Don’t have an oven but want to make char siew at home? Yes, you can. With a sturdy wok or pan, you can rustle up tender honey-glazed char siew, complete with a slightly charred exterior.
The best part about home cooking is that you call the shots when it comes to the choice of ingredients.
Commonly used cuts of meat used for char siew are the pork collar or shoulder butt (wu hua rou in Mandarin), or pork belly.
If you want a leaner cut, opt for meat from the front trotters, just above the hock, known as “twee bak” in Hokkien. I avoid lean cuts as the lack of fat can result in char siew with a tough and chewy texture.
The choicest cut – my personal favourite – is the pork neck, known as “fei ji rou” in Mandarin. It is pricier but worth every cent as the meat has the right amount of fat, resulting in char siew that is mouth-wateringly succulent and moist.
Honey and sugar in the marinade give the meat aromatic sweetness, but the flipside is that the sauce can burn easily during cooking. Using non-stick cookware helps prevent the exterior of the meat from getting burnt before the interior is cooked through.
I skip the use of red food dye and much prefer the luscious glistening caramelised colour which comes from the marinade.
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PAN-FRIED CHAR SIEW
1kg pork (fei ji rou), cut into 4 pieces lengthwise
4 Tbs Shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp Chinese rose wine
110g fine sugar
6 Tbs honey
2 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs fermented soya bean paste
1 Tbs light soya sauce
2 Tbs dark soya sauce
1 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1. Rinse the meat and place in bowl. Add the Shaoxing wine and Chinese rose wine. Set the meat aside to chill for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the marinade.
2. In a bowl, add the sugar, honey, oyster sauce, fermented soya bean paste, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and salt. Mix well.
3. Add the chopped garlic. Mix well.
4. Wearing disposable plastic gloves, massage the marinade into the meat.
5. Cover with clingwrap and place the meat to marinate in the fridge for three to four hours.
6. Without using oil, place the meat in the wok. Add in all of the excess marinade. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes then bring the heat down to low. Turn each piece of meat over to ensure it is well coated with the sauce.
7. Continue cooking the meat, with pan or wok covered, over low heat for another 25 minutes. Turn the meat over every 10 minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken as the meat cooks.
8. Use a skewer to check that the meat is cooked. Remove from the pan and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
Makes six servings
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