Char Siu – Chinese BBQ Pork

Authentic Chinese BBQ pork served with chicken flavored Jasmine rice and lemon steamed greens.
Dean "Schuey" Schumann
Dean "Schuey" Schumann
char siu pork

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Sticky, red, succulent is what comes to mind when I think about Chinese BBQ Pork. This is my weakness every time I go out for Chinese. I’ll even order to take extra home, well I used to until I delved into how it is made.

Now I’m only too happy to share my findings with you. Although there is some preparation time required, the end results will see you making more and more each time you make it.

In this recipe, I’ll guide you through what cuts of pork are best suited and why, and also get the correct ingredients to make authentic Char Siu Chinese BBQ Pork on a charcoal grill.

How to make Char Sui

We all think we are the best at cooking pork. In America, there are 400 years of history barbecuing pork ribs to whole hogs.

When you think about it we are still merely a teenager in BBQ years compared to China where we are talking thousands of years. They are definitely the Grand Daddy’s of BBQ and I think they know what they are doing.

Char siu is a Cantonese dish that translates to “fork roast”. Read on for detailed instructions or watch how to make Char Sui in the video below.

There is something magical about the deep charred mahogany sheen that Char Siu Pork has. It actually makes me hungry just thinking about it.

It was traditionally cooked over charcoal, so that’s how we will be preparing it today.

Now to make this authentic recipe, you will need to venture out to your nearest Chinese grocery store for some of the ingredients but trust me, it is going to be worth the trip.

pork collar butt cut on a chopping board
Pork collar butt, pork scotch and pork tenderloin are great cuts to make Char Siu

There are a few cuts you can use to make Char Siu; Pork Collar Butt, Pork Scotch, even tenderloin, although the tenderloin tends to be a lot leaner, you are better to stick to the cuts that have a bit of fat in them.

This helps to keep the meat succulent, and adds flavor.

Items that will help with this cook:

Prepping the pork correctly at the start is the key for maximum flavor

Start by cutting the pork into 1” thick strips. I’ve found this is the perfect size and most consistent especially when you go to any Chinese BBQ restaurant.

Remembering we are making authentic Char Siu, not as close as can be Char Siu.

sliced pork collar butt for char siu pork recipe
1” thick strips work best for this recipe

Once you have sliced up all of the pork collar into 1” strips, place them into a bowl and cover until you are ready to marinade them.

Marinade your meat, it’s the best

I love nothing more than trying out new recipes, rubs, sauces, and marinades. So I made it a bit of a quest of mine to find out exactly what went into this sticky charred caramelized pork creation called Char Siu. 

Maltose, cooking wine, hoisin sauce on the table
Aim to use traditional ingredients for the most authentic Char Siu

Every time I eat it, I wish I had more, the flavor is just incredible.

So I took it upon myself to find recipe, after recipe, after recipe, and when I realized there were so many. I started excluding those that didn’t use traditional ingredients, like honey for sweetness. My aim was to create authentic perfection.

So we are talking about a few ingredients you may not have seen, heard of or even used before but they can all be found at any Chinese Supermarket.

I will note some alternative options further down, if you cannot find these ingredients but trust me, they are worth tracking down.

Char Siu marinade ingredients
Measure and combine the marinade ingredients

The ingredients all need to be placed in a bowl and mixed, for the most part, you are just measuring out quantities.

The garlic and ginger will need to be roughly chopped up into fine pieces.

The red fermented bean curd is a mixture of fermented red tofu and the red bean curd mixture they come in, these will be needed to get mixed into a paste and added with all the other ingredients.  

The red bean curd is what gives this recipe its characteristic red color and also adds to the flavor as well.

pork collar in Char Siu marinade in a plastic bag
Cover pork strips with the marinade and leave in the fridge for 24 hours

Once these are all mixed, pour the mixture over the pork and mix up and make sure all the pork is coated in the marinade, covered, and put back in the fridge for 24 hours.

Cooking over charcoal is the best way to get that great smoky flavor

I’m using a 22” Weber Kettle, so I’ll start off by lighting up a chimney of lump charcoal. Once this has fully ashed over I’ll place this on one side of the charcoal grate in a basket. 

charcoal chimney with lit charcoal
Start with lighting charcoal in a chimney

Place a tray on the other side to help with cleaning up, this can get messy but it is so worth the trouble, trust me.

Put the cooking grate back in place and place one chunk of apple smoking wood directly over the lit charcoal and put the lid back on. I’ll be aiming to smoke around the 300°F to 320°F mark.

a piece of smoking wood placed over lit charcoal
Place one chunk of smoking wood of choice over lit charcoal

After the smoke has settled on the Weber, you should see just a faint blue smoke coming out of the lid vent, it’s time to put the marinated pork pieces on.

Take them out of the marinade but save the leftover marinade for basting the meat later.

Place the pork strips on the indirect cooking zone, away from the lit charcoal. Place the lid back on and make sure the lid vent is above the pork, this will draw the heat and smoke across the meat.

char siu pork strips on a Weber Kettle
Place pork strips on the opposite side of the lit charcoal

Now using the leftover marinade, put it in a small pot and add 2 tablespoons of Maltose to thicken up.

Light up another half chimney of lump charcoal now, as we’ll use this to sear the pork strips directly over the heat, while basting with the thickened marinade. This is going to give us that glossy, mahogany colored charred goodness that we love so much.

pouring Maltose into char siu pork marinade
Add Maltose to thicken up the leftover marinade

Keep an eye on the meat, you don’t want to overcook it and dry it out.

Cook it indirectly until the internal temp is 125°F. That’s when we want to add some more lump charcoal and then move the meat over the charcoal and cook until an internal temp of 145°F is reached. 

The entire time basting and constantly flipping.

cooked Char Siu pork on a weber kettle
Cook pork strips until internal temp of 145°F, take off the heat and rest for 5-10 minutes

Once the internal temp is reached, take off the heat and rest on a chopping board for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into quarter-inch thick slices.

Serving suggestions

You can’t go wrong serving char sui with any rice dish. I’ll be pairing it with some chicken flavored jasmine rice.

I’m amazed at how many people I know that do not know how to cook rice properly. Then add to that, most who say rice is boring and bland, AAAARGH there’s that bland word again.

No food needs to be bland. 

Flavored jasmine rice

cooked jasmine rice garnished with chili and scallions
Use chicken stock, chives and lemon zest to flavor the rice

Firstly, rinse your rice under cold water. Next, place the rice in a pot and add some seasoning, today we are using chives, lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Then we are going to use some cold chicken stock, one and half times the amount of how much rice we put in, so for a cup of rice, put in one and a half cups of chicken stock.

Bring that to the boil quickly, then turn the heat down and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

I then usually garnish mine with some finely chopped chilli and scallions. Remembering, food shouldn’t be bland, including humble old rice.

Lemon Steamed Chinese Greens

Pak Choy, buk choy, sum choy and Chinese broccolini. Any of these are suitable and so easy to prepare.

If you cannot find any of the above, baby broccolini is more than a good substitute.

Trim off the end hard piece of stalk, then rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly.

In a steamer, add a cup of water and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and bring to the boil. 

Steam the greens for around 6 minutes, drain thoroughly and serve immediately.

Serving suggestions

This is one type of meat I could honestly eat on its own. The sticky glazed charred goodness really doesn’t need a lot to accompany it. It is definitely the hero on the plate and trying to outdo it would just be futile.

sliced pork strips on a wooden board
Enjoy Char Siu pork as its own or complement with other foods

I tend to lay down a good serving of the chicken flavored jasmine rice, garnished with finely diced chili and thinly sliced scallions.

Then adding some lemon steamed Chinese greens and topped off with plenty of sliced up Char Siu. 

Char Siu pork with Jasmine rice and steamed greens on a plate
Serve Char Siu pork with chicken flavored Jasmine rice and steamed greens

This is a meal I keep coming back to over and over again. So simple to look at, it takes some time to prepare but the end result is pure magic in your mouth. 

char siu pork

Char Siu – Chinese BBQ Pork

Authentic Chinese BBQ pork served with chicken flavored Jasmine rice and lemon steamed greens.
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Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook Time: 1 hour
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Author: Dean “Schuey” Schumann

Ingredients

Pork Collar

  • 1 pork collar 6lbs sliced into 1” strips

Char Siu Marinade

  • ¼ cup maltose (use honey if you cannot find)
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp ginger (grated)
  • 2 cubes of red fermented tofu + 4 tbsp of the red bean curd (mixed together)
  • 2 tbsp shaoxing wine (Chinese rice cooking wine)
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
  • 2 tbsp maltose (extra to thicken up leftover marinade)

Chicken Jasmine Rice

  • 1 cup Jasmine rice 
  • ½ cup cold chicken stock (one part rice to one and a half parts chicken stock)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 10 grams finely chopped fresh chives
  • salt & pepper to taste (roughly 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of pepper)

Instructions

Prepping the Pork

  • Trim the hard fat and silver skin off the outside.
  • Slice length ways into 1” thick strips

Making the Char Siu Marinade

  • Warm up maltose in a microwave for 15 to 20 seconds, this will allow it to soften so you can measure it out evenly.
  • Take two pieces of tofu out of the red bean mixture as well as four tablespoons of the sauce and mix together with a fork.
  • Add all the other ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Work quickly before the maltose cools down, as it starts to turn hard again.

Setting up the BBQ

  • Light up a half chimney starter of lump charcoal.
  • Once it is fully lit, transfer to the charcoal grate and then position at one end, creating a dual zone cooking area.
  • Put the grill in place, put a piece of smoking wood (I used apple) in place above the lit charcoal and put the lid back on.
  • Open all vents, we want to get the temp up near 300°F.
  • After 5 minutes, brush the grill with a grill brush and lightly oil
  • Put the pork strips on the indirect side of the cooking grate, away from the lit charcoal and cook until internal temp is at 125°F.
  • Once the internal temp is at 125°F, add another half chimney of lit lump charcoal and start cooking the pork directly over the lit fuel and constantly basting and turning until the internal temp is 145°F.

Perfecting Rice

  • Rinse the rice under cold water to remove all the dust, this stops it clumping together after it is cooked.
  • Put rice in a pot and add lemon zest, chives and salt & pepper.
  • Cover with the cup and a half of cold chicken stock and cover with a lid, bring to the boil as quickly as possible and then turn the heat down and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  • I garnished mine with finely diced chilli and thinly sliced scallions onion.

Steaming the Greens

  • Start by trimming off the stalk ends.
  • Rinse the dirt off under cool water.
  • Boil a cup of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice in a steamer.
  • Add greens when water is boiling and steam for 6 minutes.

To Serve

  • Place rice on the plate, garnish with thinly sliced scallions and diced red chilli.
  • Arrange the greens on the plate.
  • Slice the Char Siu Pork into ¼” thick slices.
  • Arrange on the plate and enjoy.

Video

Dean "Schuey" Schumann

Dean "Schuey" Schumann

I’m a Weber Kettle collector (50 and counting) trying to cook great food. I love trying new things and perfecting the art of barbecue. I spent a few years competing on the Australian circuit in competition barbecue. Then starred in a barbecue show on Australian TV. Now I'm sharing my knowledge by mixing tips and tricks with some good Aussie humor.

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