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char siu (Chinese BBQ pork)

Char siu (cha siu in Cantonese), or Chinese BBQ pork, is a staple you’d find at most Chinese restaurants and butcher shops. It’s savory, lightly sweet, and my favorite ones are slightly fatty to keep the slices tender and juicy.

I’m so excited to share my recipe for char siu, or Chinese BBQ pork! It’s tender, juicy, slightly charred, and packed with flavor from the marinade. I wanted to make a version without using pre-packaged char siu sauce (though there is nothing wrong with them!) to really understand and appreciate the flavors that each ingredient brings on its own and combined. If you cook Chinese or Asian food often, you might have most of these marinade ingredients in your pantry already!

What cut of meat should I get for char siu?

The most common (and cost-effective) meat to use for char siu is pork shoulder (aka pork butt). Make sure you get some that has good marbling to ensure tenderness and juiciness!

If you LOVE fat, my mom often makes her char siu with pork jowl (cheek). It’s super fatty and delicious, and you only need to eat very few pieces to feel satisfied. Because pork jowl comes in thinner cuts, you can likely cut down the cook time by ~10 min. Due to its fat content, jowl is also a bit harder to overcook compared to pork shoulder.

How do I get my char siu red?

My favorite way to get the char siu its characteristic red color is to use fermented bean curd (a pantry staple in many Chinese households). The redness from this product comes naturally from fermented red rice, and it adds a deep umami to the marinade. Fermented bean curd won’t get your char siu bright red, but it will give it a tint of dark red and lots of flavor!

If you want your char siu bright red like restaurants’, you can add a bit of red food coloring. I’ve also seen beetroot powder being used but haven’t tried it! 

What can I do with leftover char siu?

If you have any leftover char siu (I hope you don’t), my favorite and easiest way to repurpose it is to make char siu fried rice. Another tasty way to repurpose them (but one that would require more work) is to make BBQ pork buns! I’ll be working on a recipe for this in the next few months and will update this page when it’s live. Let me know your favorite way to repurpose char siu in the comments!

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Making your own delicious char siu at home is surprisingly simple! With this recipe, it comes out juicy, tender, and packed with flavor from the marinade. This recipe makes 4-6 servings depending on how much pork you use (2-3 lb).
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Inactive Time (Marinade) 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 55 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 4 servings

Equipment

  • baking tray
  • wire rack highly recommended

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 lb pork shoulder with fat marbling

Marinade

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 cube fermented bean curd (the red version)
  • 2 tbsp fermented bean curd liquid
  • 2 cloves garlic grated or minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp five spice powder

Basting liquid

  • 1 tbsp leftover pork marinade
  • 3 tbsp honey

Instructions
 

  • Slice the pork shoulder into 2-3 inch thick strips. Mix all the marinade ingredients into a large bowl or bag and  add the pork strips. Massage to incorporate the marinade, cover, and let sit in the fridge for at least 8 hrs and up to 24 hrs. 
    2-3 lb pork shoulder with fat marbling, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp hoisin, 1 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine, 3 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 cube fermented bean curd, 2 tbsp fermented bean curd liquid, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • Remove the pork from the fridge 30-60 mins before roasting to allow the meat to come to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare a foil lined baking tray with a wire rack on top. Drain off excess marinade (save the marinade) from the pork strips, then place on top of the wire rack. Add a very thin layer of water to the baking tray to prevent smoking (from the sugar in the marinade during roasting).
  • Roast at 400F for 30 min (convection setting on if available), flipping the strips once at the 15 min mark. Meanwhile, mix the basting ingredients together. 
    1 tbsp leftover pork marinade, 3 tbsp honey
  • Remove from the oven, flip the pork strips again, and baste the top and sides well with a brush. Set oven to broil at 400-425F (or hotter if you prefer more char) and broil the pork for 5 min or until slightly charred. Keep your eye on it! 
  • Flip the strips one final time, baste, then broil for another 5 min or until charred to your preference. The total cook time should be ~40-45 min. If using a traditional oven, it may take a few min longer compared to a convection toaster oven or air fryer. I wouldn’t recommend broiling too long as you don’t want the pork to overcook. 
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 min before slicing. Make sure to identify the direction the grain of the meat is running, then slice against it (perpendicular) for the most tender pieces of meat! I also like to save the juices at the bottom of the baking tray to drizzle over the pork and rice. Enjoy!!
Keyword cantonese roast pork, cha siu, char siu, chinese bbq pork
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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