Project Description

The Cantonese in Hong Kong have this expression about char siu – 生嚿叉烧好过生你! (Mandarin version: 生块叉烧好过生你). The English translation for this is “Its better to give birth to piece of barbecued pork than to a child like you!”. It is a comical (and common) expression for parents to utter towards their misbehaved or under-achieving kids. The fact that Hong Kongers have incorporated the dish into an expression is testament to how well-loved this dish is.

plate of char siu

Time

1 hour 20 mins

CUISINE

Asia, Chinese

DIFFICULITY

Intermediate

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SOCIAL

wandering.wally

The history of this saying is quite fascinating and have prevalence among the Chinese, particularly Cantonese community around the world. Check out this article if you would like to find out more about us Cantonese’s love for roasted meat.

“Its better to give birth to piece of char siu than to a child like you!”

While the dish itself originated from mainland China (specifically Guangdong), the dish, as I like to refer to them as one of the big three Cantonese roasted meat, has taken multiple paths of evolution, depending on the region the Cantonese have taken them to.

I have tried the Guangdong and Hong Kong version and I still prefer to the version that have evolved in Malaysia. The Malaysian-Chinese char siu is usually made with the pork belly. On top of that, when done right, the sauce coating the char siu is charred (not burnt), perfectly caramelized with a hint of smokiness and have fully incorporated the flavour of the pork. It is absolute heaven when you bite into that perfect piece, the combination of flavour, sauce, meat and rendered fat.

How to make Char Siu at home

I learnt this from mom and I love making a batch of these, with lots of sauce. On top of that, its absolutely great when you have this with white rice. Imagine a plate of char siu drizzled with that caramelized, charred, pork flavoured sauce. Check out my recipe!

Full Recipe: Mom’s Homemade Char Siu

This recipe serves 2 to 4. Let’s get started!

STARTING GUIDE

  • Cuisine: Cantonese

  • Prep Time: 30 mins (not including marinating)

  • Cooking Time: 50 mins

  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

CHAR SIU INGREDIENTS

MAIN INGREDIENTS

  • 500gm Pork Belly (if you want more succulent meats, go for the fattier parts of the belly)

MARINADE

  • 1 teaspoon Five Spice powder

  • 75gm Sugar

  • 2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce

  • ½ teaspoon Yellow Bean Paste

  • 1 tablespoon Hoi Sin Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce

  • ½ tablespoon Sesame Paste

  • 1 tablepoon Sesame Oil

  • 4 cloves Garlic

  • ½ tablespoon Shao Xing Rice Wine

  • ½ a cube of Red or Spicy Fermented Bean Curd (Optional)

  • 1 Egg (Optional)

FOR THE CHAR SIU SAUCE

  • 50 ml of Malt Sugar

  • 25ml of Water

GUIDE / INSTRUCTIONS FOR CHAR SIU

WE MARINATE THE PORK FIRST

  • Mix all the ingredients for the marinate in a container

    Note: In the video, I made the mistake of using less sugar compared to what I’ve given in this recipe, so it was saltier than usual. If you prefer your char siu to be on the salty side, then adjust accordingly. The Malaysian Chinese version is always on the sweet side.

  • Pat dry the pork belly and with a fork, lightly pierce the pork all over. This is to really allow the marinade to get into the pork

  • Marinate for at least 4 hours (best if overnight)

ROASTING TIME!

  • Pre-heat oven to 220 Celsius

  • While the oven is pre-heating, prepare the malt sugar mix. In a pan, pour the malt sugar and water and heat pan on low heat. Here we just want to make sure the sugar is melted and fully incorporated with the water. Set aside

  • Place char siu on a tray (if using a rack, make sure there is a tray underneath to capture all the drippings) and put into oven to bake for 15 minutes

  • While that is happening, lets prepare the char siu sauce. Pour the marinade into the pan and mix in the malt sugar mix. Heat pan to a simmer for about 2 minutes and it is ready

  • After 15 minutes, take char siu out and coat it with a layer of the sauce and put it into the oven again for another 7 minutes

  • Repeat this another three times (total four times) until you it sufficiently charred at the edges

  • Let the char siu rest for about 15 minutes before slicing into it

  • Its ready to be served immediately

NOTES ABOUT THIS CHAR SIU RECIPE

In commercial hawkers or restaurants around Malaysia, the char siu is hung on a hook inside a commercial oven. At home, an oven is all you need to make a good piece. Other tools you can try out to make the char siu are turbo broilers or air fryers as well. Depending on your taste, most char sius are usually on the sweet side. Therefore, do adjust according to what you prefer. If you have tried my recipe, let me know what you think!

Serve this on a bed of white rice, they’re delicious! 吃饭咯 了!