chinese char siu barbecue pork - perfect all year around!

char siu chinese barbecue pork
Chinese New Year began a couple of weeks ago, and that Sunday I used it as an excuse to make a char siu style roast for lunch. I may not be the biggest fan of pork, but I do like it when it is marinated in an intensely sweet and deeply savoury sauce which for me can only improve pork's sweet blandness.

While fattier cuts of pork such as shoulder have lost favour in recent years, I suspect that with people trying to cut their food bills, together with yet another food scandal (the recent horse DNA in beef), may well mean that pork is due for revival. Although this pork dish will never go out of fashion.

I first started making my own version of char sui (Chinese barbecued pork) a few years ago when I acquired a copy of Richard Whittington's Home Food. The recipe below is a variation on the theme, so feel free to add and subtract as you choose - it is pretty forgiving, just gloriously aromatic and sticky.

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

1kg shoulder of pork,(with the fat on but skinned)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sunflower oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 x red onions, or 8 shallots, roughly chopped
4 x garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp runny honey or golden syrup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp plum jam
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 x star anise
1 tbsp fermented soy bean paste (I used Korean doenjang paste)
1 tsp chilli paste (I used Korean gochujang paste)
water (optional)


  1. Make a paste by blending together 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil, the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine, hoisin sauce, onions and garlic.
  2. Score the pork fat with a very sharp knife. (I use a Stanley knife!) Place the pork in a suitable dish, season lightly and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Bring the pork back to room temperature (for about 1 hour before cooking). Drain the pork of its marinade and pat dry with kitchen towel, (the drier the better).
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 230C / Gas Mark 8.
  5. While the pork is coming back to room temperature, made the sauce for roasting. Gently warm the honey, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, plum jam, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, fermented soy bean paste and chilli paste together. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. (You may need to add a little water.)
  6. Line a roasting pan with kitchen foil. Brush the foil with about 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil. Place the pork, skin-side up, on a trivet (or use a couple of onions, peeled and cut across their Equator to create onion plinths. This keeps the pork off the bottom of the pan and helps prevent burning.
  7. Pour over half of the spicy plum sauce over the pork and roast at 230C / Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180C / Gas Mark 4 and continue to roast for 25 minutes per 450g.
  8. About half way through cooking, brush the pork with a little more of the plum sauce. If it looks as if the pork is burning, splash a little water into the bottom of the roasting tin. Cover the roast with foil if it looks as if it is burning.
  9. Once the pork is cooked, it does not need to rest. Serve in thick slices, with extra plum sauce on the side and steamed Chinese greens.


  • Works with very fatty, cheaper cuts of pork including loin and belly.
  • Replace the spices with about 2 teaspoons of Chinese 5-spice powder.
  • Leftovers are gorgeous in sandwiches or in stir fries.


The KitchenMaid said...

Super delicious! We went out for a Chinese New Year dinner last night and this looks every bit as good as what was on offer (I should add here that it was a very good Chinese restaurant!)
I'll tuck this away for the winter. We can buy a cut of pork shoulder here called 'belly cut shoulder', which is probably an attempt to wean people off pork belly and on to the shoulder. Pork belly is very big here - could that be why NZ is so high on those obese countries lists?
Enjoy the rest of your weekend and I haven't forgotten our little project, just thinking it through...


O'Thinny said...

Pork belly is very big here - could that be why NZ is so high on those obese countries lists?

No no no no no! Fat doesn't make you fat. Sugars and refined carbohydrates do. Fats are GOOD (even saturated fats). Don't be afraid of them. (Google LCHF if this doesn't make sense.)