Another Uniquely Chinese Cuisine–Chinese Style Barbecue Pork–Char Siu (蜜汁叉烧)

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FOR AN UPDATED POST 21-SEPTEMBER 2014, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TOWARDS THE END OF THE POST

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INTRODUCTION

This post is concerning about CHAR SIU – CHINESE STYLE BARBECUE PORK (叉烧).

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Before I start my post, as usual, for the benefits of my international readers, I shall take the liberty to let Wikipedia to have a brief and concise description of this particular Chinese barbecue meat:

“Char siu (Chinese: 叉燒 caa1 siu1literally “fork-roast”; also Romanised chasu, cha siu, cha shao, char siew) is a popular way to flavor and prepare barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine. It is classified as a type of siu mei (燒味), Cantonese roasted meat. It is listed at number 28 on the “world’s 50 most delicious foods” readers’ poll compiled by CNN Go in 2011.”

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POPULARITY OF CHAR SIU OR CHINESE BARBECUE PORKS

I doubt if there is any Chinese worldwide who have never tasted barbecue pork or Char Siu. I have eaten this as long as I can remember. Whenever I went, I saw Char Siu being sold in local Chinese restaurants. When I was in Douala Cameroon, Africa, I can remember clearly that the Chinese restaurant in Douala is selling wonton noodles with Char Siu. Even when I travelled to Siberian cities like Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Khabarovsk, Char Siu is also one of the must have items in  their Chinese restaurants. Most Char Siu overseas is the Cantonese version, which is sweet and slightly glossy. This type of Chinese barbecue pork had gain popularity and acceptance because of its sweet taste, nice fragrance and tender meat. Char Siu is quite an international taste and can generally suit international foodies’ taste buds since it resembles honey roasted pork.

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WHY THIS DISH

It is another dish that I have prepared out of my cooking passion and own challenge. I have chosen the more commonly accepted Cantonese style of barbecue pork. There are many, many, many recipes in the internet both in English and Chinese languages. Of course I am not capable to read every one of them, and this recipe is the first and only recipe that I read. 

I “digest” this blogger’s article (in Chinese) with great interest as she is very detailed in her approach. Though I have materially modified her recipe, I still want my readers who understand Chinese to read her article and credits have to go Jennifer, a Taiwanese whom in 2011 lives in San Diego. In her post 自己做….廣式蜜汁叉燒肉, she had a detail analysis in how she combined several recipes to come out with her own recipes. It is a rather long post but please take sometimes to read her post. From her post, I come out with my own recipe and modified my approach along the way.

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RED YEAST RICE WINE AND RED FERMENTED BEAN CURDS

I think that the following 2 natural colouring agents deserves special mention in the post. One is red yeast rice wine (红糟酒)and the other red fermented bean curd (红腐乳)。Red yeast rice (红曲米)is also called koji in Japanese and is a bright reddish purple fermented rice, which acquires its colour from being cultivated with the mold Monascus purpureus. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_yeast_rice).  Red yeast rice wine is the glutinous rice wine made using red yeast rice. You can easily obtain red yeast rice in Chinese medical shops and as for red yeast rice wine, I got some from my neighbour. However, if you can’t obtain red yeast rice wine, you can substitute with normal Chinese cooking wine and red yeast rice residue (红糟)from the making of the wine. The red rice residue can be easily obtained from the supermarket under condiments sections. For more understanding on red yeast rice, please refer to HERE.

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Red fermented bean curd is a type of Chinese fermented bean curds and coloured using red yeast rice above. It is used in a number of Chinese cuisines or it can be eaten with porridge. It is salty and can be easily bought in Chinese provision shops or supermarkets.

However, both these ingredients are  optional. If you do not want your barbecue pork to have reddish colour, you can just straight away substitute the red yeast rice wine with normal Chinese cooking wine and the red fermented bean curd with cream coloured fermented bean curd.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

Recipe adapted from: 自己做….廣式蜜汁叉燒肉

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Ingredients A (at day of marinating)

  • 1 kg of pork (not in picture) -cut into 5 cm x 15 cm x 3 cm (note below)

  • 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic

  • 2 tablespoons of honey

  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce

  • 5 tablespoons of red yeast rice wine or cooking wine

  • 3 tablespoons of white sugar

  • 10 tablespoons of plain water

  • 1 teaspoon of 5 spice powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

  • 1 cube of red fermented bean curd plus some fermented bean curd sauce (optional)

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Ingredients B (at day of roasting)

  • 1 tablespoon of honey

  • 5 tablespoons of sugar

  • 5 tablespoons of water

  • 1 tablespoon of dark soya sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of red fermented bean curd sauces

Others

  • Some iron wires to hang the meat or some big size paperclip

Note: For the meat, you can ask the butcher to cut for you and even ask them to recommend the best type of meat for the preparation of barbecue pork. They will be able to offer good advises.

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

Marinating the Meat

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  • Pour all Ingredients A into a big plastic box. Stir well and ensure that all the pork were coated with the sauce. Marinate for at least 1-3 days in the refrigerator. For this illustration, I have marinated for about 2 days.


Preparing for Grilling

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  • Arrange the wire rack of the oven to sit at the highest level of the oven possible. Put a big piece of aluminium foil on top of the baking tray and put it at the lowest level of the oven. Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.

  • Wash the wire with clean water and pierce the wire into the marinated meat and making it into a S hooked shape.


The Grilling Starts

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  • Mix all Ingredients B together and set aside.

  • BE CAREFUL NOT THE TOUCH THE OVEN RACK AS IT IS HOT. Hang your meat in the oven rack and grilled for 15 minutes. You may have some marinating sauces left in the plastic box, add it to Ingredients B above. In the grilling, you will witness the meat juices and some marinating sauces start to drip down to the aluminium foil. If you want, you can scoop out the meat juices or sauces and put it together with ingredients B. If you note that some of meat juices or sauces in the aluminium foil start to get burnt, add some water to the aluminium foil.

  • After 15 minutes, open the oven door and take out the meat and it is okay if the colour of the meat is very faint. Coat the meat thoroughly  with Ingredient B sauces. Hang it back in the oven rack (BE CAREFUL!). Do the same for all the meat strips.

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  • Grilled for another 5 minutes and repeat the same at the interval of 5 minutes until all the sauces are used. I have repeated 3-4 cycles and you will gradually see the meat glossier and glossier. For the last cycle, let it grilled for 10 minutes before taking the barbecue pork out of the oven.

  • After you take out the meat, you may have a lot of sauces of meat juices in the aluminium foil. Slight shape the aluminium foil to reduce the surface area and continue grilling until the barbecue sauce thickens. Once you see lots of bubbles in the aluminium foil, it means that sugar has started to caramelize and barbecue sauce is almost done.  Once done, take it out and pour on the serving bowl for later dipping. It took me about 2-3 minutes to thicken the meat juices and sauces.

  • Cut into slices and can be served with wanton noodles, white rice, porridges or as a meat dish on its own.

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CONCLUSION

Making this is not really difficult but slightly laborious. Via this exercise, I found that the final part of re-coating with the sauces is the most important. After 15 minutes, the meat is almost cooked. The final exercise is to “cosmetically decorated” the meat before serving. Via this way of preparation, your barbecue pork with be glossy and juicy.

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Depending on your preference, the type of meat is of prime importance. I have to admit that I do not really know which part of meat I have bought. I am telling the butcher that I want to make barbecue pork and he gave me these meats. “Post mortem” showed that it was slightly lean and not as juicy as in the restaurant. Obviously, it was due to the wrong type of meats used. Therefore, butchers right recommendation is very important.

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I have to say that the taste of the meat is much better than what I have expected. Forgive me if I am not humble enough to say that it was like what I usually purchased in the stores.  Though there are many sauces and seasonings used, however, I am of the opinion that the most important ingredients are garlic, red fermented bean curd sauces, dark soya sauce and most important of all sugar or honey. Meat has its own flavour and even if your marinating is not long enough, you can still make good the taste at the last 15 minutes of grilling.

Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.

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UPDATED POST ON 21-9-2014


I have prepared some barbecue pork today. Since I cannot get hold of the red glutinous rice wine and do not have red fermented bean curd with me, I have substitute with red yeast rice powder. Red yeast rice powder (红曲粉) can be easily obtained in Singapore bakeries. Just sharing some photo for this batch of Char Siu. Plan to use these char siu to prepared some barbecue buns etc..

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  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 28 July 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  

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What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 2-8-2013

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On 2-August 2013,

SIAMESE LAKSA

Today, we are having Siamese Laksa for dinner.

First of all, I have to clarify that Siamese Laksa is different from Mee Siam, another common noodle dish in Singapore and Malaysia.

This noodle dish is rather common in Northern Peninsular Malaysia near the border of Thailand. However, it is not common in Southern Peninsular Malaysia, East Malaysia and Singapore. I come from the State of Sarawak, East Malaysia, theoretically I shouldn’t know about this dish. However, it is such a coincidence that one of my secondary school teacher who is also a friend of my late mother is from Penang. She taught my mother how to cook this. Before my mother passed away, she cooked this laksa pretty often and I really love it. If you like Assam Laksa and Curry Laksa, it is something like a mixture of both, creamy and slightly sour and spicy. It is both tamarind base and coconut milk based.

As this dish is not popular in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, I don’t really ever eaten it besides those that were cooked by my mum. When I do a recipe check, I found out that the ingredients used are common ingredients that were also used by my mum, therefore, the taste should be quite close and similar. My wife who has never eaten this noodle dish before also concurred that the dish is delicious.

What puzzled me now is why is it not popular in Southern Peninsular Malaysia as the taste is not uniquely special. In fact, there is not much information on this laksa’s origin. I am still contemplating whether or not I should share my own recipe. If on the grounds that as long as the food is delicious, whether authentic or not, recipe should be shared then I should share and may be shall I called it Guaishushu’s Siamese Laksa. Haha

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Very briefly, fishes were boiled and flaked. After slow frying the spice mix (galangal, turmeric, lemon grass, shallots, ginger, garlics), fish broth , kafir lime leaves, daun kesom and rojak flower were added and bring to boil under high heat. Belachan, tamarind juice and fish meat were then added to the broth. When boiled, coconut milk were added. It was usually thick rice vermicelli served with julienned cucumbers, pineapples, beansprouts and garnished with mint leaves and lime.


SARAWAK BEAN SPROUT NOODLES

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For lunch, I have cooked this noodle dish for my kids as it is easier to prepare and I knew they would like it. They like it because it is sweet and that is also the reason I like it…Haha

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Sarawak have a very unique noodle dish called bean sprout noodles (豆芽面)。

The basic ingredients can be as simple as only yellow noodles, bean sprout, sweet thickened dark soya sauce, garlic. The thick sweetened dark soya sauce were made of dark soya sauce and nipah palm sugar (Gula Apong). Minced garlic was stir fried until brownish, add in dark sweet soya sauce. Stirred fried until well mixed, add in bean sprout just 1 minutes before you off the heat!

That is the simplest form we have and is called Tauge Mee Kosong (Plain Bean Sprout Noodles). However, with the affluence of the society and influence from West Malaysia, there are more and more variations of the noodles that include eggs, cockles, fish cakes and etc. It resemble the Penang Char Kway tiao. The only difference is that Penang char Kway teow is a savory dish whereas Sarawak Tauge Mee is a sweet noodle dish.


MRS. NGSK’S BUTTER CAKE

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My third cooking adventure of the day is making a butter cake, or more precise Mrs. NgSK’s butter cake from http://wendyinkk.blogspot.sg. This name is rather funny right? Well, most bakers are not able to make a butter cake following traditional butter cake recipes that yields a flat top non crack butter cake. This rather famous blogger take the courage to ask one of her church members why every time her cake is so perfect,  flat and  without any cracks. Apparently, the church member (Mrs. NgSK) is very helpful and provide her the recipe. She followed the recipe and come out the perfect  cake that she wanted. She therefore shared the recipe on her blog and requested this recipe be named as Mrs. NgSK’s butter cake. She concluded that:

“Obviously, I am not jinxed for butter crack cakes. It is the recipe, not me, LOL”

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Early in the day when I looked at my friend’s timeline, one of my blogger friends mentioned about this Mrs. NgSK’s butter cake and the funny name of the cake caught my immediate attention. So, I goggled and find the above blog. I did not read in detail but what really impressed me is her cake, cake that is flat and crack  less. I read the ingredients, nothing special and I want to try whether or not this preparation method can give me a butter cake that I admired.

In the afternoon, I start the preparation but I have chosen not to follow her recipe exactly. I alter the volume of raw  ingredients used. I used the very basic traditional pound cake recipe of 1 butter: 1 egg ; 1 flour : 1 sugar.  However, for the preparation method, I have follow her method by separate beating of egg whites and egg yolks. Everything look perfect even the uncooked batter. From my experience, it is going to be a good cake.

I send the cake into the oven and everything goes well in the first 15 minutes, then it suddenly start to shape like a volcano and with small cracks. The colour is perfect and I thought it is gone because I can’t get a flat top butter cake without cracks. I tested the batter, obviously it is not cooked since the middle is still very wet.  As the middle is still uncooked, I make a wrong decision to up the temperature hopefully it can speed up the process of baking the cake. 5 minutes after when I looked at the cake, the cake was slightly burn in the top, I tested again and it is cooked.

I become very disappointed as I have wasted my half day’s effort. I took it out from the oven and in a matter of 15 minutes, it start to “shrink” and become a flat cake. I shouldn’t have increased the temperature. I am not confident enough that the cake will turn out good. Overall, the cake looks ok, I scrapped off some of the burnt skin and I have decided to share my simple recipe in Guaishushu’s Facebook page later. What do you think? Shall I share the recipe?

Cheers and have a nice day ahead.

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What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 16-7-2013

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On 16th July 2013,

Pasta with home made tomato sauce.

Today, I have cooked my pasta sauce from scratch (meaning from tomato). I learned this when I visited one of my French friends in Paris many years ago. I am in the process of compiling a post on this dish and will be shared with readers soon. In the post, you will see how Guaishushu transformed the  pasta sauce to the Asian liking using herbs widely used in this region. Did you notice both the Tabasco sauce and the Asian Chilli sauce? I have not parsley but I substitute with Chinese celery, do you think the taste will blend?

Being home cooked sauce, the color are always not that “appealing” but the taste is definitely worth you to make an effort to cook,

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Did you see the brownish color drinks? These drinks are herbal drinks for cooling the body. It is chrysanthemum (菊花)and prunella vulgaris (夏枯草)flowers tea. You can refer to this post for the picture for the fresh flowers. Is it not a funny combination that having a Western pasta food with Chinese herbal drinks?

Besides cooking this dish, I am baking an uniquely Sarawak (in Island of Borneo) buns called the Sarawak butter buns. The name Sarawak was added in order to avoid confusions with other butter buns commonly found in other parts of the world. Sarawak butter bun is unique because it has an aromatic buttery fillings. I will share the recipe in one to two days time.

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Hope you like the post today and have a nice day. Cheers.

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What I cooked today (家常便饭系列)- 25-5-2013

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On 25-May 2013

Usually, for Saturday and Sunday, if we dine at home, it will be something simpler as both my wife and me are rather lazy to cook. So today, we have noodles, noodles, noodles. We have 3 types of noodles including the kolo mee directly “imported” from Kuching.

1. Fried Rice Vermicelli with Green Vegetables and Pork Slice (菜心肉片炒米粉)

This is the type of fried rice vermicelli that my late mother used to prepare for us. I have insisted my wife to cook in this manner with only 3-4 ingredients (rice vermicelli, pork belly slices, chye Shim and shrimps). Besides at home, I have never eaten fried vermicelli with these simple combinations be it the one cooked by my mother in law or in parties or outside hawker stores. Usually, most fried rice vermicelli will have mushrooms, red carrots, bean sprouts, fish cakes, eggs and etc. But I am very insistent  to use only these 4 ingredients and it should not be substituted. Changes in any of the ingredients will not give the same flavor.  Today, the dish was prepared by my wife for my kids,PLEASE TRY THIS COMMONER’S RICE VERMICELLI!

2. Fried Rice Vermicelli with Laksa Sarawak Paste (砂朥越辣沙酱炒米粉)

As my wife cooked quite a lot of fried rice vermicelli above, I have decided to fry the above rice vermicelli with my own home made Sarawak Laksa Paste. You can learn more about home made Sarawak Laksa Paste here. Firstly, I slightly fried my laksa paste, when it started to emit the aroma, eggs were added followed by peanut powder and condiments. Before I serve, I add in shredded cucumbers and the taste was fantastic. Just imagine you are eating Indian or Malay fried noodles. PLEASE TRY THIS NEWLY CREATED RICE VERMICELLI FRIED WITH SARAWAK LAKSA PASTE and you wouldn’t regret it.

 

3. Sarawak Kolo Mee (Dry Noodles) (砂朥越干捞面)

This is another famous delicacies from Sarawak and shall I said, have attained at least the same status as Sarawak Laksa in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. It is unique and available in Sarawak only. There are visitors saying that this dish resemble the 车仔面 that were sold in Singapore in the 1960’s. You can read more about Kolo mee HERE, Kolo bee hoon HERE, and Sarawak Laksa HERE. Today’s Kolo Mee was brought to me by my mother in law who is visiting us from Kuching. She bought at least 8 packets of the noodles. This is a must try item in Kuching and I have never heard of any visitors ever complained about this dish be it Asians or Caucasians. PLEASE TRY THIS SARAWAK DELICACY WHEN YOU VISIT KUCHING, SARAWAK, MALAYSIA and without trying it, your trip to Kuching will not be considered as complete.