Cha-rararar Siu

I thought I’d try something different last week since I’ve started to feel a bit boring making brisket all the time. I was torn between either smoking some duck or attempting to make cha siu, which is Chinese roast pork; I went with the latter.

Interestingly, there isn’t a clear cut recipe for char siu. There doesn’t even appear to be any consensus on which cut of meat to use. After a fair amount of searching (i.e. not the first page of Google), I managed to find a recipe that sounded mostly legitimate, calling for: maltose, honey, hoisin, sweet soy sauce, Chinese five spice, white pepper, and sesame oil.


As for the meat, I happened to come upon some conveniently cut pork shoulder at the Costco up north and just ended up getting that. Various recipes call for either pork shoulder or pork loin.


The day of, I took an early morning trip to H-Mart and began the scavenger hunt for the aforementioned items. I had found most of the ingredients when I found pre-made seasoning packets specifically for cha siu. I ended up grabbing two – might as well see what the difference is.


You end up with this pink colored powder mixed with water. The mix, and most restaurants, apparently used red/pink food coloring to give cha siu that funky looking color. More traditional places use red bean paste.

Given my rather short timeline, I ended up only marinating the meat for roughly four hours. Two chunks went with the store-bought seasoning; three were drowned in the weird-looking sauce that I made.  Since I figured that the maltose was just being used essentially as syrup, I swapped in brown sugar mixed with some water.


The meat sat on the barbeque for just around one hour. Most recipes called for 300 degrees, but I had some trouble getting it that high. I ended up finishing right around when I said I would, about 4 p.m., but everybody ended up showing up late. I dragged out the cooking a bit and some of the smaller pieces got more overdone than I would have preferred. The new rule is that everybody has to show up two hours early.


In non-blind taste tests, everybody mostly preferred the homemade sauce over the store one. Elena and Stuart were able to guess which one was which. Willy remarked that it could be more flavorful, which is reasonable since I only marinated the meat for a relatively short time.


I threw leftovers in some instant ramen I had. To answer an earlier discussion I had with Ariel: chashu is the Japanese version of cha siu and it tends to not have sugar. Who knew?

This week I got to make a brisket for Stuart’s birthday party; post incoming later this week.

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