How to Make Char Siu, Chinese Barbecued Pork, at Home

By CiCi Li, NTD Television
October 18, 2019 Updated: October 19, 2019

Char siu, or Chinese barbecued pork, is a sweet and savory Cantonese classic.

The name of the dish literally translates to “fork-roasted,” in reference to how it was traditionally cooked: skewered onto a long fork and roasted in an oven or over an open fire. My version is not as complicated, and can easily be made at home.

Char siu’s characteristic red tint traditionally comes from red yeast rice, but since it’s a bit difficult to find, I replaced it with fermented red bean curd, available at any Chinese supermarket. While you’re there, pick up a few other specialty ingredients as well: chu hou paste, rose cooking wine, and maltose.

You’ll need to start the process a day in advance, so that the pork can marinate overnight. The next day, you’ll roast the pork in the oven, basting it with the flavorful leftover marinade as it cooks. When it’s done, the meat will be perfectly tender and juicy on the inside and lacquered with a sticky-sweet glaze on the outside.

Then, all that’s left to do is slice it up, lay the pieces on a bed of freshly steamed rice, and enjoy!

Chinese barbecue pork
Char siu hanging in the window of a Cantonese barbecue shops. (Shutterstock)

Cantonese Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Prep Time: Overnight

Cook Time: 90 minutes

Serves 4

For the pork and the marinade:

  • 1 1/2 pounds pork butt
  • 2 pieces fermented red bean curd, plus 2 tablespoons of the sauce from the jar
  • 2 tablespoons chu hou paste (or substitute with hoisin sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rose cooking wine (mei kuei lu chiew) (or substitute with rice wine or shaoxing wine)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk scallions, cut into 2-inch-pieces, lightly smashed
  • 1 bunch cilantro, cut into 2-inch-pieces, lightly smashed
  • 1 shallot, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces lengthwise, lightly smashed

For the glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons maltose or honey
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water

The night before, marinate the pork. Use a fork to lightly stab the pork all over. This will tenderize the meat and help it develop deeper flavors while marinating.

In a bowl, combine all the seasonings and ingredients for the marinade. Whisk thoroughly, breaking up the bean curd, until mostly smooth. (Tiny pieces of bean curd will remain.)

Transfer pork to a large Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Squeeze most of the air out of the Ziploc bag and seal it. Distribute and rub the marinade all over the meat. Transfer the bag to the fridge to marinate overnight, flipping it about halfway through.  

The next day, roast the pork. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position a baking rack in the middle of the oven. Remove the marinated pork from the fridge to allow it to come closer to room temperature while the oven preheats. 

Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil (for easier clean-up) and place a roasting rack on top of the roasting pan. Remove the pork from the Ziploc bag and place it on the roasting rack. Reserve the marinade in a bowl; you’ll use it to baste the meat as it roasts.

Transfer the roasting pan to the middle rack of the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

 After 30 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Brush the reserved marinade all over the pork. Flip the pork and brush the marinade over this side, too. Return the roasting pan to the middle rack of the oven and roast for another 30 minutes.

In the meantime, in a small saucepan over low heat, combine all ingredients for the glaze. Stir until dissolved, about 3 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven and brush the glaze all over the pork. Flip the pork and brush the glaze on this side as well. Return the roasting pan to the middle rack of the oven and roast for a final 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the char siu from the oven. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it into bite-size pieces to serve. Enjoy!

Recipe by CiCi Li, the producer and presenter of “CiCi’s Food Paradise” on NTD. Join her in discovering the world of Asian home cooking at CiCiLi.tv

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