By my estimates, my dad has made char siu — Chinese BBQ pork — at least 10,000 times over his 50 years as a professional Chinese chef, so it’s a recipe I’ve been really excited to document to share it with you, and to pass it on to our kids one day. Today, Daddy Lau will finally teach us how to make Chinese BBQ Pork!
If you’re new to char siu, it’s an extremely juicy, sweet, and savory pork dish that’s a popular entree on its own — and a pleasant addition to many different types of noodles, rice dishes, and pastries like char siu bao.
For our gigantic Lunar New Year feast this year, my dad made char siu because it has a few tie-ins to Chinese traditions and superstitions, which you’ll learn about later on. My dad’s recipe results in juicy, flavorful char siu without having to make a mess in your kitchen! It's also very adaptable to smaller cuts of pork if you want to make a smaller amount. In our video, you'll see my dad make his char siu pork recipe on a tabletop toaster oven.
What you'll be learning:
- My dad’s spin on this traditional recipe!
- The best cuts of pork to use for this recipe, and how to craft the perfect, juicy bite
- Context on the key ingredients, and the equipment you'll need to make this dish (and alternative swaps)
- Why this dish is often on the dinner table for Lunar New Year
What is char siu?
A sweet and savory roasted pork, char siu is probably the most popular roasted meat preparation in Cantonese cuisine. If you walk by a Chinese BBQ restaurant, every single one will always have char siu hanging on its hooks by the window.
Origins of char siu
Char siu originally comes from Cantonese cuisine, and the word chā sīu 叉烧 literally means “fork roasted,” which is a nod to the traditional cooking method of skewering seasoned pork with long forks, and placing them in an oven or over a fire.
Although it’s considered a Chinese dish, many other Asian cuisines have integrated char siu into their own dishes — Thailand makes its own version of Chinese BBQ pork called kao moo dang and Japanese chashu gets its name from the dish, too.
In ancient times, char siu used to be made with boar or other available meats, but nowadays it’s almost always made with a fatty cut of pork.
Char siu: The most flavorful BBQ pork
When made right, char siu is one of the most tender, juiciest pieces of savory, sweet pork you might ever have.
It's got umami from ingredients like fermented bean curd, hoisin, and oyster sauce, a bit of zest from wines, and sweetness from brown sugar and honey. Five spice powder, a popular Chinese ingredient, ties it all together with a distinctive blend of spices.
It's absolutely delicious.
An expert chef’s tip for the best ever char siu
To make restaurant-quality char siu at home, my dad uses this trick: Roast the pork on a baking rack above a pan of water, which creates steam to help keep the meat moist as it cooks.
Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!