Char Siu Pork


I’m often asked by locals what I miss the most about moving away from home and my immediate answer has always been FOOD. The variety, the availability, the convenience of having countless food options available with a mere phone call or short drive. This is one of those cooking experiments that came out of desperation for food I would never have tried to make back in Cali.

Usually, items like char siu, soy sauce chicken (another favorite I will one day make), and roast duck are bought from a little BBQ meat shop, filled with customers slurping noodles at greasy counters and windows crowded with rack upon rack of golden-skinned poultry and sticky burgundy-tinted cuts of charred fatty pork. I still remember being buckled into the back seat of my parents’ Volvo station wagon as a child for our bi-monthly grocery runs to the San Gabriel Valley, always followed by a trip to their favorite BBQ shop. We’d get everything to go, then I’d have to sit next to this fragrant pile of hot takeaway containers, waiting patiently through an hour or more of traffic until we could get home and have dinner. We’d heap the contents of those boxes onto bowls of steamed white rice, and you didn’t need anything else for a perfect meal.


The ingredients I used to make char siu, following Yi Reservation’s excellent recipe almost to the letter. There were a couple of minor substitutions I had to make, due to availability of certain ingredients in Finland. I have been slowly assembling my Asian pantry over the years, but some things still manage to elude me. Instead of ground (brown) bean sauce, I used black bean. Brown is sweeter, but the difference between the bean sauces is small enough enough that it’s an acceptable switch. I also used rose water in place of rose flavored Chinese cooking wine, since rice wine of any sort is hard to come by out here.


From here on out, I am just documenting myself following Yi’s recipe instructions for my own future convenience. Please check out his original recipe if you want to try making this as well.


Marinade completed.


1 kilo of pork butt, looking very unattractively hacked due to my less-than-experienced butchering skillz.


I went with a plastic container rather than a plastic bag since I didn’t feel very secure leaving a bag sitting on the top shelf of the fridge. I might just bag and then stick it in the box next time, though it seemed to marinate well enough this way.


This stuff actually marinated for 1.5 days, rather than the 24 hours suggested in the recipe. Consensus seems to be that there is no such thing as over-marinating when it comes to char siu, so I’m not too concerned with exact times here as long as the meat isn’t going bad from it.


Ready to roast in my turkey pan.


Making the honey glaze. I ended up going a bit too thin with it because I just slopped in water to melt the honey. Will try to get it thicker next time.


Plate of finished meat!


Making the au jus.

Verdict? I only ate two of the smaller cuts, because this was one of the dishes I was making to freeze for later use. What I had tasted perfect, though! Very close to what I remember — maybe not quite as crispy on the outside, but I don’t exactly have an industrial oven. I froze the majority of the meat along with a portion of the au jus for each cut in serving-sized bags, so that I’d have enough to make a meal with each by just microwaving the contents and dumping them over some rice. Thanks, Yi, for bringing back fond memories and providing me with an alternative to traveling outside the country whenever I need my Chinese BBQ fix 🙂

Char Siu Pork

Serves 4-6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Allergy Soy
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Soup
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Region Chinese
Website Yi Reservation


  • 1kg pork butt (different cuts will work, but look for one with a healthy amount of marbling)


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used Kikkoman since it is available at most Finnish supermarkets. Chinese brand would be better.)
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (I used Lee Kum Lee Premium Dark, available at China Market in Turku)
  • 1.5 tablespoons black bean sauce (Brown bean sauce is better, but this is easier to find out here. Mine came from Waitrose but I'm sure Blue Dragon makes one too.)
  • 1.5 tablespoons oyster sauce (I used Lee Kum Lee brand, but Blue Dragon also makes some that's more readily available at the normal grocer.)
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (I used Blue Dragon Hoisin, for the convenience. It's not a bad brand, just... not really Chinese.)
  • 4 tablespoons rose water (Chinese rose wine is best, but fat chance finding that in Finland. Rose water is available at middle eastern grocers.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder (I got mine from a London friend, but otherwise I'd buy this at China Market or make it myself.)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (Original recipe uses powder, but I don't think my mom ever did.)
  • 1 star anise (Listed as optional, but I can't imagine this without it.)
  • 1 bay leaf (Yeah, that's optional. I had to use mine up anyway.)


  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water


Make this restaurant quality Char Siu or Chinese BBQ Pork following the step-by-step recipe with photos at What I have posted here is merely an abbreviated version with further commentary on ingredient availability relevant to those cooking in Finland.


Slice the pork.
Combine marinade ingredients in saucepan over low heat and mix until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Combine marinade and pork in plastic box or bag, marinate overnight (at least 12 hours - I did a day and a half).
Preheat oven to 190C (375F). Place marinated pork strips on roasting rack with pan to catch drippings. A Thanksgiving turkey pan works perfectly for this, btw. Roast 20 minutes on each side.
Combine glaze ingredients in saucepan over low heat until it creates a runny paste. Set aside.
After pork has roasted for 20 minutes on each side, take out and glaze each piece on each side.
Set the oven to 219C (425F) and roast for another 5 minutes on each side or until the pork is slightly charred. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice into bite-sized slivers.
For au jus, combine a few tbsp of water, pork marinade leftover, and any dripping collected. Bring to boil. Add soy sauce and sugar to taste. Serve with pork.

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