Cha siu

Cha Siu (Cantonese BBQ Roast Pork)

Hi, I’m Mr Noodles from Eat Noodles Love Noodles and I’ve hijacked The Grubworm. Don’t worry though, Aaron will be back from honeymoon (congratulations!) in September but in the meantime he has entrusted his blog to a team of blogsitters.

I was well chuffed when I was asked to write a guest post on this blog and I immediately set about thinking what to write. After all I didn’t want to post any old crap on here; I can do that on my own blog. So after much deliberation, I decided to blog in the spirit of The Grubworm and do something I don’t do enough of. I was going to cook and post a recipe.

But what was I going to cook? Noodles were a bit obvious so I decided to try my hand at one of my favourites, siu mei or Cantonese BBQ. This is the stuff like siu aap (roast duck), siu yuk (crispy belly pork) and cha siu (bbq roast pork) that you see hanging in the windows of Chinese restaurants around the world.

Roast duck involves hanging and lacquering the bird and getting the crackling right on siu yuk is a right mare, so I decided to go for the easy option of cha siu. The Cantonese term cha siu literally translates as ‘fork-burnt’ and this refers to the way the pork was traditionally cooked by skewering it on a fork and placing it in a charcoal oven not dissimilar to a tandoor.

You’ll notice some differences between my recipe and others out there. I don’t baste the pork with honey, as I find the resultant glaze can be too sweet. Nor do I use hoisin sauce, as I think there’s enough flavour from the ingredients in my marinade. My cha siu doesn’t have that red tinge either, as I don’t use food colouring, which traditionally should be fermented tofu but nowadays is usually artificial.

That said a recipe should only ever be a guide, not a prescription. So do feel free to remix the marinade with different quantities and additional ingredients. Just don’t forget the five-spice powder, as that’s what defines the art of siu mei.

Cha siu
450-500g pork tenderloin fillet
a decent amount of dark soy sauce
a splash of light soy sauce
a little bit of sesame oil
1 tbsp sunflower oil (veg or groundnut oil can be used too)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp five-spice powder
3 cloves garlic
equal amount of ginger as garlic

Prepare marinade by adding all the ingredients except the pork. The garlic and ginger should be finely chopped or you can cheat by using a grater. I don’t really measure in the kitchen but you should prepare the marinade with enough dark soy so that it covers all the pork.

Cut pork fillet into two equal sized pieces and place in a plastic food bag. Add the marinade to food bag and make sure it covers all the pork. If there is insufficient marinade, just add more dark soy.

Place bag in fridge and marinate for at least 3 hours and ideally overnight. Remove from the fridge to get it up to room temperature before roasting.

Place the pork fillets on a wire rack above a foil lined baking tray in a pre-heated oven at 190C. Cook for around 45 minutes turning once halfway.

Once cooked, leave to rest in a warm place. When rested, slice and serve. By the way, cha siu is served warm or at room temperature so resist the temptation to slice when hot or it will lose its juicy goodness.

Serving Suggestions
The great thing about cha siu is its versatility. With the freshly made stuff, it can form part of a Chinese-style meal alongside other dishes. Alternatively, it could be served on top of a bed of rice or fried noodles, as a one-dish meal.

The leftovers can be used in fried rice, stir-fried noodles or refreshed in a bowl of soup noodles. It can also be used as an ingredient in spring rolls or dim sum such as cha siu bao (steamed bbq roast pork bun) or cha siu sou (bbq roast pork in puff pastry).

2 Responses to “Cha siu”

  1. Tom

    Did you actually make that? I am seriously seriously impressed. Next stop roast goose Mr Noodles style…?

  2. Mr Noodles

    Tom – my friend was similarly incredulous that I made this! But it’s pretty easy to make once you’ve prepared the marinade. I love Cantonese roast goose but that would be a challenge to get right.

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