Roast Pork (Char Siu)

I have a very good friend from Beijing China who is a great cook. Watching her cook in the kitchen is like watching a ballerina gracefully performing a dance.

One important lesson that I learned from her was using the right kind of meat to make Char Siu, and that is to use the Pork Shoulder Butt cut.

If you live in Portland, Costco Warehouse sells this type of cut in the meat department. I usually buy in bulk, roast the marinated pork and make different dishes with this meat. Sometimes, I would distribute the roast pork to my neighbors and friends or vacuum seal it for future use.

Use a plastic bag to marinate your strips of pork overnight with the following:
3 tbsp of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of wine
1 1/2 tbsp of oyster sauce

This recipe is for 2 to 3 lbs of meat. If you have more meat, adjust the amount of marinade. Bake the meat in a preheated oven with 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. The following are before and after photos. Additionally, you can dip the cooked strips of pork into (1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp honey) glaze and grill it for a short while to give the pork a shine. Glazing recipe is from Auntie Lily. Traditionally, char siu were dipped in red food coloring. I prefer to omit the coloring.

Here are some ideas to make different meals out of these 6 strips of meat.

Sliced Roast Pork with Saffron Rice.


Siew Pao (Baked Roast Pork Bun) 燒包

Char Siu Pao 燒包

Other dishes that uses roast pork include Wonton Mein and Char Siu Fried Rice. I have posted an article on Wonton Mein recipe but the photo does not look as delicious as WMW‘s Wonton Mein photo. I took that photo before WMW told me about the “best shot” option on my camera.


Filed under Asian Snacks, hipfood, Malaysian Food, Taiwanese Food

35 responses to “Roast Pork (Char Siu)

  1. To tell you the truth, I don’t really eat pork! But your roast pork looks good enough to make me want to eat it again 😉

  2. Ah char siew… I got turned off making pork char siew.. Now only make chicken char siew, ha ha ha

  3. Your char siew looks great.

    I started to blog on food also, pls feel free to visit my website:

  4. alice

    I have tried various ways to make char siew, using Hoisin sauce, etc and even asked my niece in Hawaii to get me the char siew marinate powder but it tasted different. But I think yours is very easy. Does it taste like the real char siew back home? Would like to try it one day.

  5. Hello, MrsHBT. Your Char Siu recipe sounds very doable. I will try it. But can I use dark soy sauce mixed with soy sauce instead of oyster sauce?

    By the way, have you ever tried making roti canai? I’m dreaming of an off-white roti canai (*to the tune of ‘I’m Dreamin’ of a White Christmas’) …

  6. Kenny Mah

    Now I’m wishing I had a proper kitchen of my own to try all your delicious recipes out! All I have is a microwave oven (an old one my mom gave me since she never used it anyway, preferring to use her electric oven) and no stoves…

    It’d be fun to cook and share the results with friends — I’m sure they’d be willing to try, even if the results aren’t that good, but if I don’t try, how do I improve, right? 😉

  7. your neighbours are so lucky! I love to eat char siew, hopefully pork butt will go on sale soon 😛

  8. Dear WokandSpoon,
    I don’t blame you for not eating pork. Marinating the pork will turn the strong pig smell into fragrant delicious smell.

    Chicken char siu sounds good. Do you cut it up into pieces, put them into skewers and barbeque it like Satay?

    Do you plan to maintain two blogs? I just dropped by your new blog. The Chang looks yummy. Is it “Bah Chang” season already?

    Dear Alice,
    To be honest, I don’t remember how the “real char siew back home” taste like anymore. It has been almost 20 years. However, my husband said that my char siew tastes better than the ones sold in the local Chinese restaurants. 🙂

    Dear Argus,
    Oyster sauce has a thicker consistency and sweeter than Dark or regular Soy Sauce. It tastes different as well. If you are not too picky, you can substitute. I think the key is to marinate the pork really well. Oyster sauce can be used in other dishes as well. If it is convenient for you, I would suggest that you buy a bottle.
    I have seen roti canai recipes posted on these blogs, WokandSpoon, Auntie Lily and Mama Fami. Unfortunately, I have not mastered making roti canai yet. However, if you really have the cravings, the frozen “Chinatown” brand is better in taste. 🙂

    Be careful using your microwave oven. Not every container is suitable for microwave. If plastic gets too hot and melt into your food, it is bad for your body. Some nutrients in the food is also destroyed when microwave is used. Does Malaysia sell small portable stove that uses propane tank? It is small, light (no heavier than a watermelon) and comes in a small suit case.

    Dear Mandy,
    My neighbours are great cooks as well. We trade our foods.

  9. I wish we were neighbors then I get some of your roasted pork “distribution”. Wow, with saffron rice, the whole dish should be so fragrant.

  10. Fay

    Hi Lee Ping,
    I’m so glad you had a post on Char Siew as I was just thinking about making it last night as my mom like it. My parents are here for their annual month long visit. One question though …. do you think I could decrease the amount of sugar, given my mom is diabetic? How much do you think I could reduce to still achieve a “decent” flavor?
    Also, thank you so much for your email. It was such a pleasant surprise and I really appreciate your thoughts and prayers. We are having a good time with my parents. They’re really enjoying their grandsons.

  11. V

    Thank you for your tip on pork shoulder butt at Costco. I should buy more meat from there. 🙂

  12. Dear Tigerfish,
    If we were neighbors, we could trade our foods. We could even cook in alternate days… I love Saffron with Basmati Rice. Add a little butter, I can even eat rice as is without any side dishes.

    Dear Fay,
    I remember that your Mom is diabetic. You can skip the glaze. But do marinate the pork with the suggested portion. If you have a baking rack with holes, place that on top of your baking pan. Then place your strips of pork on the baking rack. That way, the extra marinade with sugar will drain away with the fat while it is baking in the oven. Remember to use the meat cut that I suggested.

    Dear V,
    We live in the state of Oregon which is tax free. Our neighbouring state is Washington and its residents drive an hour or so to our state to buy goods or foods from Costco. Hence, the Costco that I go to, has high turnaround, I can always find fresh meat there. Pork shoulder butt cut is really the best cut for making Char Siu. The extra fat surrounding the pork will keep the meat moist and juicy throughout the baking process.

  13. Fay

    Dear Lee Ping,
    Thanks for your quick response, and also for the reminder to use a baking “rack” with holes. I will let you know how it turns out. By the way, I never told you this, but I did try the Chives Turnover recipe and it turned out great. The only thing is, I’m not one that likes to deep fry things (I’m too lazy to clear up the mess afterwards since I don’t have a deep fryer). I had a thought after you introduced the short cut pie crust tip. I know it would be a totally different “taste”, but what you do think about using the pie crust mix for the “skin/shell” for the Chives Turnover, and also for curry puff? I recently saw a recipe on the Food Day paper using the pie crust to make Blueberry Hand Pies and thought it may work for some of the snacks like curry puff and chives turnover. I got a couple of boxes from Safeway (thanks for the tip letting us know it was on sale last week).

  14. wmw

    One ingredient, three masterpieces! Hee hee….Good job! Wish I was there to have a bite! :o)

  15. Dear Fay,
    Quick response, I try to. But sometimes it’s hard. Today, my two older kids are in summer camp and Little Chicken is singing and dancing along with Barney. I am so happy you tried my Leek Turnover recipe and that it turned out great. By the way, Leek Turnover can just be pan fried, not deep fried. Yes, you can use the short cut pie crust mix to make leek turnover. The skin will taste different from the traditional skin used, but it will taste good as well. Deep frying makes the whole house smells oily. So, baking is a good substitute. I have not examine the ingredients in the pie crust mix but I think if you eat it in moderation, you will be fine.

    Additionally, the pie crust mix can be used for making curry puffs. After baking, you will end up with a skin that is flaky. I am sure if you like the taste of pie crust mix, you can adapt it to wrap any recipes that has fillings. These packages of pie crust mixes do have expiration dates. So, make sure to check the dates before purchase and try to use them before the dates expire.

    Dear WMW,
    Thanks to your wonton mein photo and “best shot photo tips.

  16. Your siew bao is calling me again! 😀

  17. Dear Little Corner of Mine,
    If you make Siew Bao, it may look and/or taste better than mine. I really have to thank Auntie Lily for the Siew Bao fillings. Just like what I remembered.

  18. Thanks for your tips, MrsHBT. Will try marinating without oyster sauce first and let u know how it goes. By the way, I wrote in my blog about the cute ducks at the lake near where I live, but your blog is making me think of roast duck and duck liver pate, yikes! ^_^

  19. Dear Argus,
    You are very welcome. I saw the cute ducks on your blog. I did not see the black lake birds, who have “big webbed feet like ducks”, but Mr. and Mrs Mallard looks like a happy couple with Mr. Mallard always following behind Mrs. Mallard.

    Speaking of roast duck. I wonder where all the ducks in the Chinese Restaurants come from. I have never seen or heard a of duck farm. No wonder duck liver pate (Foie Gras) are so much more expensive than chicken liver pate (Faux Gras). Check out Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen for Faux Gras recipe.

    I plan to roast my own duck someday. I would like to master the art of making “Peking Duck”, where the skin is crispy. Not at this moment though because I don’t even know where to buy fresh ducks.

  20. I make my own char siew too because I don’t want the red coloring and sugar.

    I must learn some photograph tricks from you too. The pictures look good enough to eat. 🙂

  21. Dear EE,
    Good for you for making your own Char Siew and even omitting the red coloring and extra sugar. I am still learning to take good photographs, so we can learn together.

  22. Peter Chong

    Dearest Lee Ping,
    I am very impressed with the Char Siu which you have turned out in your blog.
    The Char Siu looks the photograph.
    I hope that I can savour this dish during our visit to you in August,2007.
    Is it possible to substitute sugar for other ingredient in your Char Siu recipe ?
    As you know that I’m diabetic.
    Papa and mom

  23. argh!!..why dont you stay in kl..i will be more then willing to stay in your neighbourhood..actually i will purposely drive over and get some of that action!..

  24. Dearest Pa,
    Fay’s Mom is also diabetic and I had mentioned to her that glazing can be skipped. The sugar in the marinade is still important, otherwise it won’t caramelized in the oven. I will ask Mom if there is a way not to use sugar but still make good char siu. It will definitely be a challenge!

    If I lived in KL, I will not be cooking. I will be competing with you posting yummy hawker and restaurant foods.

  25. LOL, no, I greedily devoured it like roast chicken.

  26. Jonzz,

    Roast chicken can be quite succulent. Perhaps next time, you can make extra and use it to make any of the above suggested dishes.

  27. MrsHBT, the ‘black lake birds’ are the Eurasian Coots, I’ve discovered. It’s in the background of the last picture — swimming past the swan.

    ‘Faux gras’ is funny! Fake fat?!
    Goose liver pate — do cooks use duck liver as well?
    I forward to your Peking duck. I’ve only pan-fried duck breasts — tender and flavourful, yum!

  28. Dear Argus,
    I remember seeing the Eurasian Coots. So, that is the Black Lake Birds.
    Oops, I think you are right! Duck and Chicken liver are “Faux Gras”. I am embarrassed.
    As for the Peking duck, perhaps, I should start with duck breast first. That way, if I fail, I don’t have to waste a whole duck from experiments.

  29. Hi MrsHBT, I am glad I hop over to your blog. Can get recipe wor. I am going to try this weekend. Your pictures make everything so yummmmmmy. I need to know how to make my picture presentable? When i upload, it’s either wrong position or too longish. Any help? Tks.

  30. Chang festival was on the 19th of June.

  31. Dear Julie,
    Welcome to my blog. I am so happy that my pictures inspire you to try out my recipes. I wrote an article on how to make food look good.

    I also wrote an article on writing tips. However, I don’t think you have any problems writing, the articles you post on your blog capture my attention well. The first tip in writing is write, write, write. This tip can be used in photography as well, i.e. take photo frequently.

    I take more than one photo of the food while it is still hot and fresh. That is one of the photo tips that I learned from WMW. After I upload, I choose the best photos to post. So, to answer your question, “When I upload, it’s either wrong position or too longish. Any help?” Perhaps you can take many photos of the thing that you are trying to capture, take it from different angles. And then after uploading, choose the best one. This is easier on food because food is stationary. It is harder on things that are moving. 🙂

    Thanks for the Chang Festival Date. I look forward to learning cooking tips and tricks from you big boys!

  32. I just found your blog and I am in love. Your Roast Pork look so simple compare to my Sister-in-laws (her brother is a professional Chinese cook). Also she tells me what to put and sometime forget to give me one ingredient. Anyway, I cannot wait to try yours – it is very simple. Also I was looking at all your other recipes, I will be stopping here more often.


  33. Dear Sherrie,

    Welcome to my blog! Let me know how the Char Siu turns out for you. I buy my meat from Costco Warehouse, so it is rather hard to choose, as they are pre-packed. But if you have a choice in choosing the meat, Remember to use the meat cut that I recommended, i.e. choose the strip of Pork Shoulder Butt cut with most fat on the outer rather than the inner if possible. Another tip is marinate it well, preferably overnight. I read somewhere that you can poke holes on the meat with a fork. Marinade can penetrate better into the meat.

    Your SIL sounds talented because she can cook by taste. I still have to use measuring spoons. 🙂

    I look forward to sharing with (and learning from) you.

    p/s What does HB stand for?

  34. I oven-roasted the Char Siu pork from cuts near the fore legs of the swine yesterday — after marinating it for a day.

    For 250g of pork cubes, I used 2 tbs sugar, 1 tbs honey, 1 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp dark sauce, a dash of sea salt and 1 tbs red wine for the marinade.

    While it was roasting in the oven (25 minutes at 200 degrees C), I used most of the remaining marinade to make a sauce in a small saucepan by adding 2 tsp of flour stirred in 3 tbs of water, 1 tbs of red wine, half tsp of poultry stock powder, pinch of ground black pepper, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sugar and 30ml water.
    Halfway through roasting, I basted or glazed the pork cubes with the last bit of marinade plus some sugar and honey (but I forgot about oil!).

    Anyway, it turned out delicious and tender enough. Thanks for the inspiration, Mrs HBT!

  35. Dear Argus,
    My goodness, you have been busy cooking. I am happy to know that I inspired you to cook.

    You did not waste the remaining marinade and even made sauce out of it.

    I just came back from your blog and you made roti canai accompanied with a vegetable curry with lentils, zucchini, mushrooms, turnip, fennel and onion.

    You never ceased to amaze me. Now, I am convinced that you can manage a B&B and manage it well.

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