charred.
Slice pork and serve with rice.
• Place aluminium foil sheet at the bottom of the oven for drips. If the remaining char sui marinade for basting is too tough when you take it out of the refrigerator, microwave it for 20 seconds to soften.
• Use the remaining char siu sauce to baste pork when roasting, if using char sui sauce which the pork has been marinated in to baste, simmer the marinade for 5-10 minutes to kill bacteria which may have been left by the raw meat.
• To make sure that the pork gets cooked through without too much charring on the surface, keep the heat down as the marinade contains high sugar content which burns fast.
• Baste at least twice to build up good layer of marinade on the pork for a crunchy/crispy, caramelised savoury and sugary outer coating to build up as it cooks. This also helps to keep the pork moist so that it doesn’t dry out during roasting.
Here are some of my other pork belly recipes: