Crazy For Char Siu (Chinese Barbecue)

Grilled Char Siu pic5

As we soar into the peak of summer, our grill in the backyard is bursting with smoke and flavor in the bright, sunny days. Yes, sweat it out, that’s what summer is all about. Although grilling hot dogs and burgers is a classic in the summer, there is no doubt in my mind I want to make char siu on the grill. Char siu is an iconic Cantonese specialty that is sweet, salty, sticky and savory. Chinese people often buy char siu pork in barbecue restaurants and serve at home with steamed rice and vegetables. Head to Chinatown, you will see BBQ ribs, char siu pork, roast duck, soy sauce chicken and crisp skin roast pork displayed in the restaurants, ready to cut per your orders. People often have to wait in long lines for their favorite BBQ, especially during Chinese New Year. One year I visited just about all the BBQ houses in Chinatown on the second day of Chinese New Year. They sold out all the char siu, roast duck and roast pork before I got there. That was around 10:30 on a cold winter morning in Chicago.

Unless you have a very big commercial roasting oven, it is hard to get that signature charred flavor when cooking char siu in the regular oven at home. Some people like to cook it under the broiler or use a kitchen torch. But that’s not how char siu is done. Please don’t call it char siu. It is difficult to duplicate the unique flavor of char siu when it is done incorrectly. Ordinary BBQ is not char siu.

My Favorite Place in Chicago
My Favorite Place in Chicago

Grilled Char Siu pic11

Making char siu on the grill is fun, people love it. For years, I tried making char siu in many ways but with no success. I changed ingredients, I improved techniques, I learned from others. Nothing seemed to work. Even though the meat tasted pretty good, it was lacking the classic char siu flavor. Just not char siu to me. I know the secret is in the marinade sauce. But what is it?

My good luck finally came. I used a back-to-basic approach and created a new char siu marinade sauce. I carefully eliminated all the key ingredients that did not work well for me, keeping just the basics. I added a few new ingredients, all very simple stuff. Long story short, this is the best char siu I ever made. It tastes very much like the char siu you get from BBQ restaurants. The meat (pork or chicken) is so delicious and juicy. And yes, it is well worth the hard work. Now when I crave char siu, I make it at home instead of driving
4 hours to Chicago. That is quite a trip for char siu. I must be crazy.

Grilled Char Siu pic1

Grilled Char Siu pic7

Although traditionally people use pork to make char siu, I like to use chicken instead. Chicken is always my first choice of meat because it is easy to cook, easy to eat, less fat, and it tastes better than pork. The marinade sauce works really well on both pork and chicken. They taste equally delicious, good texture, lots of yummy char siu flavor. Make a full batch of marinade sauce even if you only have 1 or 2 pounds of meat (pork or chicken.) Use what you need and save the leftover char siu sauce to make a fabulous Mongolian dish another day. It tastes absolutely wonderful. You will love it. In fact, you can even make a char siu pizza or char siu pulled chicken using the leftovers. So many char siu options!

 

Crazy For Char Siu 叉燒 (Chinese Barbecue)

Preparations:
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl with a lid, put in the refrigerator. (Tips: Make the marinade sauce the day before you need it. You will get a more flavorful marinade. I don’t use red food coloring. Feel free to use 2 to 4 drops if you like.)

Grilled Char Siu pic6

You need 3 pounds of meat, pork or chicken; cut into manageable pieces. Season with salt, garlic powder and black pepper, don’t use too much salt. (We like chicken breasts and thighs. Sometimes we use pork loin country-style ribs.) Put the seasoned meat in a large
zip lock bag.

Grilled Char Siu pic8

Use about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup marinade sauce to pour over the meat, don’t need much. Reserve the remaining sauce and put it back in the refrigerator. Seal the bag tight. Move the bag around, making sure the meat is evenly coated with sauce. Put in the refrigerator over night. Take the bag out and rotate the meat when you have a chance, 1 or 2 times.

Day of Cooking:
Take the meat out 15 minutes before grilling. Cook the reserved sauce in a sauce pan over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon honey, more if you like sweet, stir as needed. Let simmer until bubbling, remove from heat and set aside. This is your honey char siu glaze. (Use what you need, save the leftover for another dish.)

Grilled Char Siu pic4

Make sure the outdoor grill is clean and well greased with vegetable oil. Set the temperature to medium high. When it is hot, put the meat on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until brown on both sides. Turn the meat to the other side after 8 to 10 minutes, cover and continue to cook. When the meat is 80% done, brush with honey char siu glaze, repeat as needed. Cook until sauce caramelized. Watch it closely, don’t over char the meat. Trust your nose, it is ready when you smell the amazing char siu aroma. It makes you hungry. Your neighbors may want to come over for dinner. Take the meat out and put on a large plate, loosely covered with tin foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into thin pieces, so delicious. I love it when things work.

Grilled Char Siu Pork
Grilled Char Siu Pork

Grilled Char Siu pic16 print

 

Print recipe:

Crazy For Char Siu 叉燒 (Chinese Barbecue)

  • Servings: 5 to 6 | Recipe by Leslie at Soups Ahoy
  • Print

Grilled Char Siu pic14 print

Ingredients and Instructions

Marinade sauce:
1 jar (7 oz) Dynasty hoisin sauce (LKK too salty)
1/4 cup regular soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry wine or Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder  (use paprika if you like)
3 green onions, cut into 1-inch long pieces

Preparations:
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl with a lid, put in the refrigerator. (Tips: Make the marinade sauce the day before you need it. You will get a more flavorful marinade. Also, for those of you who don’t have issues, five-spice powder is a better choice for this recipe. A little goes a long way. Be mindful of what people can eat and cannot eat.)

You need 3 pounds of meat, pork or chicken; cut into manageable pieces. Season with salt, garlic powder and black pepper, also add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika (use 1/2 tsp for chicken, 1 tsp for pork.) Don’t use too much salt. (We like chicken breasts and thighs. Sometimes we use pork loin country-style ribs.) Put the seasoned meat in a large zip lock bag.

Use about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup marinade sauce to pour over the meat, don’t need much. Reserve the remaining sauce and put it back in the refrigerator. Seal the bag tight. Move the bag around, making sure the meat is evenly coated with sauce. Put in the refrigerator over night. Take the bag out and rotate the meat when you have a chance, 1 or 2 times.

Day of Cooking:
Take the meat out 15 minutes before grilling. Cook the reserved sauce in a sauce pan over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon honey, more if you like sweet, stir as needed. Let simmer until bubbling, remove from heat and set aside. This is your honey char siu glaze. (Use what you need, save the leftover for another dish.)

Make sure the outdoor grill is clean and well greased with vegetable oil. Set the temperature to medium high. When it is hot, put the meat on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until brown on both sides. Turn the meat to the other side after 8 to 10 minutes, cover and continue to cook. When the meat is 80% done, brush with honey char siu glaze, repeat as needed. Cook until sauce caramelized. Watch it closely, don’t over char the meat. Trust your nose, it is ready when you smell the amazing char siu aroma. It makes you hungry. Your neighbors may want to come over for dinner. Take the meat out and put on a large plate, loosely covered with tin foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into thin pieces and serve over rice.

 


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https://soupsahoy.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/crazy-for-char-siu-chinese-barbecue/

 

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