Sticky, crimson red Char Siu Pork – just like you get from the Chinese Barbecue meat shops! Also called Chinese BBQ Pork, it’s finger licking good and you’re going to be shocked how easy it is to make the Char Siu sauce that’s used to marinade the pork.
Char Siu Pork – Chinese BBQ Pork
No trip to Chinatown is complete without taking home a container of Chinese BBQ 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 darn traffic lights! If they were GREEN all the way home, then I wouldn’t have a chance to do that!
OK, that’s a 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.😂
An Authentic Char Siu Pork recipe
There are two things in this recipe that I do differently to traditional Char Siu to make this easier but still yield an excellent end result that tastes like store bought:
Cooked in the oven instead of over coals; and
Red food colouring to stain the pork red.
Authentic Char Siu gets the red colour from a speciality ingredient called fermented red bean curds which is red. It’s calls for a trip to the Asian store and you’ll have to hunt deep into the dark corners to find it
While it makes the pork red, the small amount used doesn’t add any flavour. And because I have no other use for red bean curds, I started making it using red food colouring instead and found the end result was exactly the same both in flavour and visual.
So I stuck with it!
What goes in Char Siu Sauce
Here’s what you need for the Char Siu Sauce which is used to marinade the pork – all things you can get from everyday grocery stores:
Pork – the best pork for Char Siu is pork scotch fillet. See next section for more information;
Sugar – brown sugar is best for lovely caramel flavours in the marinade. But even white sugar is fine;
Soy sauces – I like to use light and all purpose soy sauce for the best flavour balance, but you can just use just one of these. Do not use dark soy sauce, it’s way too strong. Read more about different soy sauces here;
Chinese five spice – pre mixed store bought blend, very common these days. Sold in the spice section fo everyday supermarkets and doesn’t cost anymore than other spices;
Hoisin – common Chinese sauce, found in the Asian section. It’s sweet, savoury and has a hint of Five Spice Powder;
Red food colouring – as discussed above, this is used to stain the pork red; and
Honey – this is added to the marinade to turn it into a basting sauce. It makes the pork extra shiny and caramelised which is exactly what we want!
Best pork for Char Siu
I finally managed to get a Chinese barbecue shop to tell me what cut of meat they use. Pork scotch fillet!! Also known as Pork Neck, Pork Collar or Pork Neck Collar, this is an excellent cut of pork which is ideal for both quick cooking (such as pan seared pork chops) and slow cooking (such as this Slow Roasted Brown Sugar Garlic Butter Pork).
Char Siu Pork is also terrific made with pork shoulder – I’d say just as good. Some people like to make it with pork belly but I find it too fatty for my taste.
I used to use pork tenderloin which is much leaner so you do need to be careful about overcooking, whilst still achieving that caramelisation – cook times for this cut are in the recipe notes.
Scotch fillet and shoulder are much easier to cook with – they require longer cook time to make the meat juicy which means incredible caramelisation which is what we WANT!
That sight makes me weak in the knees, every. Single. Time. 😂
How to make Char Siu Pork
Char Siu is simple to make, it just calls for patience to let the pork marinade to infuse with flavour and make the pork stained red! At least 24 hours, but 48 hours is even better.
Be sure to baste generously, slathering / dabbing the marinade on – it’s the key to get a really great sticky surface!
How to serve Chinese BBQ Pork
As for how to serve it, here’s a very typical meal set served at Chinese BBQ shops: slices of pork over rice with a side of steamed greens with sauce (this Steamed Chinese Greens with Oyster Sauce is similar), as pictured above. This is a Chinese BBQ Shop takeout favourite – “BBQ Pork Lunch!”
Dishes made using Chinese BBQ Pork
Char Siu Pork is also used in a handful of Chinese dishes, such as
Chinese Steamed Pork Buns – big fluffy white buns filled with BBQ pork
Fried Rice – Char Siu is often in “special fried rice” in place of Chinese sausage or bacon
This Char Siu Pork recipe makes quite a lot because the standard size of pork scotch fillet roasts is around 1.2 – 1.5kg/2.4-3lb.
But you’ll thank me. Just one bite, and you’ll be thanking me profusely for making this a big-batch recipe. 😜 – Nagi xx
Watch how to make it
Char Siu Pork – Chinese BBQ Pork
- 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar (white also ok)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce , or all purpose soy (Note 1)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce , just all purpose (or more light soy) (Note 1)
- 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder (Note 2)
- 1 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola) (Note 3)
- 2 tsp red food colouring , optional (Note 4)
- 1.2 – 1.5kg / 2.4 – 3lb pork scotch fillet (aka collar neck, pork neck) OR pork shoulder (Note 5)
- 2 tbsp Extra Honey
- Cut pork in half to make two long strips. (Note 5)
- Mix Marinade ingredients in a bowl.
- Place the pork and Marinade in a stain proof container or ziplock bag. Marinate 24 to 48 hours in the fridge (3 hours is the bare minimum).
- Preheat oven to 160C/320F.
- Line a tray with foil and place a rack on top (recommended but not critical).
- Remove pork from the marinade, save Marinade. Place pork on rack.
- Roast for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour reserved marinade in a saucepan. Mix Extra Honey into marinade. Bring to simmer over medium high and cook for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat.
- Remove pork from oven. Dab marinade all over, then turn. Baste then roast for a further 30 minutes.
- Remove pork from oven. Brush with marinade again, then turn, brush with marinade and roast for a further 20 minutes. If charring too quickly, cover with foil.
- Baste again on surface then bake for a further 10 minutes until caramelised and sticky. Meat should be tender but not falling apart, like with pulled pork. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Serve with rice and steamed Chinese greens. See notes for more uses!
Originally published in May 2019. Updated November 2020 with a sparkling new video and brand new photos! No change to recipe – I wouldn’t dare!
Other iconic Chinese recipes
Crispy Chinese Pork Belly – the other Chinese BBQ Meat Shop favourite!
Potstickers – steamed dumplings with crispy golden undersides
Spring Rolls – better than Egg Rolls!
Life of Dozer
This Dozer update was from when I originally published this post in 2018 – when he tore his ACL and had to go in for knee surgery followed by months of recovery – happy to report he recovered 100% perfectly!
Dozer went in for his ACL surgery this morning. He has to stay overnight, so this afternoon I headed over to the vet to drop off his favourite toy and a whole bunch of food for the wonderful team at Mona Vale Veterinary Clinic. #Shameless
And look!!! Not 30 minutes ago, the vet called to assure me he’s doing just fine and sent me this photo. ❤ Post surgery sleepy!