How To Make Chinese Roast Pork – Just 5 Steps

by Ella

Chinese roast pork, also known as char siu or 叉燒 (chā shāo) in Mandarin, is a beloved dish with roots in Cantonese cuisine. Renowned for its succulent meat and sweet, savory glaze, char siu is a popular choice in Chinese restaurants and homes around the world. While it may seem daunting to recreate this classic dish at home, with the right ingredients and techniques, you can achieve mouthwatering results that rival your favorite restaurant. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process of making Chinese roast pork, from selecting the perfect cut of meat to mastering the art of caramelizing the glaze. Get ready to impress your family and friends with your culinary skills and savor the rich, complex flavors of homemade char siu.

Introduction to Chinese Roast Pork

Chinese roast pork, or char siu, is a type of barbecue pork that is typically marinated, roasted, and glazed to perfection. The hallmark of char siu is its signature red color, glossy exterior, and tender, juicy meat. While traditionally made with pork shoulder or pork belly, char siu can also be prepared using other cuts of meat such as loin or tenderloin.


Char siu is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed on its own as a main course, sliced and served over rice or noodles, or used as a filling in various Chinese dishes such as barbecue pork buns (char siu bao) and fried rice. The key to achieving the perfect balance of flavors and textures lies in the marinade and glaze, which infuse the meat with a harmonious blend of sweet, savory, and umami notes.


How To Make Chinese Roast Pork

1. Selecting the Right Cut of Meat

The first step in making Chinese roast pork is selecting the right cut of meat. While pork shoulder and pork belly are the most commonly used cuts for char siu, you can also use pork loin or tenderloin for a leaner option. Here’s a breakdown of the different cuts and their characteristics:


Pork Shoulder: Also known as pork butt or Boston butt, pork shoulder is a well-marbled cut of meat with a rich flavor and tender texture. It’s ideal for making char siu due to its higher fat content, which helps keep the meat moist and juicy during roasting.


Pork Belly: Pork belly is prized for its fatty, succulent meat and crispy skin when roasted. It’s commonly used in char siu recipes to achieve a perfect balance of flavor and texture, with melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Pork Loin: Pork loin is a leaner cut of meat with a mild flavor and tender texture. While not as fatty as pork shoulder or pork belly, pork loin can still be used to make char siu, especially if you prefer a leaner option.

Pork Tenderloin: Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of pork, prized for its tender, juicy meat. While less traditional for char siu, pork tenderloin can be used for a healthier alternative, though it may require shorter cooking times to prevent drying out.

2. Preparing the Marinade

The key to flavorful char siu lies in the marinade, which infuses the meat with a complex blend of sweet, savory, and aromatic flavors. While there are many variations of char siu marinade, the basic ingredients typically include:

Soy Sauce: Provides saltiness and depth of flavor.

Hoisin Sauce: Adds sweetness and richness.

Honey or Sugar: Adds sweetness and helps caramelize the glaze.

Chinese Five Spice Powder: A blend of spices including star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds, adding warmth and complexity.

Rice Wine or Shaoxing Wine: Adds acidity and depth of flavor.

Garlic and Ginger: Aromatic ingredients that enhance the overall flavor profile.

Red Fermented Bean Curd (Optional): Adds a savory, umami-rich flavor.

To make the marinade, simply combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined. Adjust the proportions of each ingredient according to your taste preferences, keeping in mind that the marinade should strike a balance between sweet, savory, and aromatic flavors.

3. Marinating the Meat

Once you’ve prepared the marinade, it’s time to marinate the meat. Begin by trimming any excess fat from the pork, then score the surface of the meat with shallow cuts to allow the marinade to penetrate more deeply. Place the pork in a large resealable bag or shallow dish, then pour the marinade over the meat, ensuring it is evenly coated on all sides.

Massage the marinade into the meat, making sure it is well distributed and all surfaces are covered. Seal the bag or cover the dish with plastic wrap, then refrigerate the pork for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to develop and the meat to tenderize.

4. Roasting the Pork

After marinating, it’s time to roast the pork to perfection. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup. Remove the pork from the marinade, allowing any excess marinade to drip off, then place it on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast the pork in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the meat, or until it is cooked through and caramelized on the outside. You can baste the pork with any remaining marinade or a mixture of honey and soy sauce halfway through cooking to add extra flavor and shine.

5. Serving and Enjoying

Once the pork is cooked to perfection, remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing. To serve, thinly slice the char siu across the grain into bite-sized pieces, then arrange it on a platter or individual plates. Garnish with chopped green onions or sesame seeds for added flavor and visual appeal.

Char siu can be enjoyed on its own as a main course, served over steamed rice or noodles, or used as a filling in various Chinese dishes such as fried rice, stir-fries, and noodles. Leftover char siu can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or frozen for longer storage.

See Also: How to Make Pork Dumplings

In conclusion, making Chinese roast pork, or char siu, at home is easier than you might think, and the results are incredibly rewarding. By selecting the right cut of meat, preparing a flavorful marinade, and roasting the pork to perfection, you can achieve tender, juicy char siu with a rich, caramelized glaze that’s sure to impress your family and friends. Whether enjoyed on its own as a main course or incorporated into various Chinese dishes, homemade char siu is a delicious and versatile addition to any meal. So roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get ready to savor the irresistible flavors of homemade Chinese roast pork!



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