Chinese barbecue pork, or Char Siu, is a sweet and salty Cantonese dish. Make this Asian bbq pork recipe for a tasty main dish or appetizer.
Difference between Chinese and Cantonese cooking
Chinese recipes are well known around the world. There are at least 7 different cuisines across China, but out of those, Cantonese-style dishes like this one are the most popular in the United States.
This is primarily due to chefs from China’s southwest region (near Hong Kong) bringing their authentic recipes with them to open restaurants in the U.S.
Entree Definition: Pork Char Siu
In English, the Chinese word Char Siu 叉烧 (pronounced CHar SHoo ) translates to “fork tender”. This is a perfect description for Chinese barbecue pork!
The meat is so tender, it practically melts in your mouth, and the sticky sweet bbq sauce is completely addictive.
The bright red color of the meat comes from the use of food coloring. I like the visual appeal, but food coloring is completely optional for this recipe.
In China, they cook the pork roast on hooks over a charcoal fire. Obviously, you can achieve the same flavor by using a smoker.or roasting it on a grill.
If you don’t have that option, you can simply roast it in an oven. I have both grilling and oven roasting options in the recipe card below.
Recipe ingredient notes
- Best pork for char siu
I use boneless pork shoulder (also known as a pork butt) when I make the dish. Otherwise, you can use pork neck (also known as pork collar or pork scotch filet) or any other boneless cut with a good amount of fat and marbling on it.
Avoid using lean cuts like pork tenderloin because the high cooking temperature will dry out the meat.
- Pork marinade
Most of the ingredients for the marinade are basic pantry staples like soy sauce, hoisin, and rice wine. If you don’t do much Asian cooking, you may need Chinese five spice blend.
If you would rather not buy it, my post for Chinese 5 spice lists how to make it.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- Cut and marinate the pork.
Cut the pork vertically (end to end) into 2 long strips, about 3 inches thick. Then, place it into a shallow roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet.
Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, then rub it onto the entire surface of the pork. Cover and refrigerate any remaining marinade. You’ll use it for basting the pork as it cooks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you use red food coloring, be sure to wear kitchen gloves. Otherwise, you'll end up with red fingers.
Place the pan of pork into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 6 hours, and up to 48 hours.
- Grill or roast at 500°F.
TIP: Remove the pork from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you cook it. This will bring it to room temperature, which helps ensure that it cooks evenly.
Using a grill or smoker allows for an even temperature and avoids the kitchen getting a little smoky. If you'll be using the oven, place the pork on a baking rack over a pan lined with aluminum foil. This will prevent any smoke from the fat drippings.
NOTE: Be sure that the pork isn't touching the water, and check often to add more as needed.
- Baste the meat, then continue cooking.
After 35 minutes, use a basting brush to coat both pieces of pork with reserved marinade. Then, continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
- Allow the pork char siu to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
For appetizers, the meat is fantastic on slider buns, or serve it as is on skewers with a side of roasted broccoli.
While you wait for the meat to rest is a great time to make some side dishes to serve with the meal.
It tastes great over steamed white rice, in soup, or on a salad. Or, add it to this bok choy stir fry. I always save some to dice and use in one of my all-time favorites, Chinese Baked BBQ Pork Buns - Char Siu Bao.
Chinese BBQ Pork - Char Siu
- 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 2 tsp molasses
- 1 tsp red food coloring (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Five Spice Powder
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- cilantro leaves
- Cut the pork vertically into 2 long strips about 3 inches thick.
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl and carefully whisk until sugar is dissolved and marinade is smooth.
- Using gloves, rub the pork with the marinade in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight, at least 8 hours.
- Preheat your oven or grill to 500°F (See Note 1). Remove pork from refrigerator.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a metal rack on top. Spray the rack with cooking spray to avoid sticking. Remove marinated pork, gently shaking off excess and place the pork on the rack, leaving and inch or two between pieces. Roast uncovered for 25 minutes.
- To the reserved marinade add the honey and mix well. This will be your basting sauce. Set aside.
- After 25 minutes, use tongs and carefully turn the pork. Roast another 10 minutes.
- After 35 minutes of roasting baste each pork strip, turn it over and baste the other side. Roast for a final 10 minutes. Turn one more time and baste again. Roast for a final 5 minutes (See Note 2).
- Remove from the oven/grill allow meat to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
- I like to use my grill or smoker to keep an even temperature and avoid the kitchen getting a little smokey over using the oven. If using the oven, add a cup or two of water to the rimmed baking sheet with rack to avoid fat dripping and causing smoke. Be sure water is not touching pork and check often to add more if needed.
- Pork should have an internal temp of 145°F when instant read thermometer is inserted.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.