How To Make Char Siu – Chinese BBQ Pork Two-way

Learn how to make sweet and savory Chinese BBQ pork at home, with or without an oven.

Born and raised in Guangdong, I have never thought of making Char Siu. This famous Chinese BBQ pork is everywhere. They are so available that you can walk in any Cantonese restaurant and find it on the menu.

How I wish that was the case during my gap year in New Zealand. We didn’t have many Chinese restaurants in town, the only thing we can find is Char Siu sauce at the local Asian market. I also didn’t have an oven. So I had to be creative in feeding my homesick cravings. It took me several tries to nail the perfect Chinese barbecue pork. But it was worth the effort. I also freeze the leftovers to make Char Siu Bao for breakfast.

Read also: Top 10 Dim Sum Dishes You Have To Try (With Recipes)

So today, I am going to share with you how to make Chinese barbecue pork at home, with or without an oven. If you love Char Siu bao and want to make your own fillings, you can’t miss this. Let’s get cooking!

How To Make Char Siu - Chinese BBQ Pork Two-way

What is Char Siu – Chinese BBQ pork

Char Siu, or Cha Shao in Mandarin, is a traditional pork dish in Southern China, especially in Canton and Hong Kong. The word Char means fork and Siu mean roast, which described its traditional cooking method. 

How does Char Siu taste like?

The Chinese BBQ pork is savory and sweet. It gets its rich flavor from the marinade. Some restaurants will baste the pork with maltose or honey, which will add another layer of caramel to it. 

Chinese BBQ pork is great to serve with rice, ramen or as filling of Chinese buns. Make a batch and get creative with the leftovers!

How to make Char Siu – Chinese BBQ pork

Ingredients

  • Pork loin, 250 grams 
  • Pork belly, 250 grams

Note: I am testing which cut makes better Char Siu (I’m sharing the results later in the post). You can get the one to your liking for a similar amount.

Marinade

  • Char Siu sauce, 2 tbsp
  • Soy sauce, 3 tsp
  • Sugar, 0.5 tsp
  • Ginger, 20 grams
  • Five-spice powder, 1 tsp
  • Salt, 0.5 tsp
  • Shao Hsing cooking wine, 1 tsp

Blate

  • Maltose, 1 tbsp
  • Alternatives: Honey or melted brown sugar

Instructions

Prepping the meat

  1. Wash the pork with water. 
  2. Use a fork or a toothpick to poke holes on the pork to better absorb the marinade.
Poke holes on the pork to better absorb the marinade - How To make Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pork)
  1. If the meat is thick than 1 inch, I recommend beating it on both sides with the back of your knife. This will help to make the meat more tender.

Marinate

  1. Peel and cut fresh ginger into thin slices.
  2. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of Char Siu sauce, 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, half a teaspoon of sugar, ginger slices, half a teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon cooking wine. Stir and mix evenly.
  3. Soak the pork in the sauce for 4 hours minimum. Better overnight.
Marinate the pork overnight or at least 4 hours - How To make Char Siu (Chinese BBQ pork)

Two ways to make Chinese roast pork

Roasting Char Siu in oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the meat on a rack above a baking tray—Roast for 10 minutes.
  2. Blate the meat with maltose, honey, or melted brown sugar. Continue to roast for 5 minutes.
  3. Flip the pork and blate the upper side. Under the same heat, roast for another 8 minutes.
Two ways to make Chinese roast pork - Roasting Char Siu in oven
  1. The skin of the pork should be slightly crisp by now. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and slice thinly. 
  2. Serve with rice or noodles. Or store them in a fridge for later.

Cooking Char Siu with a pan

  1. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Place the marinated pork on the pan, with the fatty side on the bottom. 

The oil coming from the fat will protect it from sticking. You may want to add 1 teaspoon of oil beforehand if you are working with lean meat or using a regular pan rather than a non-sticky one.

  1. Lower the heat to medium and sear the meat for 2 to 3 minutes until the oil starts to come out.
  2. Flip the meat and sear the other side.
  3. When both sides are slightly brown, pour the rest of the marinade in the pan, add 3 tablespoons of water. Give it a stir and cover the lid. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Two ways to make Char Siu - Cooking with a pan
  1. Open the lid, flip the meat and simmer for another 3 minutes.
  2. Now your Char Siu should have a beautiful red tone and a slightly crispy skin. 
  3. Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Slice and enjoy it!
Two ways to make Char Siu - roasting and pan-searing

Which method should I use to make Char Siu

I tested both of the two cooking methods twice. (Yes, I’ve eaten loads of Char Siu lately.) And undoubtedly, I prefer the grilling one.

The grilled Chinese BBQ pork is more crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. And it’s easier to control the cooking time and temperature with an oven. While using the pan-sear method, you have to keep an eye on the meat, so it’s not under or overcooked. 

So if you have an oven, I’ll suggest roasting rather than pan-searing.

Also, lean meat like pork loin tends to be overcooked more easily on a pan. But if you are using the fatter cuts, both methods are okay.

Which cut of pork makes the best Char Siu

The cut using to make Char Siu is really a personal preference. Some prefer their Char Siu to be fattier, some like it leaner. 

I’ve tested 3 different cuts, and here are my thoughts:

  • Pork belly

The fattiest cut of the three. Char Siu made out of this part is best for making Char Siu buns or stir-fry with asparagus while it may be a little too greasy eating directly.

  • Pork loin 

The leanest meat of the three. Pork loin is great for making Chinese barbecue pork if you are roast it in the oven. 

But it might be overdone cooking on a pan. Also, lean meat tends to absorb the taste of marinade better than fattier cuts. So it turned out to be the most flavorful Char Siu I made.

Which cut of pork makes the best Char Siu - How to make Chinese BBQ pork
  • Pork neck

Pork neck is half lean half fat and a little bit more springy than pork belly. Out of three, pork neck makes the best Char Siu both in flavor and texture-wise.

Which cut of pork makes the best Char Siu - How to make Chinese BBQ pork

Have you made the Chinese BBQ pork?

If you do, tell me how it goes! Also, feel free to leave your thoughts or question in the comment!

Char Siu - Chinese BBQ Pork

Char Siu - Chinese BBQ Pork

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

Learn how to make sweet and savory Char Siu at home, with or without an oven.

Ingredients

  • Pork, 500 grams

Marinade

  • Char Siu sauce, 2 tbsp
  • Soy sauce, 3 tsp
  • Sugar, 0.5 tsp
  • Ginger, 20 grams
  • Five-spice powder, 1 tsp
  • Salt, 0.5 tsp
  • Shao Hsing cooking wine, 1 tsp

Blate

  • Maltose, 1 tbsp

Instructions

    Prepping the meat

  1. Wash the pork with water. 
  2. Use a fork or a toothpick to poke holes on the pork to better absorb the marinade.

If the meat is thick than 1 inch, I recommend beating it on both sides with the back of your knife. This will help to make the meat more tender.

Marinate

  1. Peel and cut fresh ginger into thin slices.
  2. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of Char Siu sauce, 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, half a teaspoon of sugar, ginger slices, half a teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon cooking wine. Stir and mix evenly.
  3. Soak the pork in the sauce for 4 hours minimum. Better to marinate overnight.


Roast Char Siu with an oven

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the meat on a rack above a baking tray—Roast for 10 minutes.
  2. Blate the meat with maltose, honey, or melted brown sugar. Continue to roast for 5 minutes.
  3. Flip the pork and blate the upper side. Under the same heat, roast for another 8 minutes.
  4. The skin of the pork should be slightly crisp by now. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and slice thinly. 
  5. Serve with rice or noodles. Or store them in a fridge for later.


Cooking Char Siu with a pan

  1. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Place the marinated pork on the pan, with the fatty side on the bottom. 
  3. Lower the heat to medium and sear the meat for 2 to 3 minutes until the oil starts to come out.
  4. Flip the meat and sear the other side.
  5. When both sides are slightly brown, pour the rest of the marinade in the pan, add 3 tablespoons of water. Give it a stir and cover the lid. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Open the lid, flip the meat and simmer for another 3 minutes.
  7. Now your Char Siu should have a beautiful red tone and a slightly crispy skin. Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Slice and enjoy!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 336Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 746mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 35g

As for side dish, here are some of my favorite Chinese vegetable dishes:

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