Chinese Barbecued Pork (Char Siu)

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Special barrel-shaped ovens are used to cook this popular item in those shops which specialise in Chinese roasts. This recipe suggests two ways to get almost the same effect at home.


750 g/1 1/2 lb lean, boneless pork
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Chinese wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce


Cut the pork lengthways into 3 or 4 strips. Sprinkle garlic with salt on a wooden board and crush to a purée with the flat of a knife. Combine with all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add pork strips and mix well together so the meat is covered on all sides with the mixture. Allow it to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Method 1: Remove all racks from oven except the top one. Hang the pork in strips from the top rack. Put a roasting pan with a little water in it on the bottom shelf. Use hooks made from lengths of wire 10 cm (4 in) long from wire coat-hangers. Curve each end into a hook. The top hook which fits over the oven rack should be smaller than the hook at the bottom which holds the pork.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (400 degress F). Insert wide end of metal hook in the end of each strip of pork and hang from the rack. Roast for 15 minutes in the hot oven, then reduce the temperature to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F), brush pork with marinade and continue roasting for a further 30 minutes or until pork is cooked. Remove from oven, allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, then cut into thin slices against the grain.

Method 2:
Half-fill a roasting pan with hot water and rest a wire rack across the top. Place the strips of pork on the rack (reserving the marinade) and roast in an oven preheated to 200 degrees C (400 degress F) for 15 minutes, then turn the pork, brush with marinade and continue roasting for 15 minutes. Turn the meat again and baste it, and roast for another 15 minutes or until the pork is tender and well glazed.

Barbecued pork may be served hot or cold as an hors d'oeuvre or part of a meal, or the meat can be used in other dishes such as fried rice. Stir-fried with snow peas or fresh green beans, it makes a quick, light meal. On its own, serve with plum sauce and steamed bread.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)