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.
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 🙂