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Char Siu - Chinese BBQ Pork

Char Siu - Chinese BBQ Pork

The folks over in BBQLife are doing an interesting challenge at the moment. Each week they choose a country and everyone in the group barbecues a meal inspired by the cuisine of that region. This week it was China and we decided to join in and make a proper Chinese Char Siu.

Char Siu is an ancient Cantonese cooking style that involves roasting pork over open fire. The pork gains a characteristic red "smoke ring" from the use of red fermented bean curd in the sauce. Unfortunately we couldn't find fermented bean curd, and we didn't want to use the common alternative of red food colouring, so we just did without it. Apart from that we researched lots of Chinese recipes and came up with as authentic a flavour as we could muster.

The Sauce

Char Siu Sauce

Combine the following in a saucepan and heat until simmering gently. Either blend for a smooth sauce or leave the onions and garlic as they are.

  • 435ml Hoi Sin Sauce *
  • 250ml Oyster Sauce
  • 125ml Dark Soy Sauce
  • 250ml Chinese or Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 400g Sugar **
  • 50ml Sesame Oil
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • A thumb of ginger finely choppped
  • 2 tsps of Chinese 5 Spice

* The bottle of sauce we found was 435ml - use 500ml or whatever size bottle you have. Likewise for the other ingredients - a few ml here and there won't make much difference.

** We used jaggery - a big block of sticky Indian sugar, but you could use Demerara, raw cane sugar, a mix of sugar and molasses, maltose, honey, treacle, etc.

The Meat

Use nice fatty pork meat such as shoulder, neck, belly, etc. You can also use chicken. Cut the meat into grillable sized pieces (pork chop thickness) and place on skewers if you prefer.

Char Siu Chicken and Pork Marinade

Marinate the meat for an hour to overnight. You may not need salt as the sauce has a lot of salt from the soy sauce. You can jar any remaining sauce (make sure it is not contaminated by raw meat) and store in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

The Cook

Fill your BBQ with best quality charcoal and some nice flavoured wood. We used birch, but fruit wood would work really well too. If you are using a kettle BBQ use the offset heat method - charcoal on one side and meat on the other. Maintain a temp of between 150 and 200 centigrade. While the meat is cooking baste regularly with the char siu sauce. If you want you can finish the meat on the hot side of the kettle for a nice charred look and flavour.

Offset cooking on Weber Kettle

Serve with spring rolls (spring vegetables cooked in spring roll pastry or rice paper), pak choi, or lots of fluffy white rice.

Chinese BBQ

Chinese Char Siu

Char Siu Ireland

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