Chinese Char Siu Pork Recipe

Rich red-brown char siu pork glistens in Chinatown windows, hanging side-by-side with roast Peking duck — where even the limp necks cannot deter our intrinsic lust for sugar, salt, fat. The combination of red yielding pork, sweet-salt umami-rich sauce, bright green crunchy pak choi, and fluffy absorbent white rice is difficult to beat.

What is Char Siu sauce made of?

Preserved red beancurd — tofu fermented in a red yeast — and plenty of honey or sugar are the secrets to Char Siu pork’s glossy sheen. With so much sweetness, the sharp fermented beancurd notes bring balance to such a rich dish. Anything else is optional.

I add a trio of umami-rich sauces: hoisin, oyster, and soy; along with sherry-like shaoxing wine. Fresh ginger and garlic are often used, but I find them too pungent and the texture competes with the smooth sticky glaze — for me Chinese five-spice powder is best. Total preparation time is less than 15 minutes. How’s that for an easy dish?   

Why is Chinese pork red on the outside?

The red fermented bean curd, or tofu, is an essential ingredient in Char Siu pork. The bean curd is combined with red rice yeast, which gives the red colour – in turn colouring the marinade. However, the end result is more commonly a rich mahogany brown. So you might find that some restaurants use red food colouring with white tofu for an even more dramatic effect.

What does Char Siu taste of?

Sweet, salty, rich in umami, and fragrant with five spice – Char Siu has a strong and distinctive flavour. It is best served as the hero flavour, alongside plain rice and simple steamed greens.

What is the best cut of pork for Char Siu?

Pork shoulder or pork belly are great choices for cooking Char Siu at home. Find more pork recipes here, or explore Chinese ingredients for more inspiration.

Main Serves: 4

  • 400g pork shoulder or pork belly (rind and extra fat removed)

For the Char Siu sauce

To serve

Method for Char Siu

  1. Slice pork into 1 cm strips. If using pork belly you may need to start with 700g or more if it is a very fatty pig. Once the skin and thick layer fat is removed you will have closer to 400g.
  2. Mix together marinade ingredients and pour over pork slices to coat. Leave to marinate for 12-48 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 200 C. Lift pork out of the marinade liquid and roast in oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  4. Whilst the pork cooks, pour the marinade into a small pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until reduced by half - to the consistency of double cream.
  5. Once cooked, cut the roast pork into bite-size pieces and pour over sauce. Serve with rice and cooked greens.
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1 comment

  • Is the pork cooked in one large piece and then cut into bit sized pieces?

    Filofilo on

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