Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hong Kong Char Siew

I always look forward to the 'Taste' section on The Sunday Times. I personally find that there's always something interesting to read about. Lately, D & I have been looking out for their recipes. Tan Hsueh Yun, who also writes the food column for Urban, wrote about her own experiment with Char Siew about 3 weeks back. D kept pestering me to give this recipe a try since it looked pretty simple, plus the fact that he's a char siew lover.

D was right. The recipe was easy and most importantly, it tasted great. If you're looking for the local version of char siew that is loaded with red colouring, this ain't it. What you get here is the Hong Kong version of char siew which is sweeter and without any of that artificial colouring.


500g pork shoulder butt (also known as 五花肉) or pork neck


1 tsp salt

3 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs canola or vegetable oil

1 Tbs hoisin sauce

1 Tbs zhu hou sauce

3 Tbs light soy sauce

1 Tbs meiguilu jiu or shaoxing wine

1 Tbs grated ginger
125g maltose or honey

2 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped


2 Tbs maltose or honey
  • Cut the pieces of shoulder butt or neck into pieces of approx. 4 inches in length, 2 inches in width. Let your butcher know that you're buying it for char siew and they should know how to cut it for you. Rinse under running water, pat dry and leave to drain whilst making the marinade.
  • Combine all ingredients for the marinade into a microwaveable bowl and place in the microwave on high for around 20 seconds or until maltose is soft before whisking to combine. The maltose would be difficult to whisk together if it wasn't left in the microwave long enough. 20 seconds should be sufficient if you're using honey.
  • Place the pieces of pork in a container, pour the marinade over ensuring that it coats the pork. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight for better results.
  • Preheat the oven to 230 deg C at least 30 minutes before cooking. Meanwhile, arrange for a metal rack to be placed on a tray for placing of the pork. Line the baking tray with parchment paper or aluminium foil to collect the liquid as a lot of it will be removed from the meat during the roasting process.
  • Remove pork from marinade, pat lightly to remove excess marinade with paper towels and arrange the pieces on the rack.
  • Place the pork in the oven after the oven is pre-heated. Roast the pork for 15 minutes at a time on each side. Remove from oven. Turn the pork, brush with maltose or honey and return to the over for 3 minutes. After which, turn the meat again, glaze and roast for 2 more minutes.
  • Remove from oven, leave the pork to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Both cuts of meat are great for char siew. However, if you like something more fatty and a texture that's more chewy, go for the pork neck. Since the shoulder is a leaner cut, take care not to overlook it lest the meat turns out dry.

The recipe initially called for a mou see cheong which the writer eventually substituted with crushed salted soy beans. A quick check with my colleague from HK led me to use zhu hou sauce which is less salty. You should be able to find this in Chinatown.

You should be able to get meiguilu jiu, a kind of liquor flavoured with rose, from your neighbourhood supermarket. Look out for the Double Dog brand.

I suggest using maltose in the marinade but honey for the glaze. Maltose has a much milder taste and wouldn't make the marinade overly sweet. If you'd still like to use honey for the marinade since it's so much easier to handle than the stiff sticky substance, you could consider cutting back a little on the amount. Using honey as the glaze gives it a much better flavour at the end. You don't have to stick to the 2 Tbs. I basically just applied sufficiently over the meat so that it can caramelise nicely in the heat.

I used one of those cookers where a direct heat is applied on the meat during roasting. I only cooked it for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side since it cooks much faster. The results were great. Adjust your cooking time according to your cooking method.

Give this recipe a try and you'll be hooked like me. I made this 3 times last week.

The original recipe is available here if you need it.

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