Char Siu… Or Thereabouts.

We haven’t quite conformed to the tradition of Sunday roast.  We’re more Sunday pasta people, or Sunday pizza people, or Sunday afternoon Tom Collins people, or something.  However, this weekend we’re tackling char siu – Cantonese roasted pork.  So, it kinda counts as a Sunday roast, no?

We’re vaguely following a recipe from Bee over at her awesome Rasa Malaysia blog, but we’ve tinkered with it a bit.  The most obvious departure is our decision not to use fermented bean curd.  We ordered some of this from Amazon, and after opening the container and giving it a quick sniff and a taste – we promptly threw the entirety of it down the garbage disposal.  Not for us.  We’ve also substituted our garlic confit for whole garlic.  And since one of us is allergic to fish, we substituted hoisin sauce for oyster sauce (and we can’t resist putting hoisin on pork – it is just the right thing to do).  We also added a generous dollop of crushed hot peppers (a mix of chipotle, habanero and ancho chillies) to give a little kick to balance out the recipe’s sweetness.

This weekend, we were lurking around the Festival of Heat here in London at Spitalfields City Farm, and picked up some seriously tasty and fiery hot chilli sauces from the lovely ladies at Granny’s Delicious.  They asked us if we ate pork.  Yes, ma’am.  We most certainly do!  So we used some of their Hot Hot Hot Pepper Sauce as a finishing touch to this meal (drizzled right over the rice) – and it was extremely good.  If you like heat as much as we do, you know what to do.

The first step is assembling the marinade ingredients:

  • 500g pork belly (we removed the skin)
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (we used an equal mix of regular dark soy and thicker/sweeter ketjap manis)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tablespoon maltose
  • 100g brown sugar
  • Chinese 5 spice powder (star anise, cinnamon, clove, pepper, fennel seeds – mixed equally and crushed), to taste
  • Crushed hot pepper powder, to taste


  • Mushrooms
  • Sesame seeds
  • Your favourite hot pepper sauce

Pork belly works well here, but we look for a relatively lean cut of belly (e.g. lean for belly anyway) as our last few purchases ended up with far too little meat and too much fat.  Alternatively, a relatively fatty cut of shoulder (e.g. fatty for shoulder) would work well too.  Either way – you want enough meat to keep you happy, but with some fat present to keep it all moist and juicy and flavourful.  We recommend removing the skin on the belly as well.

Start by assembling all the marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl.  This was our first time working with maltose – which is kind of like corn syrup (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup here in the UK) but thicker and with a somewhat nuttier taste.  It was so thick that we decided to put our entire mixture over low heat for a few minutes to let it all dissolve together, so we wouldn’t get lumps in our marinade.

Slice the belly into strips and add the marinade, and let it sit in the fridge (covered) overnight.

Pork marinade

Pork marinade.

The next day, remove the pork from the fridge and let it get to room temperature (about an hour) while preheating the oven to 200c.  When ready, pour the marinade into a bowl, and place the belly strips on a wire roasting rack.  It’ll cook up in about 20-30 minutes, and you’ll want to flip/marinate the belly about midway through.  A little crust here is a good thing – but given the sugar content it can burn pretty easily, so err on the side of caution on the cooking time.

While the pork is cooking, you can steam some rice or prepare some noodles.

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

Bonus: brown some mushrooms, and hit them with a little bit of the marinade for extra flavour.

Token veggies.

Token veggies.

When the pork is finished, remove from the oven and slice into slivers.  We set any bonier pieces aside to gnaw on with our fingers like the carnivores we are.

Sliced up awesomeness.

Sliced up awesomeness.

Drizzle a few sesame seeds on top and dinner is served.



6 thoughts on “Char Siu… Or Thereabouts.

  1. Pingback: Street Food… In Our Kitchen | The Londinium Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s