This was my first attempt at Chinese bbq pork, or char siu.
It is not a particularly complex dish, but it did involve a little forethought, as the pork needed to marinate for 2 days before cooking, and the recipe also involved a fair bit of shopping at the Asian grocery store.
All the time and effort was definitely made worthwhile when, after I served up dish, hubby said: “wow, its smells like a Chinese restaurant”! I think that definitely counts as a success!
Char Siu Marinade
Just like any traditional recipe, there is a fair bit of disagreement about what should be included in char siu. After looking at dozens of recipes online, I based my method on a recipe posted by a blogger called Jessica Gavin.
The only ingredient upon which that everyone seems to agree is soy sauce! Most recipes include some form of bean paste or bean sauce, and almost all include hoisin sauce and some form of alcohol. (The “red” appearance of char siu is said to come from red fermented bean curd, but I could only find fermented bean paste, so my pork lacked that red sheen. The Chinese rice wine or sherry is added to help tenderise the pork while it marinates.)
I started the marinade by combining roughly equal quantities of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame paste, fermented bean paste, and Chinese rice wine. I added a little salt, a few teaspoons of sugar, 3 cloves of garlic and a few teaspoons of 5 spice powder.
I was able to find most of the ingredients in the local supermarket, but the bean paste and sesame powder came from the Asian grocery.
5 spice powder is just as it sound – a mix of 5 spices. It is made by combining cinnamon, star anise, szechuan pepper, fennel seeds and cloves. I combined the ingredients and crushed them to powder in my mortar and pestle.
Incidentally, 5 spice powder not only smells amazing while you are making it, but the ingredients look stunning!
Cooking the pork
One thing that all of the recipes for char siu have in common is that the pork must be marinated for as long as possible. I planned to cook the pork on Friday night, so I marinated the pork on Wednesday night.
I did not post a photo of the marinating pork because, no matter what settings I used on my camera, the raw, marinating pork just looked too unappetising. Feel free to use your imagination!
I preheated the oven to about 180 degrees. Just before I put the pork in the oven, I brushed it on all sides with a sauce made of equal parts mirin and honey, with a little sesame oil. This sauce is apparently responsible for the sticky, sweet and shiny coating that is typical of this char siu.
Traditionally, the pork should be cooked suspended on a hook. I didn’t have the equipment to do that, so I used a roasting rack instead. I think it worked fairly well, and the pork cooked in about 20 minutes (when it was 75 degrees inside).
I turned the pork it a few times while it was cooking, to ensure all sides had a slightly crisp coating. I also increased the heat for the last few minutes, to ensure that all the marinade had cooked and the outside of the pork was crispy and dry.
Fried rice is a great dish to use up leftover ingredients, and often end up making friend rice containing demonstrably non-Chinese ingredients, like chorizo, Christmas ham, or salami…
I wanted to make this fried rice taste like rice from a Chinese restaurant, so I stuck to fairly authentic ingredients, such as shallots, eggs, garlic and ginger. I even bought some mini dried prawns from the Asian market!
I started by frying up garlic, ginger and a little chilli with some diced baby corn and splash of Chinese rice wine.
I added the rice to the wok with a few drops of sesame oil, some soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and some crushed seschuan pepper.
I also added some frozen peas and the mini prawns.
Finally, I creating a well in the centre of the rice, into which I cracked eggs, and topped them with the shallots. I scrambled the eggs and shallots, incorporating them slowly into the rice.
The assembled dish
Just before the rice was finished cooking, I removed the pork from the oven and let it rest. I cut the pork into thick slices.
When the rice was ready, I spread it onto a beautiful rectangular platter and topped it with the sliced pork.
The pork was sweet, juicy and delicious, and the outside was beautifully glossy. Absolutely a success!
To accompany our fried rice and Chinese bbq pork, we had a bottle of 2012 Seaview Merlot. Probably not the natural choice of wine for this dish. However, it was a fairly innocuous wine, so the flavours did not overpower the taste of the pork.