Char Siu

I know nothing about Chinese cooking. Except that I’ve had some pretty amazing dishes, and that usually, in terms of seasoning, it is more or less opaque to me.

That’s why I was surprised to find that one of my favorite Chinese meats — char siu, Cantonese-style barbecued pork — is super simple.

I started out by looking at this recipe. And from there, based on, among other things, some Youtube videos, I made some modifications.

I can’t determine how close my version is to the real thing in China. But I can say that it stands up well to most of the better specimens I’ve had in Berkeley, San Francisco, L.A., and here in Philly. And I can say that it is some of the best pork I’ve ever made at home.

The recipe, as it is here, is not done. I’m still doing research, thinking about additions, rethinking the proportions. Specifically, I think that adding some red fermented bean curd would help things. But as it is, it is definitely worth a try. Very yummy indeed.

The Meat:
3 lb. Boneless Pork Butt, cut into two-inch-thick strips

The Sauce:
3/4 Cup Hoisin sauce
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Dry Sherry + 1 Cup for later
1/3 Cup Honey
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
1/2 Tbsp. Five-Spice Powder (You can make this at home: star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and white pepper; but I bought it.)
4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
3/4 inch fresh Ginger, minced

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce, and bring just about to a boil. When everything is thoroughly combined, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Slice your pork butt and lay it out in a 9×13 baking dish so that the pieces don’t overlap. Once your sauce has cooled, pour it over, and agitate the meat so that all parts of it are thoroughly sauced. Then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat your oven to 350F. Prep a roasting pan with a rack by adding about 2 cups of water to the bottom. Scrape off any excess sauce from your meat, and lay it out on the pan’s rack. Make sure to reserve as much sauce as you can. You’re going to need it.

Place the pan with your meat in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove, brush the meat all over with more sauce, turn the meat over, and bake for another 20 minutes. At the end of that time, raise the heat of the oven to 500F or 525F. Brush the meat with sauce, turn over, and cook for 20 minutes. Then, one last time, remove from the oven, brush with sauce, turn, and place it back in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. The meat should have turned red, and its edges should be charred and blackening.

Boil any excess sauce with about a cup more sherry, until it has thickened adequately. Slice your pork, sauce to taste, and serve over rice with steamed vegetables.

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