Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork 叉燒

by Yi on December 17, 2013 · 82 comments

Post image for Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork 叉燒

Found hanging in the windows of Chinese restaurants around the world, Char Siu is probably one of the most popular Chinese dishes in the world and holds a symbolic status to Chinese cuisine.

Originated from the Canton region of China, Char Siu is also known as Char Siew, Cha Siu, Cha Shao, or 叉燒 and so on. This honey glazed Chinese barbecued pork has that slightly charred and signature mahogany color finish with an addicting sweet but savory flavor…

Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork

I started making my own Char Siu a few years ago after I was served with a plate of cold and flavorless Char Siu at a restaurant. There were a number of recipes online but few recipes could produce the same pork serviced in good Chinese BBQ restaurants because Char Siu was never meant to be cooked at home but in a professional kitchen. A good piece of Char Siu is quite an art and it takes time and patience to craft.

Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork

So I set out to create a good BBQ pork in my home kitchen. The recipe I am sharing is the result of me testing and fine-tuning the original recipe I learned during my short stint working in a Chinese restaurant. And in a few short scrolls you will be able to test and judge this recipe yourself.

Just as a general warning, this recipe is not for the faint of heart and it takes time to prepare. The pork is at its best when grilled on an outdoor grill. But if you are like me who can only cook in a tiny urban kitchen, just be aware that the oven might set your fire alarm so good ventilation is advised.

But let me assure you that it will be well worth every trouble…

Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork

Notes/Tips

So let’s cut to the chase. Here are some notes you should know before proceeding to the recipe:

The Pork – many cuts of pork can be used to make Char Siu. For the most tender, juicy and fattiest version, use pork belly without the skin. If you prefer a good balance between meat and tenderness, use pork butt or pork neck. For the lean version, use pork loin. I don’t really use pork loin because it has zero fat and as we all know fat is flavor:) For this particular recipe, I use a piece of well-marbled pork butt.

Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork

The BBQ Sauce – many restaurants claim to have developed their highly regarded secret BBQ recipes. However, almost every recipe involves the below three Chinese sauces. So it’s essential to use all three of them: Ground Bean Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, and Oyster Sauce.

Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork

The Glaze – contrary to the common believe, the famous finger-licking sticky glaze on Char Siu is often created by using maltose instead of honey. Since I don’t usual keep maltose in my pantry I just use honey which makes an even better glaze.

Step by Step Illustration

To save you some scrolling, starting today I have changed my post format by incorporating the step-by-step pictures in the main recipe box. I hope this change doesn’t cause any inconvenience to you.

Char Siu | Chinese BBQ Pork

Rating: 51

Prep Time:

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time:

Serving Size: 4 Servings

Make this restaurant quality Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Pork following this step-by-step recipe at www.yireservation.com.

Ingredients

  • 2lb pork butt
  • Marinade/BBQ sauce
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1.5tbsp ground bean sauce
  • 1.5tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 4tbsp Chinese cooking wine (rose flavored wine preferred)
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • ½tbsp salt
  • 1tsp five spice powder
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • Honey Glaze
  • 4tbsp honey
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 3tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Slice the pork along the grain to ½ inch thick slices. Thinner slice makes it easier for the flavor to penetrate. To get the best flavor and texture, brine the pork in salt water over night before adding the marinade
  2. Make the BBQ sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients in a small pot. Cook over low heat while mixing until the sauce is smooth. About 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. This can be done in advance
  3. Pour the BBQ sauce over the sliced pork. Make sure that you turn the pork over so that all sides are coated with the marinade. You can also marinate the pork in a sealed Ziploc bag. Keep the pork in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours
  4. You can roast the pork on an outdoor grill or an oven. To roast the pork in an oven, first preheat the oven to 375 F or 190 C. Brush off the extra BBQ sauce on the pork and place the pork on a grilling rack with a tray beneath to capture the dripping. Do not place the meat directly on a tray. Roast the pork for 20 minutes on each side. Save the leftover pork marinade
  5. While the pork is roasting/grilling, combine the glaze ingredients in a small pot and heat over low heat while mixing. Keep stirring until the honey, water, and sugar are well incorporated. About 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The glaze should be a running sticky paste
  6. Take the pork out after 40 minutes of roasting or grilling. Generously pour the glaze over top of the pork and let it run down. Make sure all sides of the pork are coated with the glaze. Brush off the excess glaze if necessary
  7. Set the oven to 425 F or 219 C and place the pork back to the oven. Roast for another 5 minutes on each side or until the pork is slightly charred. Take out the pork and let it cool a little bit
  8. Lastly, in a pot, combine a few tbsp of water, pork marinade leftover, and any dripping collected. Bring to boil. Add soy sauce and sugar to taste. This will be the au jus used for serving the pork.
http://yireservation.com/recipes/char-siu-chinese-bbq-pork/

Once the tender, juicy, and savory Char Siu is done, slice the pork against the grain and serve with the sauce over rice, make a Char Siu soup noodle, or even a Char Siu Steamed Bun.

What is your favorite way of serving Char Siu?

Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Irwin November 17, 2014 at 12:15 am

Yummy!! Thanks for the recipe..Loving it!!

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2 Yi November 17, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Thanks Irwin.

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3 Yzenith November 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Awesome Color, 叉烧is cool, I use to work in Chinese restaurant, They make red 叉烧, your look much more delicious

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4 Yi November 11, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Hi There, thanks for visiting! Glad that you also enjoy char siu!

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5 Linmoonyo October 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

I was making char siu using ur recipe and wondering if the salt is actually 1tsp instead of 1tbsp, that was probably why some people complained it was way too salty?

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6 Yi November 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

Hi there, thanks for visiting The 1 tbsp of salt is the intended amount. I know it sounds salty but it’s balanced by the sweetness of some other ingredients. if you would like cut down the salt, you can start with 1/2 tbsp see if it suits your taste.

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7 Joan Dalton October 28, 2014 at 2:02 am

Just arrived back in Ireland after a couple of weeks in Hong Kong – looking forward to cooking some of the great food I experienced there. Thanks

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8 Yi November 9, 2014 at 11:29 am

Hi Joan, thanks for the shout out. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this recipe!

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9 Anonymous October 19, 2014 at 4:19 am

May I know if the soya sauce is the light or dark version ?
Thanks

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10 Yi October 23, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hi there, this recipe calls for both regular and dark soy sauce. Please see the ingredient list. Hope this answers your question.

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11 Emily September 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

Is ground bean sauce the same as tou cheong? Or salty ferment crushed bean?

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12 Yi October 1, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Hi Emily, sorry for getting back to you late. The ground bean sauce is actually similar to the hoisin sauce but slightly less sweet. Here is a picture of one of the brands I use. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for checking out my blog!

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13 Brenda Tan September 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Followed this BBQ recipe to a “T” and I am very very very disappointed with the recipe. It Is So Very SALTY. It is not edible and I had to discard the pork. What a waste!!!!
I will not recommend this recipe to anyone.

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14 Yi September 25, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Hi There, thanks for visiting my blog. I am sorry to hear that the pork came out salty. I am not sure where it went wrong but this recipe should produce a sweet and savory sauce. I hope you’d give it another try sometime. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any specific questions.

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15 doc aga September 14, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Will try this today, thanks for sharing..

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16 Mark September 9, 2014 at 4:59 pm

hi Yi. just wondering what i can use to substitute for the ground bean sauce or is it okay to omit it from the recipe?

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17 Yi September 9, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Hi Mark, first of all thanks for checking out my blog. If you can’t get a hold of ground bean sauce, I’d skip it and use extra hoisin sauce instead. Hope this helps and please let me know if you have any additional questions.

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18 Mark September 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

hi Yi!thanks for the recipe.what substitute can i use for the ground bean sauce?

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19 Schultzy August 27, 2014 at 12:20 pm

I made this twice and only adjusted on the amount of Rose cooking wine ( 2nd batch I used half) and instead of sugar I used Palm sugar grated with a micro plane zester. I have two Oyster sauces one has a more sweet molasis flavor and that one came out a little better. The chinese 5 spice was right ON! its easy to overtake the flavors so no more no less on the 5 spice. I grilled mine and basted the meat with the marinade twice, came out beautifully charred and tasted amazing. I didn’t try the finishing honey glaze/sauce but will next time. Thanks for a great great recipe! 3 thumbs up

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20 Yi September 1, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Hi there, thanks for the detailed feedback. I am so happy to hear that the char siu came out great. I also tried grilling my chair siu recently and it tasted better than oven roasted in my opinion! Thanks again for checking out my recipe.

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21 Daniel August 26, 2014 at 4:11 am

Hi Yi,

Thanks so much for your site. My grandfather was Chinese, and I have very fond memories of the many dishes he cooked. Char Siu being one of them. I tried this recipe and the result was great, really tasty, and not too hard to do either!!

One question, the Char Siu I remember eating in London where I grew up, in Gerrard Street in China Town, was more of a red colour than a brown, and the taste a little sweeter than this recipe. Is there some kind of variation I could make to the recipe to achieve this?

Either way, thanks again for your site and generosity in sharing these recipes!!

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22 Yi August 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Hi there, thanks for checking out my blog. I am so happy to hear that you got to try out the char siu recipe. To answer your questions, the red color seen in the restaurant comes from the use of food dye. I don’t really use food coloring when I cook at home. To get the sweeter taste, just use more sugar in the honey glaze or use more sugar when marinating the pork. I hope this is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

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23 Yi August 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Tasted like shit

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24 Yi August 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

hi, sorry to hear that. Would love to hear more about why it didn’t come out good so I might be able to help.

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25 Anonymous July 21, 2014 at 5:33 am

Hello there,

I used your recipe to make some char siew to accompany some wanton noodles. It turned out so delicious!

Thanks for the recipe!

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26 Yi July 22, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Hi there, thanks for checking out my blog and I am so happy to hear that the char siu turned out good. Thanks for visiting again!

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27 Leslie June 14, 2014 at 7:20 am

Hello Yi, I made this for guests a couple of nights ago and it was completely delicious. Thank you for this great recipe. Cheers, Leslie

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28 Ing June 5, 2014 at 3:13 am

Made this dish last night with a couple of small differences… I cooked it with coconut rice and added a squeeze of lime and some pickles on top to help cut through the creaminess. Absolutely delicious!

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29 Yi June 8, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Thanks for checking out the recipe!

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30 Brandy May 30, 2014 at 9:26 am

This looks absolutely delicious! I’m planning on having the family over on Sunday, so will definitely be making this! Thanks for the recipe! :)

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31 Juliana Giles May 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Sounds easy to follow.looking forward to trying it this weekend.

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32 Yi May 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Hi Juliana, thanks for checking out my blog. Please let me know how the pork turned out :)

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33 Stephanie May 20, 2014 at 5:55 am

hi.. great recipe – could you share with me the brand for hoisin and ground benan cause that you that?

Thanks,

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34 Yi May 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Hi Stephanie, thanks for visiting and sorry for the late reply. I normally use lee kum kee which is a popular brand from HK. Another brands I use sometimes is koon chun which is also available in a lot of Asian stores in the Sates. I hope this helps.

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35 Cece April 2, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I am wondering if there’s a different type of meat I could use to try to recreated this for non-pork eaters. Do you have any suggestions? thanks!

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36 Yi April 2, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Hello Cece, thanks for checking out the recipe. If pork is not an option I’d suggest using beef. Any cuts for roasting should work. Please let me know how it turned out!

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37 Bryan March 24, 2014 at 9:14 pm

I just ate my first serving of this, and it was incredible. I used pork shoulder as my cut and it worked so well: tender, flavorful and nicely fatty. I let it marinade for 24 hours and the flavor really sunk into every bite of meat. Thank you!

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38 Yi March 25, 2014 at 9:12 am

Hi Bryan, thanks for the feedback. I am so happy to hear that the char siu came out nice and flavorful. Thanks again for checking out my blog!

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39 Frances Pang February 10, 2014 at 3:14 am

We made the char siu for our Feb 8 Chinese New Year celebration in Swaziland. Various other guests made spring rolls, steamed meat bao, and roast duck. Unfortunately, we don’t have much fish in Swaziland and we had to pass on some other traditional dishes, but many of us just made our favorites. Also had an excellent Spicy Beef Noodle Soup. We made the char siu on the braii. I would say that it’s very important to let the coals burn down so that the fire is steady, but not too hot. Otherwise the sticky glaze will make you meat literally charred! Otherwise, it turned out terrific. Thanks so much for the recipe!

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40 Yi February 15, 2014 at 11:18 pm

I am so jealous of you roasting char siu using char coal! That’s the most traditional way to do it and it does make a difference! Glad to hear that your roast came out great!

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41 CJ February 5, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Love your site. Great recipes!
For the brining, how much water to salt? Also, I have some maltose I would like to use up. Any suggestions fire using thus for the glaze? Thanks!

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42 Yi February 5, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Hello CJ, thanks for checking out my blog! I don’t use a precise measurement for the brine but the salt to water ratio is roughly 1tbsp : 2 Litter. Maltose is less sweet than honey so you will need 1.5x maltose in place of honey. Maltose is quite hard when it’s cold so I normally warm it up in a hot water bath for easy handling. I hope this helps and don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks.

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43 Frances Pang January 10, 2014 at 6:08 am

Greetings from Swaziland (next to S. Africa and Mozambique). We’ve transplanted to Swaziland from Los Angeles. There is definitely no char siu for sale in this country. However, there is a small group of us willing to go to great lengths for our Chinese food fix. Thanks so much for the recipe!

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44 Yi January 12, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Hello Frances, thanks for visiting and saying hi. I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about Swaziland until 15 minutes agao (thanks to Wikipedia). I’d love to know how your char siu turned out. Thanks again for stopping by.

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45 Rebecca January 4, 2014 at 3:57 am

What is the difference between tbsp and tbs in your recipe? I assume everything with a “b” to mean tablespoon, but why would you change it from tbsp to tbs? Just want to clarify because 1 Tablespoon of five spice powder and 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder seems like a whole lot.

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46 Yi January 4, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Hi Rebecca, thank you for pointing out the difference! It was actually a typo and I was shocked I let it go unnoticed until now. As you suspected, the tbs was meant to be tsp or teaspoon. I have just updated the recipe to the correct unit. Thanks again for spotting the error!!

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47 Leslee December 26, 2013 at 1:36 am

Aloha Yi! Growing up in Hawaii and being part Chinese char siu was a part of our visits to family members. I am UBER excited to attempt this! If all works out I’d like to make char siu bao for new years, Thank you SO much for the pictures you use to show the difference in ingredients. Glad I found you through Google!

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48 Yi December 26, 2013 at 8:30 am

Hello Leslee, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving the comment. I’d love to know how the char siu turned out once you made it. Thanks again for visiting!

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49 Leslee December 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Very ono! Tasty does it no justice!! I would like to repeat this when I get my hands on some star anise. I was afraid it would be salty with all the soy ingredients, I was happily surprised to see how the cooking process brought out the complex flavors of the spices and soys. Mahalo nui loa! Thank you so much, this will be a recipe to turn to for my “Pake” (Chinese) food cravings!! I’m thinking baked char siu bao for Monday.

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50 Yi December 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Hello Leslee, thank you for your feedback! I was so nice to hear that you like the char siu. Please let me know how your char siu bao came out! Would love to see the pictures of your food!

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51 Leslee January 6, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Aloha Yi! I will indeed take some pics when I can do this properly. I’m gonna using pork belly and slow cooking over kiawe (mesquite) on the grill some time in the next few weeks. Gatta love living in Hawaii. This has a a whole new horizon for me in Chinese cooking. Mahalo! I’ve got some pictures of the char siu filled biscuits they were a big hit

52 Daniela December 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm

So glad I discovered your blog through Bam @ BAM’s kitchen.
Very interesting posts and delicious recipes!
The Chinese BBQ pork looks delightful.

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53 Yi December 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Hello Daniela, thank you for checking out my blog.

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54 Irina @ wandercrush December 22, 2013 at 12:08 am

Char Siu should never be cold and flavourless! Glad you resolved to make your own instead, and to share the process… Like you said, it’s rare to find homes that make their own char siu, so this is completely new to me and completely brilliant.

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55 Yi December 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Irina thanks for stopping by. I find a lot of times one can produce the restaurant quality food even from their home kitchen. Hope you get to try this recipe :)

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56 Sissi December 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

Char siu pork is so famous and yet I have never had it. Chinese restaurants in my city are very disappointing (apart from one which serves good dumplings and other dim sum, but the rest isn’t worth the money), so I have never tasted it. I am so happy to learn one more Chinese recipe thanks to you. I am a big pork fan, so I will certainly prepare it one day.

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57 Yi December 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Thank you Sissi. I’d love to hear your feedback when you get to cook this it!

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58 Sandra | Sandra's Easy Cooking December 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Your bbq pork looks amazing!!! Great recipe and of course mouthwatering pictures! Well done Yi, and thank you for sharing!

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59 Yi December 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Thanks Sandra for your kind words!

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60 Abbe@This is How I Cook December 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Good tutorial and good recipe. Really not hard just a few steps. I have bought it from a chinese deli and use it in bbq buns. Manservant loves it just as a sandwich. And you can’t beat fried rice with the real thing!

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61 Yi December 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Hello Abbe, great call on fried rice and bbq buns. I am planning on making both of them with my Char Siu leftovers!!

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62 ray December 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm

I love char siu and I would have two bowls of rice with these guys. This is also my favorite filling for the steamed bun like your previous post. This is delicious Yi! :)

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63 Yi December 19, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Thanks Ray. Yup, I’ll use some of my leftovers for the char siu steamed buns.

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64 DB December 18, 2013 at 8:52 am

I sent a comment yesterday. Guess it didn’t go through.
My recipe is similar to this but I use a cake of fermented bean curd mashed (red) instead of the bean sauce and 2TB whiskey instead of the wine.

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65 Yi December 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

Hi DB,

I’ve used the fermented bean curd instead of the ground bean sauce and I thought the flavor was similar to this version. The use of whiskey sounds like a good idea too!

Thanks for the comment!

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66 tigerfish December 18, 2013 at 1:53 am

I salute you for the worthy time-staking efforts to make Char Siu at home! I will not have the patience, seriously! :O

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67 Yi December 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Thank you tigerfish. I know what you mean by the efforts it takes but I still think it’s all worth it =:)

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68 John@Kitchen Riffs December 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm

This looks terrific! I’ve had this dish before in restaurants, and sometimes it’s great, more often it’s not, alas. I definitely want to try this myself! Thanks for such a nice, detailed recipe.

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69 Yi December 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Thank John. I would love to hear how you like the result if you ever made this dish.

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70 Darlene December 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I used to hang from paper clips in the oven and catch drippings in a pan under that had small amount of boiling water. But my mom made it your way — much cleaner! Will try brining and your marinade next time. Thanks!

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71 Yi December 19, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Hello Darlene, I’ve tried the hook method and I don’t see much difference in terms of the taste and texture but as you said this method is less messy!

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72 Angie@Angie's Recipes December 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

They look fingerlickingly delicious!

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73 Yi December 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

Yes it is!

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74 Jeannie Tay December 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

Looks delicious! I have make char siu before and it was awesome!

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75 Yi December 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

yup Jeannie and it is definitely healthier with all that MSG in the pork!

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76 Shuhan December 17, 2013 at 10:08 am

YESSSS! Love charsiu but always put off by that artificial bright red colour. This looks gorgeous, and is definitely less sinful compared to the commerical stuff out there. Love it especially over both noodles and rice, or chopped up and stuffed into bao, mmmm!

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77 Yi December 20, 2013 at 12:16 am

It’s great to hear from you Shuhan! Yes I am going to make some char siu bao with the leftovers!

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78 Yi January 8, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Looking forward to seeing your char siu soon:=)

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