Can I Make Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)?
I have these brioche buns in the fridge and they remind me of the bun in baked BBQ pork buns (char siu bao) in dim sum (picture at the bottom of the post), so I decided to try to make char siu to try to make a modified version. Like I wrote before, there are a lot of similarities with foods around the world, just different variations. :)
I think Chinese food is extremely challenging to make and always tastes better at the restaurant, but I thought I'd give it a whirl. I Googled some recipes and chose one for the marinade/glaze that was not necessarily the most authentic, but that had ingredients that I thought would use again soon.
For example, this recipe uses ketchup. I don't think they use ketchup in Chinese restaurants to make it. Haha. :) The pictures with this recipe looked really authentic though. [Side note: I learned from the History Channel's 'The Food That Built America' mini-series that it was Heinz that pioneered manufacturing and mass production and Ford learned a thing or two from the ketchup manufacturing for his cars. Isn't that funny that the first thing that mass production was used for was ketchup?]
In the recipe above that I used for the marinade/glaze, they cook it on a grill. I used this recipe below because they described how to cook it in the oven. The link below has good pictures too.
I did half-recipe (for 1 pork loin) of the recipe from All Recipes for the marinade/glaze with some substitutions.
They used: 2 pork tenderloins, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of honey, 1/3 cup of ketchup, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup Chinese rice wine, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
What I used:
- 1 Pork tenderloin
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1/6 cup of honey (or ~2.67 or ~3 tablespoons)
- 1/6 cup of ketchup (or ~2.67 or ~3 tablespoons)
- 15 to 1/4 cup of brown sugar (~3.2 to 4 tablespoons)
- 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce
I didn't use red food coloring and I didn't have any Chinese five-spice powder. I used apple cider vinegar in place of Chinese rice wine because I had some from the bacon jam I made. Yum! (see link for more info)
It was really easy to prep.
1.) They recommend you cut the pork into 1 1/2" or 2" pieces and put it in a Ziplock bag.
2.) In a pan on low to low-medium, you combine all the other ingredients and heat it briefly, so everything comes together (2-3 minutes).
- You don't want it too high or it will burn (brown sugar).
3.) Then you pour the marinade/glaze into the Ziplock bag, make sure all the pork is coated, then put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours. You can let it marinate overnight.
After 2 hours, I took the pork out of the oven and switched to the Woks of Life recipe for cooking it in the oven.
Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.
I put the roasting grate (from my toaster oven) over cast iron pan (it's okay to go in the oven.)
I poured 1 1/2 cups of water into the pan as directed.
I placed the meat on the roasting grate.
Before putting in the oven, I brushed some additional marinade/glaze on top.
I put it in the oven for 25 minutes uncovered.
Then, I took it out, flipped the meat, then brushed some additional marinade/glaze on top. I added more water to the bottom of the pan.
I put it back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes.
RESULT: Success. :)
We are good at this! It looks good and tasted good. Maybe a little too caramelized, but I like the crunchy parts. It was not completely authentic, but it tasted good. I don't think I would be able to replicate true authentic char siu without a commercial kitchen / bakery. I don't know how they do it. The texture is dry (in a good way), but also juicy; it's hard to explain.
When I try it again, I may lower the temp of the oven or bake it for slightly shorter to minimize the caramelization.
I ate some today with that part of a brioche bun that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. Yum! Brioche has a little sweetness like the bun of baked char siu bao. Doesn't it look a little like baked char siu bao? The pieces of char siu are small in the bun with more sauce, but I was just making a modified version.
Like I said, foods around the world are pretty similar, just variations. :)