A blog about cooking and food, and how to make it taste good and be healthy. The dishes are almost all gluten/dairy free, and many are vegetarian. The focus is on techniques and ingredients over recipes - this is about everyday cooking, and that means making it work with whats on hand!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Char Siu

Char siu is the red barbecue pork you find in Chinese restaurants.  In Boston, Hong Kong eatery has good char siu (along with skin-on roast pork and roast duck), but I wanted to make some myself... so I thought of how it tasted and poked around the Internet and bought some pork.  Pork butt seems to be the recommended cut, and I found some at Market Basket.

I combined applewood-smoked salt, five spice powder, and cumin for a dry rub.  I sliced the pork butt, which was a big chunk of meat into slabs and covered it with the powder.  Dry rubs should use seemingly unreasonable quantities of the ingredients; you want enough to create a crust.  It may seem excessive, but remember that it is a thin layer of flavor that is balanced out by the volume of the meat.  I let the pork sit with the rub for about 45 minutes.

While that was sitting, I mixed up a sweet red sauce to coat the pork and complete the flavor profile.  I mixed soy sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinear, ketchup, and red food coloring.  The last two ingredients are embarassing to admit, but the food coloring is why its red, and ketchup adds a sweet, tangy flavor when used in small enough amounts that it's hidden in the background.  Usually you wouldn't use a sauce this sweet until the end of cooking to prevent the sugar from burning, but the temperature will be low that burning won't be a problem.

This then went into the oven, at 425 for 20 minutes, which was then turned down to 325 for an hour.  Every half hour or so, more sauce was applied (and the pork was flipped halfway through), and at the end, it went under the broiler to burn up some of the sugar (again, flipped to char both sides).  Instead of applying the sauce at the end to get the right amount of caramelization, the temperature is raised at the end.  Either way the end result is a controlled amount of burning at the edges.

The result didn't taste like traditional char siu, but it still tasted good.  I used it immediately with some soup, and used it throughout the week in noodles, fried rice, and omlettes.

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