Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mmmm-mmm Char Siu Barbecue

I love barbecue. Who does not? I think virtually everyone on this planet does. From the days when cavemen first learned that they could prepare their food over an open fire to the present where we have food competitions steeped in tradition to show which state holds claim to the best barbecue; we are all bound by the open flame. I believe one of the reasons so many people enjoy barbecue is because no matter where you are in the world, every national cuisine has some version of classic barbecue.

Char Siu is originally from southeastern China, but is now a favorite all over Asia; as well as here in the USA. The name translates as "fork-roasted." It describes the original method of cooking which involved hanging strips of marinated meat on forked skewers and roasting them in an oven or over an open fire. Char Siu is a common Chinese staple whether it is a banquet or at dim sum nestled in snowy white steam bread (that is for another post). Be you a lover of Chinese food, or a complete novice to this cuisine, most people love this crimson hued barbecued meat. As a child, I loved it so much that I named my Cabbage Patch doll Lani Char Siu Lee. I hope that this recipe wins your heart and stomach as well.

Homemade Char Siu


(Makes enough marinade/sauce for about 2 lbs of pork)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lb pork butt (get it sliced up into medallions, about 1-inch thick)
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sherry (rice wine can also be substituted)
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring (you can use less, or omit, but I love the deep red)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  1. Mix all the ingredients, except for the pork, well so it is just a slightly thick reddish-brown sauce.
  2. In a gallon-size freezer bag add the pork butt pieces and marinate with 2/3 of the char siu sauce for 6-8 hours, preferably overnight is best. It really allows the flavors and color to infuse the meat.
  3. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil into the remaining char siu sauce. Keep this in the fridge for after the pork is done cooking.
  4. After the pork has marinated heat the oven up to about 425F degrees.
  5. Here comes the slightly tricky part: get a wire rack and place it on top of a baking pan that is slightly smaller than the wire rack. Fill the bottom of the pan up with enough water that it will not dry out, but does not touch the wire rack. Place this whole set up in the oven, without the pork.
  6. Leave the wire rack/baking pan set up in the oven for about 10 minutes, then open up the oven door (Be careful of the steam!) and place the pork onto the rack. Turn down the oven to 325F and cook for 30 minutes, flipping the pork over and basting every 10 minutes with a little of the reserved marinade*. With 5 minutes to go, stop basting with marinade. And after 30 minutes I transfer the pork to a heated grill (either indoor or outdoor) to finish off the cooking process and get the smoky flavor. Grill the meat for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  7. Heat the reserved marinade until barely simmering. Slice the pork and pour the sauce over it. Serve with some steamed rice. Enjoy!
*NOTE* If you do not have a grill, or do not want to go through the extra work, you could just cook the char siu in the oven the entire time. Cook the pork in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the juices run clear.


  1. mmmm, I love char siu and rice. That looks very delicious.

  2. Oh yum!!! Will you make the bao with this then? Looks so delicious. This is a keeper :) Thanks for sharing.

  3. Mary - Thank you for the kind words.

    Penny - Thank you. And yes, I will be making bao to go with the leftover. In fact, I think I will be attempting that today ;)