Brian (my partner in crime for a great many years) and I lived for Saturdays. Saturday was the day the BBQ Place (I know, a strange name for a Chinese restaurant) at Asian Square on Buford Hwy pumped out non stop Char Siu – and we stuffed ourselves in plate upon plate of mahogany lacquered, perfectly seasoned medallions.
Char Siu – or Chinese BBQ Pork used to be a staple at every Chinese restaurant. You could order it fresh off the rotary thingy, sliced and served with a heap of rice; find it diced and scattered like little jewels throughout the pork fried rice; used in twice cooked pork, and minced – mixed with hoisin sauce and stuffed in bbq buns. Times were it was a staple at every Mr. Won’s, House of Eng, Mama Wu, Ho Ho, Cantonese Palace (insert your favorite Chinese Restaurant here). But those are sad days gone by. Like a great many things in equally diverse cultures, time – money – labor have taken their toll, and unless your particular Chinese haunt does their own slowly turning, crisperizing Peking Duck, you probably wont be getting any of that… or Char Siu, either. It has just become too troublesome and expensive for many eateries to manage.
Char Siu isn’t terribly difficult. What it is.. is time consuming. This isn’t something you’re going to whip up in an hour for an impromptu dinner. This is going to take a good 3 days. So, grab a couple of good books and watch a good movie while its working…. maybe something with Chinese food in it…. like this one….
I have taken a couple of liberties with the traditional recipe:
1. I don’t like using Bottled Hoisin Sauce – 99 / 100 times is have just an obscene amount of MSG in it, which no one needs to be ingesting.
2. The red dye – although I do miss that reddish bark on the pork – I eliminated it. I tend to like the pork a little more natural looking. However, if you find that you really want that mahogany look, add 2 drops of red food coloring to the wet marinade mix.
3. I don’t use corn starch in anything unless I absolutely have to – I’ve used Tapioca Starch – Feel free to revert back if the mood strikes you.
(Chinese BBQ Pork)
Makes up to 4 Pounds
4 Pounds of Boneless Pork Butt or Pork Belly (Pork Butt will give you a meater – drier Char Siu, while Pork Belly will give you a softer, juicer end product.)
2 Tablespoons Honey
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice (or you can grind you own – See Mark’s recipe at No Recipes here)
1 Clove Garlic – Minced
1 Tablespoon Candied Ginger – Minced
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sweet Rice Wine
1/4 Cup Tapioca Starch
2 Tablespoons Oil
Medium Mixing Bowl
1 to 2 Large Zipper Bags
Preheat your outdoor grill (your oven will work, you will just have to turn the strips more often) to 200 degrees
Place a layer of foil over the center section of the lower grate and place the strips on the top rack over the foil
Brush the strips with oil
Close the grill, set the timer for 1 hour
After 1 hour Turn the pork 1/4 Turn and reset the timer
Repeat for 4 hours.
Remove and either serve immediately, or cool down and refrigerate until needed.