Tuesday, February 19, 2013
It was that time of the year again where I go back to my mother's house over Chinese New Year. It's not too late for me to wish all of you who celebrate a slimy (just kidding) Water Snake year as the 15th day is still around the corner and endless Instagrams of lou hei sessions are flooding my timeline.
This time the snack table was full of red-topped jars filled with homemade goodies, contributions from yours truly included. As I lazed around at home munching arrowroot chips and traditional (read: folded, not rolled) kuih kapit by the bucket, it seemed that this year's standard of even these home-baked offerings have gone south, much like how it is close to impossible to get good char siu less you make it yourself.
The truth about char siu is that it boils down to how you like yours. I like mine full of flavor and layered with enough fat, so the lean cuts of char siu I typically get here don't knock my socks off. Almost everyone I know make theirs with whatever they have in their pantry, rarely following any sworn by recipe. I don't think one really needs to go out of the way to look for maltose or other weird ingredients to make what is essentially a simple hunk of roasted meat, much less add red food coloring to make it unreal.
Perhaps the only drawback making this at home is having a smoke filled apartment every time I open the oven to baste the pork. The result, though, each slice of juicy, slightly charred out the outside meat, is worth the trouble. Serve with warm rice, or if you're like me, wanton noodles and a soft-boiled egg.
Char Siu 叉烧 (Cantonese Barbecued Pork)
Note: For a less fat option, use pork butt/shoulder or pork neck. If your oven is not tall enough to hang the pork strips from hooks, roast them on a rack lined tray and rotate every time you baste for even browning. If you have a charcoal grill the results will be even more awesome. Some people are adverse to fish sauce - if you're one of them, replace with more soy sauce, but the flavor will not be the same. As with all marinated meat, the longer it gets the better, so start this recipe one day ahead.
In a small bowl, whisk all the marinate ingredients to combine well. Place the pork pieces into a zip lock bag, pour in the marinate and massage well to coat the meat. Place bag onto a plate or tray and refrigerate to marinate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- 1 kilogram pork belly, cut into 3 long strips, rind removed
- 8 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder or 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 5 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon red fermented bean curd liquid only
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (紹興花雕酒, Shao Hsing Hua Diao Jiu)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
When ready to roast, preheat oven to 200°C (convection fan on), with the wire rack on the top most shelf and a foil lined tray on the oven floor. Remove pork pieces and pierce one end with a S-hook each. Reserve the marinate in a bowl with a basting brush. Hang the pork strips from the wire rack over the drip tray and roast for 30-35 minutes, basting with the marinate every 15 minutes or so. Once pork is done, reduce the marinate liquid over medium heat on the stove for about 8-10 minutes. Slice the pork strips to serve, with the drippings from the roasting tray as well.
It's best to slice only the amount you wish to serve. Store leftovers with the sauce to keep moist and reheat covered in a low oven for about 10-15 minutes.
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