The Chinese characters for char siu literally mean ‘fork’ and ‘roast’, which reflect how the long, red strips are stabbed at one end with a hook and dangled inside a coal oven until their edges are deliciously charred.
Char siu is easy to replicate at home and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it – serve as it is, use it to fill steamed and baked pork buns, or try it as a sandwich filling. For the glaze, maltose gives a high shine but doesn’t have the floral sweetness of honey, so we like to use a bit of both.
800g pork neck, shoulder, or belly, sliced with the grain into 5cm-wide strips
for the marinade
½ tbsp honey
½ tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
½ tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp ground white pepper
pinch five-spice powder (optional)
3 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ tsp red food colouring (optional)
for the glaze
1 tbsp honey (or 2 tbsp honey, no maltose)
1 tbsp maltose syrup
½ tsp finely diced ginger
1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl, including the narm yu, if using. Add the pork to the marinade, and use your hands to massage it into the pork. Cover and chill overnight.
2. The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark
3. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper andset a wire rack on top. Arrange the pork on the rack, leaving at least 2cm between each strip. Keep the leftover marinade nearby. Roast the pork for 20 minutes, then brush with the leftover marinade, turn, brush the other side and roast for a further 20 minutes until the pork is cooked and a deep red colour, and the marinade has dried out.
4. Switch the oven setting to the grill setting. Mix the honey, maltose (if using) and 1 tablespoon boiling water together in a bowl, or just 2 tablespoon of honey if you are not using maltose. Remove the tray from the oven and brush the glaze over the pork. Return the tray to the top shelf and grill with the door slightly ajar for 2–3 minutes, until the edges char slightly, and there are tiny beads of glaze foaming on the surface. Turn and repeat for the other side.
5. Leave the pork to cool to room temperature and scrape the cooking juices into a bowl. Slice the pork into 3mm pieces to show off the crimson ring around the outer edge, fanning out the slices to emphasise the effect if you wish, and serve with the reserved cooking juices drizzled on top.
The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook by Amy & Julie Zhang is published by Hachette Australia. Hardback RRP $45.00, Ebook $19.99