Cantonese Roasted BBQ Pork (Char Sui)
Updated: Feb 27
Almost every time I order Chinese food, BBQ pork is one of the dishes on my list. Hence, I had to learn how to make it and now I am sharing my version of char sui, a very popular Cantonese roasted BBQ pork, with you, just in time for the Lunar New Year. Char sui is sweet, slightly salty and with just a hint of spice to give it the perfect depth of flavour.
Char sui is a popular way to prepare barbecued pork not only in Cantonese cuisine but also in many other Chinese cuisines. Even Hawaii has adopted it. While you can use different cuts of pork, most people prefer pork shoulder, sometimes referred to as a pork butt roast because it tends to be fattier (hence juicier) if cut right. You could also use a boneless pork loin or even a tenderloin, but be sure not to overcook them.
I hope you enjoy this version as much as I do.
Cantonese roasted BBQ Pork (Char Sui)
3 lbs boneless pork shoulder or boneless pork loin or tenderloins
Ingredients for the marinade:
1/2 cup honey
2 T soy sauce
1 t red food colouring
2 t fish sauce
1/4 cup hoisen sauce
2 t Chinese five spice powder
A couple of good dashes of cayenne powder
3 T mirin or Chinese shaoxing wine or sherry
1 T fine sea salt
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 T oil
Mix all your ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl big enough to hold your pork. Or, pour your marinade into a ziplock bag, set aside while you prepare your pork.
Cut pork shoulder along the grain into 2” thick slices. Discard any big chunks of fat. Then cut into evenly-sized strips. If using pork loin, remove the silverskin, then cut loin in half. Next, slice each piece of loin lengthwise into three even pieces about 1 1/2” thick. If using tenderloins, just remove the silverskin and leave whole.
Now add your pork and marinade overnight ,or for best results, at least 24 hours to allow the flavours to penetrate the pork.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees using the convection setting or 400 degrees on bake. Convection is by far the better choice.
Line a baking sheet with foil, then lay a cooling rack atop. Now place pork strips on rack and roast for about 45 minutes or to 160 degrees F. Or if using loins cook to about 150 degrees F, then remove from your oven, tent with foil and let it rest. It will gain about 10 degrees after resting.
Check the temperature after about 45 minutes depending on thickness.
While the pork is cooking, pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer to allow marinade to thicken a little, til it's almost syrupy, then turn off heat. Brush your char sui with the marinade / glaze a couple of times while it's cooking. Actually try dabbing the glaze on as it will leave more of the glaze on the pork. Remove pork when it reaches 160 degrees F for strips, or about 150 degrees for loins.
Note: if you don’t have Chinese five spice on hand; mix a little ground fennel, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne powder. It’s not a perfect substitute but will do in a pinch. Oh, real char sui is made with fermented red bean curds which are also hard to find, so I use red dye: it does the same job and is easier to find.