Chinese Main Dish – Cha Siu 叉燒 or BBQ Pork

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Cha Siu is only one of the several types of roast meats in a Cantonese siu mei (燒味). The other popular types of roasted meat include Siu yuk (燒肉), Siu ngaap (燒鴨), and Soy sauce chicken (豉油雞).

You can use one of several cuts of pork to make Cha Siu. Some like to use belly pork which has a higher proportion of fat resulting in a very moist end product whilst others like to use Boston Butt as it is called in USA (otherwise known as the Shoulder Butt), the marbled Pork Neck end may also be used. Someone had suggested using pork loin but I think that would be un-wise since any meat that is roasted at high temperature must have some marbling of fat. My favourite cut is the Boston Butt which gives a good balance of lean and fat.

In South East Asia, wet markets are where butchers still abound. Customers just ask them for the right cut for char siu and he then cuts the meat into a long strip. However, if you or your helper do most of your shopping in the supermarkets it might be helpful to have a peek at the chart below.

For my readers wanting more information about cuts of pork, for quick reference I have reproduced below a simple Pork chart taken from http://www.clovegarden.com

Chart

Some comments about Ingredients 

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A number of recipes suggest addition of quite a number of ingredients such as five spice powder, hoisin sauce, red fermented soy bean curd and even rice wine. The most pleasing and authentic recipe for me uses only 5 seasoning ingredients which are found in most Asian kitchens (with the exception of that bottle of red char siu colouring) and are featured in the photo above.

That piece of pork is Boston Butt which has been artfully cut into a long strip by the butcher. You can purchase that bottle of red food colouring from Chinese medical shops. A good substitute would be Vermilion Red food colouring paste. Cochineal colouring used in many Agar agar desserts will not be suitable.

Preparation

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To give my readers a better idea of what the piece of pork looks like, in the photo above you see a re-assembled piece of Boston Butt. The stainless steel bowl holds that mixture of the 5 seasoning ingredients.

The photo below shows it all stretched out again.

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STEP 1. Mix the 5 seasoning ingredients into a small bowl. Cut pork into 2 pieces for ease in handling.

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STEP 2. Roll the top of a thick plastic bag down. Insert the piece of pork into bag. Place bag on a metal tray to catch any possible drips. Pour the seasoning onto the pork and rub it from outside the plastic bag to distribute seasoning evenly all over the pork (keeps your hands clean!). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate pork. You can keep it in the chiller section for up to 2 days before roasting.

Roasting the Seasoned Pork

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STEP 3. Pre-heat oven at 250C for top and bottom heating (or 230C for Fan oven). Line a grill pan with aluminium foil and oil rack (for easy clean up). When oven is at the correct temperature, place seasoned pork onto rack and grill for 10 mins, flip and grill for another 10 mins or so. Rest the Cha Siu for at least 15 mins before slicing. This keeps the Cha Siu juicy.

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STEP 4. Slice half a large cucumber diagonally and slice one spring onion for garnish. Arrange neatly on a serving plate and dribble 1 Tbsp of light soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil over the cucumber slices. Slice Cha Siu and place it attractively onto the serving plate.

 RECIPE

Serves : 4 to 6 persons

  •  One piece of 500 to 600 gm of Boston Butt, cut into a long strip

Seasoning

  •   6 to 7 Tbsp granulated Sugar
  •  1/2 tsp Dark soy sauce
  •  1/2 tsp Light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp Chinese Red Food colouring (vermillion red food colour is a good substitute)
  • 3 Tbsp Water

Method:

1.  Mix the 5 seasoning ingredients into a small bowl.

2.  Roll the top of a thick plastic bag down. Insert the piece of pork into bag. Place bag on a metal tray to catch any possible drips. Pour the seasoning onto the pork and rub it from outside the plastic bag to distribute seasoning evenly all over the pork (keeps your hands clean!). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate pork.

3. Pre-heat oven at 250C. Line a grill pan with aluminium foil and oil rack (for easy clean up). When oven is at the correct temperature, place seasoned pork onto rack and grill for 10 mins, flip and grill for another 10 mins or so. Rest the char siu for at least 15 mins before slicing.

4. Slice half a large cucumber diagonally and slice one spring onion for garnish. Arrange neatly on a serving plate and dribble 1 Tbsp of light soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil over the cucumber slices. Slice Cha Siu and place it attractively onto the serving plate.

Serving Suggestions

For a quick light luncheon, serve with plain egg noodles (wantan mein 云吞面). My post called “Soy Sauce Chicken Noodle” teaches you how to cook these fresh egg noodles in detail. Click here.

Steam rice  and a vegetable dish such as Shanghai Cabbage with Oyster Sauce and Garlic (Click here) is always appropriate. A complimentary condiment is the local chicken rice chilli. There are so many different brands on the supermarket shelves! My overseas friends like Tiger Brand.

Expecting company? Depending on the number of people and their dietary preference, suggestions of other dishes to serve are listed below. HINT: Try to use those ingredients that are currently in the fridge, freezer or larder. A sample marketing checklist can be found here, click.

Chinese Soups

1. Radishes with Dried Squid. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here.

3. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon. Click here.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. Click here

5. Tang Ho and Fish Balls. Click here.

6. Watercress and Red Dates. Click here.

Seafood dishes

1. Dry Assam Seafood. Click here

2. Fried Fish with Fermented Black Bean Sauce. Click here.

3. Stuffed You Tiao (Baked).  Click here.

4. Quick Braised Sea Cucumber, Chicken and Mushrooms. Click here.

Meat dishes

1. Beef Rendang (spicy). Click here

2. Singapore Curry Chicken (spicy). Click here.

3. Chicken Breasts with ketchup. Click here.

4. Pari Pari Style Chicken. Click here.

Vegetable Dishes

1. Broccoli and Meat/Tofu Stir Fry. Click here.

2. Spinach in Broth with 3 types of eggs. Click here.

3. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here.

Dessert

Besides a plate of cold, freshly cut seasonal fruits, no one will be disappointed with one of the desserts listed below. They were designed for our hot tropical climate.

1. Almond Jelly + Longans Click here.

2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.

3. Sweet Potato Dessert Soup Click here.

4. Sago Pudding. Click here.

5. Orange Agar Agar. Click here.

6. Caramel Custard. Click here.

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