Char siu with dipping sauces and sauted baby bok choy

Char siu is Cantonese barbecued pork and something I’ve wanted to make for a long time. This is a two-day preparation. The recipe is mainly based on posts in this thread on eGullet, as well as some comments in this post on the Food Canon blog from Singapore.

I used pork belly instead of loin, resulting in a lot more fat and fatty, chewy pieces.

Serves 2

1 lb pork belly, sliced into 1″ x 2″ strips containing fat and lean, pricked all over with a fork


(a) marinade base:

1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 1/2 star anise
1 tbs cloves
1 tbs cumin seeds
1 tbs coriander seeds

(b) other marinade ingredients:

1 tbs dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 1/2 tbs brown bean sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
3 cloves of garlic, mashed and lightly chopped
1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp salt
pinch of MSG (optional)

First make the marinade base. Simmer the first 1/2 cup dark soy sauce with the water and whole spices for an hour. Be sure to keep the flame very low so that the whole spices don’t burn. It should be a bare simmer.

Discard the whole spices, and combine the liquid marinade base in a medium-sized bowl with the other marinade ingredients and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust balance for sweet / salty.

Add the pieces of pork to the bowl and combine thoroughly with your hands, rubbing the liquid into the pork. Put in fridge and marinate overnight.

About 2 hours before you want to eat, remove pork chunks from bowl, reserving marinade (discard the pieces of garlic). Thread the meat on skewers, leaving a small space between chunks. Use a set of two skewers for each set of chunks of pork, so that you will be able to turn them easily. (I used wooden skewers similar to these, which needed soaking in water so they wouldn’t burn – if you have metal ones, so much the better – just make sure they’re long enough to stretch to both sides of your roasting pan.)

Put oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 300F.

Basting liquid:

1 1/2 tbs hoisin sauce
1 tbs brown bean sauce
1 tbs Shaoxing rice wine
1 1/2 tbs honey
1/4 tsp five spice powder
Excess marinade

Mix thoroughly, and adjust sweet / salty balance to taste.

Put about 1/2″ water in a roasting pan narrow enough to balance the skewers on, and place the skewers on top so that the pork is above the water. Place in oven.

Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, turning every 20 minutes.

Now raise the heat to 425F and brush the meat with the basting liquid. Cook for 20 minutes more, basting frequently.

Carefully take the pork from the oven and remove from skewers when cool enough to handle. Chop into 1/4″ pieces and set on a plate to rest for at least 30 minutes. Do not cover or keep warm – char siu should be eaten at room temperature!

Above: dipping sauces: light soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Chinese mustard.

Serve with steamed rice, and a vegetable foil – something like this baby bok choy (recipe from Steamy Kitchen).