You know the sticky, crimson red pork hanging from hooks in the window of Chinese barbecue shops? You will be shocked how easy is it to make at home. And I bet you already have most (if not all) the ingredients for the glaze!
No trip to Chinatown here in Sydney is complete without taking home a container of Chinese barbecue pork. And I am yet to manage the drive all the way home without sneaking in a little taste test (or two…or three). The damn traffic lights! If they were GREEN all the way home, then I wouldn’t have a chance to do that! (OK, blatant lie. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and we both know I would be hooning over the Harbour Bridge, holding the steering wheel with one hand and rummaging around in the plastic carry bag with the other, blindly trying to feel my way to the barbecue pork container).
I must look so ridiculous, eyes fixed on the road in front of me, stuffing my face with barbecue pork then sucking my fingers clean of the sticky glaze. I would laugh if I ever saw someone doing that! I’m all class, and totally cool with that.
I first tried Chinese barbecue pork at home perhaps 10 years ago and the recipe I use has evolved over the years. Little tweaks to make it as close as I can to my favourite Chinese barbecue shop. I am not exactly sure where I sourced the original recipe from – probably Gourmet Traveller magazine.
The real deal Chinese barbecue pork is cooked over charcoals, with the meat hanging on hooks. But for us ordinary folks, you can still make Chinese barbecue pork at home that tastes just like store bought, it just has less smokey flavour.
Traditionally this is made with pork neck or pork shoulder which are cuts of pork that are not too fatty (like pork belly) and not too lean. However, my favourite pork cut is tenderloin. Yes, it is leaner, so you do need to make sure you don’t overcook it, but I like it because it is more tender than shoulder (which I usually use for slow cooking recipes).
You will be shocked how easy Char Siu is to make at home.
You will be amazed how thick and glossy the glaze is – seriously, check out the pictures!
And you will be blown away by how incredibly delicious this is.
Happy weekend! – Nagi
PS If you happen to have a schmancy rotisserie, which I did have for a while, I can vouch first hand that this is INCREDIBLE cooked over coals. Just follow the recipe and baste lots while it is cooking!
PPS I happened to recently receive a delivery of pork from Murray Valley Pork, a premium range of Australian pork. For recipes that use lean cuts of meat like this, it is totally worth investing in a good quality pork.
- ¾ tbsp sugar, brown or white (Note 1)
- 1½ tbsp honey
- 1½ tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce (not critical)
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce (Note 1)
- ½ tbs soy sauce (normal all purpose soy sauce) (Note 1)
- ½ tsp five spice powder (Note 2)
- ½ tsp sesame oil (not critical)
- 1 tbsp oil (Note 3)
- Few drops red food colouring, optional (Note 4)
- 1 lb / 500g pork tenderloin (Note 5)
- Place the Marinade ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to simmer for just 30 seconds, then set aside to cool.
- Place the pork and Marinade in a ziplock bag. Remove as much air as possible, then massage it so the marinade is all over the Pork. Place in the fridge and marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight (up to 48 hours).
- Take the pork out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with foil or baking/parchment paper and place a rack on top (rack is recommended but not critical).
- Remove pork from the marinade but save the Marinade for basting.
- Place the pork on the rack and tuck the thin end of the the tenderloin underneath so the whole piece is roughly the same thickness.
- Roast for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 - 160F/ 65 - 70C. Around halfway through roasting, baste generously with the reserved Marinade. Sort of dab it on so you get as much Marinade on the pork as possible - this is key for getting the thick, glossy glaze.
- When the pork is cooked, switch the oven to the broiler/grill. Baste the pork very generously with the remaining Marinade (again, dab rather than brush it on), then broil/grill the pork until it is nicely charred and caramelised - around 2 to 3 minutes. Baste at least twice during broiling/grilling - preferably more. It's the key to the thick glaze.
- If you want extra glaze, add a dollop of honey into the remaining marinade and dab that onto the pork. Chinese BBQ shops do this. Do this towards the end of the cooking time while broiling, otherwise it will burn.
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Serve with rice and steamed Chinese greens. It is also great to serve on noodle soups, or chopped up inside Chinese pancakes or steamed buns.
If you don't have light soy sauce, you can just substitute with ordinary soy sauce.
2. You can get Chinese five spice powder (a mix of spices) in the herb and spice section of supermarkets and it isn't any more expensive than other spices. You can substitute the Chinese five spice powder with 2 tsp extra hoisin sauce BUT you should reduce the sugar to ¼ tsp, otherwise it will be too sweet.
3. The oil is only required if you are using pork tenderloin or another in cut of pork. Because the meat itself does not have enough fat to create that thick sticky glaze.
4. The red food colouring is to make the pork red, like you get at the Chinese barbecue shop. This is purely optional.
5. I used pork tenderloin because it is a personal preference as I like how tender the meat is. It is traditionally made with pork neck or shoulder, both of which I use more for slow cooking. You can use either of those, just cut them into strips ALONG the grain (so when you slice to serve, you are cutting at a 90 degrees angle to the grain) around the thickness of pork tenderloin and then follow the recipe directions.
Some people also make this using pork belly but I find that too oily for my taste for this particular recipe.
The pork I used was Murray Valley Pork, a high quality Australian pork only available from butchers. For recipes like this using lean cuts of meat, investing in a good piece of pork is totally worth it.
Nutrition assuming 4 servings.