Last year for Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), I made char siu bao (Chinese barbecued pork buns). I didn't like the bun part of the recipe but loved the char siu part. The original recipe was way too laborious though. I've heavily shortened a lot of the steps and adjusted amounts resulting in a moist and flavorful barbecued pork. The main difference with my recipe is that it's not so excessively sweet and omits that unreal pink color. So if you must have it, by all means use the packaged mix with food coloring. Or do as I do, use ketchup and the pork will be red, just not unnaturally red.
Char siu, which means "roasted on a fork," is traditionally skewered and roasted over an open fire. Using honey in the recipe and cooking the meat in a shallow pan in the oven will achieve a similar shiny glazed effect. Char siu is Cantonese, in Mandarin it's cha shao, and in Vietnamese it's xa xiu.
Char Siu / Xa Xiu (Chinese/Vietnamese Barbecued Pork)
Adapted from Visual Recipes
For 3 lbs of pork, you'll need:
3 lbs of pork butt, shoulder, ribs, or whatever you like
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tblsp hoisin sauce
2 tblsp oyster sauce
2 tblsp xiao hsing white wine
2 tblsp honey
1 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp sesame oil
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tsp salt
Mix all marinade ingredients thoroughly and take a taste, adjusting if necessary. Then slather marinade all over the pork. You can let the meat marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge, but I've baked it right away and still achieved plenty of flavor. Bake in a shallow pan in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The marinade will start thickening at this point.
Flip the meat, making sure to baste the meat in the marinade, and bake for another half hour.
Check for doneness. When the pork is almost done, broil for 10 minutes to get the pork crispy and charred. Check and make sure the sugars don't cause the pork to burn.
Remove from oven and let char siu rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to let the juices redistribute. Slice thinly to serve. When I was little, my mom used to make xa xiu (the Vietnamese spelling of char siu) quite often. Always from the package though. She'd make me slice the meat as thin as possible and arrange it like so. I guess some things linger into adulthood.
You can use this marinade on ribs and it'll still turn out juicy and delicious. But, don't take my word for it. You can also toss in a few pounds of wings into the pan and make Canh Ga Xa Xiu (Vietnamese Chinese Char Siu-Style Barbecued Chicken Wings).
Who made my recipe for char siu/xa xiu?
Nikki Polani said, "I don’t think I could go back to that reddish spice mix again!"
1 year ago today, tender and flavorful spare ribs and bok choy chow mein noodle soup at Phoenix Food Boutique in Alhambra and San Gabriel.