This sweet and savory roasted pork is a popular Chinese restaurant dish. It’s a great dish to serve for special occasions, parties, or the upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Chinese New Year.
Char siu, which is often referred to as Chinese BBQ Pork, is a Cantonese method for roasting pork. The pork is first marinated in a sweet and salty sauce. Red food coloring is also added to the marinade to give the pork its distinctive color. The pork is then roasted over an open fire or in the oven.
The popular pork dish can be found hanging on display in Cantonese roast meat shops. It can be served as a main dish or will often be used in noodle soups, over rice, or inside steamed buns.
Best Cuts of Pork
The most common cuts of pork used for making this dish are pork shoulder or pork butt as these cuts have a good amount of fat on them to keep the meat very juicy.
If you wish for something leaner, you can also use pork tenderloin.
For something even richer, you can use pork belly.
How to Make Char Siu
- It is not too difficult to make this dish, but you do need to plan ahead. The pork needs to be marinated overnight.
- The pork should be cut into slabs that are about 2 inches thick. You don’t want the pork to be too thick or it will not cook all the way through.
- To make the marinade, combine five spice powder, white pepper, sesame oil, shaoxing rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, hoisin sauce, garlic, maltose (or honey), and red food coloring.
- Reserving 3 tbsp of marinade and rub the remaining marinade all over the pork. Place into a container and seal the top with plastic wrap. Let the pork marinate overnight in the fridge.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 475F. Line a baking sheet pan with foil. Place a wire baking rack on top. Place pork on the wire baking rack. Pour 2 cups of water into the sheet pan.
- Cook for about 25 minutes. Then flip and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Baste both sides of the pork with reserved marinade and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until pork is finished cooking. Use a meat thermometer to verify that pork is cooked through.
- Let pork rest for 10 minutes before slicing. I like to brush with a little more marinade right before serving so that the outside of the pork has a little extra of the sweet and savory sticky glaze.
Other Recipes with Char Siu
When I make this pork dish, I usually make a lot at once, so that we have leftovers for other dishes that usually contain char siu. Here are some ideas for using your leftover char siu:
- Use it as the protein in Singapore Noodles
- Make pork buns using my easy steam bun recipe
- Serve with wonton noodle soup. Use my wonton soup recipe and just add egg noodles and slices of pork.
- Add it to fried rice.
- Include it in crispy pan fried noodles.
Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- 3 lb pork shoulder or pork butt sliced horizontally into slabs that are about 2 inches thick
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp maltose or honey
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp five spice powder
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 tbsp water
- red food coloring
- Add all marinade ingredients except red food coloring. Mix until evenly combined. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix. Add until you have your desired amount of redness. Char Siu can range from bright red to dark red, depending on your personal preference.
- Set aside three tbsp of marinade. Rub remaining marinade all over the pork slabs.
- Place pork into a baking dish large enough to hold the pork pieces without them overlapping. Seal surface with plastic wrap. Place pork in fridge to marinate overnight. Place reserved marinade in a small container and also refrigerate.
- On the day of cooking, preheat oven to 475°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Add 2 cups of water to baking sheet. Then place a wire baking rack on top of baking sheet. Place pork slabs on baking rack. Place pork into lower half of oven. Cook for 25 minutes.
- Flip pork over. If your baking sheet is out of water, add more. Cook pork an additional 20 minutes. Take reserved marinade and set aside 1 tbsp. Using the remaining 2 tbsp, baste the exterior of the pork.
- Cook an additional 5-15 minutes or until pork is fully cooked and the exterior is shiny, crispy and slightly charred around the edges. To check pork doneness, use a meat thermometer. You want the internal meat temperature to be about 160°F. 160°F is medium for pork and it will cook slightly more as it rests.
- Let pork rest for ten minutes before slicing and serving. Right before serving, brush the top of the slices with remaining reserved marinade.
- Adapted from The Woks of Life
- I like my char siu to be a little thicker, so I try to divide into 2 inch thick slabs. I don't recommend anything thicker than 2 inches. It can be a little under 2 inches as well, around 1 1/2 inch thick. Remember this is thicknes and not width. I did not need to divide the pork butt vertically, but if you don't want your meat slices as wide or you are working with a very large/wide piece of pork shoulder or pork butt, you can make a vertical cut too. Cooking time may need to be reduced if you pork is not as thick or wide.
- Traditionally maltose is used to create the sticky, thick glaze. However since most people don't have maltose stored in their pantry, you can also substitute with honey.
- If you have questions on some of the ingredients listed, check out my Chinese Cooking Ingredients guide.
- Char siu is usually made with pork shoulder or pork butt because it is a fattier cut of pork. If you want something learner, you can use pork tenderloin, however cooking time may need to be reduced. If you prefer something richer, you can also use pork belly.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.