As part of our summer barbecue masterclass series, give your barbecues a multicultural spin by introducing the flavours of Asia. First up, we take a look at a classic Chinese barbecue dish, char siu pork.
Chinese barbecue is a more time-consuming pursuit than your standard sausage sizzle, building layers of flavour through marinades and sauces, and often cooking for hours on end. Wander the streets of your local Chinatown, and you’ll see Cantonese barbecue shops filled with glossy roast ducks, crisp pork belly, and ruby-hued char siu pork. We love the luscious stickiness of the char siu glaze, which complements the fatty pork and those lovely chewy, charry bits of meat.
There are many different cuts of pork you can use, each with a different cooking time. The tougher and more fattier the cut, the longer it will need to cook. If you’re short on time, choose a lean pork fillet, which can be baked for 30 minutes, or grilled on the barbecue for 20-25 minutes, turning so it’s glazed on all sides. Pork belly slices will require more time than fillet as you want to break down those layers of fat. While pork neck (our favourite cut for this dish) will take the longest of all as it’s a more hard-working piece of meat.
Another factor that will influence the cooking time is whether or not you slice the meat first. Leave lean pork fillets and neck pieces whole, turning throughout the cooking process, but slice the pork belly into 2cm strips to ensure the heat penetrates the meat evenly.
To inject the most flavour into your char siu recipe, marinade the meat for at least 24 hours in advance.
One of our favourite bits of the char siu pork from Chinese barbecue shops is those crunchy little nubs of blackened meat at the edges. It can be hard to achieve that in the oven, which is why we like to fire up the barbecue for our char siu at home. Warning though, that sticky marinade can be hard to clean. Try using beer or a cut lemon to remove any excess sauce.
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