Thursday, 6 March 2014

Char Siu Pork - From Scratch

Ever fancied having a go at making your own Char Siu Pork?

Well, there's no reason not to because it's really easy - you just marinade, then bake (or grill/barbeque).

Even better, you can make a big batch, eat some freshly cooked (well, you have to at least taste it - and if you're feeling civilised, maybe serve it with some stir-fried pak choi and steamed rice, sprinkled with a few sliced spring onions - and if you want to be totally decadent you could reduce the marinade to a syrupy consistency, and drizzle over the hot sliced pork, or even just serve straight from the oven, because you can!) then slice the remainder and freeze. You can then easily add it to Chinese dishes, stir fries, my Spring Rolls (the skinny version, or the gluten free version) or my healthy Singapore Noodles/Chow Mein etc. (straight from the freezer) as well as having the benefits of being able to choose whether to make it authentically, make a low fat version, or even make it gluten free if you need to (which it won't be the majority of the time if you buy it pre-made, or buy a pre-made marinade).

Well, let us pontificate no further, and get onto how to make it, as you need to marinate it for a day first!

This makes enough to serve four people if you'd like to serve it as a main dish, or if you want to add it to Chinese stir fries, or spring rolls etc. it will serve far more (and conveniently keep in the freezer, pre-sliced until you need it).


  • 450g pork fillet/tenderloin (or you can use pork shoulder or neck which is more authentic and economical, but higher in fat and calories)
  • 150g (rich) hoisin sauce (many brands contain wheat flour, so check the label if you can't eat wheat/gluten - Sweet Mandarin brand is gluten free at the time of writing, and there are others)
  • 100g honey (runny)
  • 2 tbsp each light soy sauce (use tamari soy sauce, for a wheat/gluten free version) and Shaoxing wine (or use dry sherry, or dry white wine)
  • 1 tbsp red fermented bean curd, or crushed yellow bean sauce (you could substitute miso paste if you really can't get hold of any for a vaguely similar flavour - check gluten free if applicable)*
  • ½ tsp five-spice powder (without salt)
  • Large pinch of white pepper


Crush the red bean curd with the back of a fork, and add to a re-sealable bag large enough to hold the pork with the rest of the marinade ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Trim any excess fat, and white/silvery sinew from the outside of the pork loin with a sharp knife, and then cut lengthways into three or four evenly sized strips. Put the pork into the bag with the marinade, seal, and coat thoroughly. Put into the fridge for one to two days** to marinade.

To cook, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200C / 400F, remove the pork from the marinade and place on a wire rack on top of a foil lined tray. Cook in the top of the oven for approximately 15 minutes until cooked through with a shiny, glazed appearance, and just starting to brown in a few places. Alternatively cook on a barbeque if you’re able to. Slice to serve, or use in other dishes.

You could just eat all of the pork, once you’ve cooked it (its hard not to, unless you've doubled up the quantities!), or slice and freeze some or all of it, to add to various different Chinese dishes, such as soups, noodle dishes, stir fries, wrap in rolls, or even my Singapore Noodles / Chow Mein recipe etc.

On a decadent day, you could boil down the marinade until it has reduced and thickened, and use some of it as a sauce, but it’s very high in sugar from the honey and hoisin sauce, so I wouldn’t recommend this for a healthy day. I have frozen the leftover marinade, which I will use once again, but I wouldn’t recommend re-using more than once.

*Red fermented bean curd (and yellow bean sauce) can be found (in tins, usually) in oriental shops. If you can’t get hold of any, don’t worry too much. I’m not entirely sure what to do with the rest of the tin of red fermented bean curd, so for now it’s hibernating in the freezer in a bag… crushed yellow beans sauce on the other hand, is good for stir-frying with (but you could also freeze the leftoevers). And as you can see, the red bean curd didn’t add a noticeable red colour to the pork. You can also buy ready-made Char Siu marinade if you prefer, although check what is in the ingredients if you want to avoid wheat/gluten, artificial colourings, preservatives, chemical additives, MSG etc.

**We didn’t find a hugely noticeable difference in flavour or taste whether the pork was marinated for one or two days, so one day is fine, you could even marinade in the morning and cook in the evening.

I haven’t included a calorie count for this, as I’m not comfortable in providing an accurate count. Pork fillet/loin is generally 150 calories per 100g, but as some of the sugars from the marinade are absorbed into the meat, the calorie count would be higher than this, but I can’t say how much by - I doubt it would increase by more than 10%. However, on the positive side, at least you know what has gone into the marinade, and it’s lower in fat than Char Siu pork made with shoulder or neck!

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