Tuesday dinner: Char siu

Char what?

Char siu is known popularly in Hawaii and restaurants in American Chinatowns as Chinese barbecue. But, as The Star Advertiser of Honolulu reports, it isn’t cooked over a hot fire:


Char siu is often called Chinese barbecued pork, although it isn’t barbecued in the sense of being grilled over coals or wood, but rather roasted in an oven. The name means “fork roasted,” for the technique of suspending the meat on prongs while cooking.

I didn’t go as far as to make the pork tenderloin levitate in the oven, however I put my inner food bigot to rest and went to work on a traditional char siu glaze. The chef in The Star Advertiser says that the perfect char siu has smoky flavor that penetrates deep into the pork and is sealed with a light red glaze.

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The red glaze is the result of hoisin sauce, a paste made from soybeans, vinegar, sugar, garlic and chiles. It’s primarily used as a dipping sauce. For our purposes, we blended it with sugar, ketchup, sesame oil, salt and Chinese five-spice, the latter of which provides the smokiness.

Char siu
Adapted from the DailyWaffle and Honolulu Star Advertiser 

  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil

Trim the pork of its silver skin and any extra fat. Whisk together the sugar, hoisin, ketchup, 5-spice, salt and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Add the pork to a zipper bag and pour the glaze over it. Give it a good massage through the bag to work in the flavors. Let marinate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F and put a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Set the pork on the cooling rack. Bake the pork for 45 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before slicing.


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