February 17, 2012
Making Cha Siu at home

After marrying into a a Chinese family, I was introduced to cha siu, an Asian style of roasted pork that I've come to love. A little cha siu over rice is fantastic treat. You've problably seen it before or had it inside a bun.

cha siu
Photo by hensever

Cha siu is marinated and roasted slowly on skewers to melt off the fat and crisp up a bit. While visiting family in Cincinnati, we have home made cha siu and I decided to try it at home. With a Crufty twist, of course.

I bought a couple pounds of pork shoulder and sliced it into strips.

For the marinade, I used the mix my Chinese mother-in-law gave me. I considered researching recipes, but when your Chinese mother-in-law tells you how to do something, you listen.

Traditionally, cha siu is bright red and this mix was no different. I think red dye was the majority ingredient. It was time to don the nitrile gloves to prevent permanent staining of m hands.

I mixed the marinade and soaked the pork in it. Overnight into the fridge it went, to suck up the maximum amount of flavor.

I got into my mind that I need to roast the cha siu hanging vertically and not in a pan (as I was shown by my Chinese mother-in-law). I went out and got some inexpensive metal skewers. Here I realized that this might not be the optimal plan. I had been taken in by the picture on the seasoning mix that showed the pork on a skewer, like a shishkabob. I did my best to hang it, but could think of a better way in the moment.

I hung it in my smoker from an upper rack and set the burner to keep the heat around 350 degrees. After about 45 minutes, it was done. Easy breezy.

Roasted cha siu, still on the skewer.

After slicing, it appears to look like cha siu. Red ring around edges and glistening with melted fat. I tossed it onto a bowl of rice and begun to eat.

It was OK. Not bad, not great. Just OK. You could taste the seasoning, but just not as strongly as what I get at an Asian butcher. As you can see, I had plenty of leftovers.

There are two changes I'll make the next time.

First, I'll simply rub the seasoning on the pork, rather than adding water. I think this will allow more of the sugar to stick to the pork and get caramelized in the cooking to maintain the delicious sweetness. Just like a dry rub in smoking, the maximum flavor will come for the spices and flavors sitting directly on the meat overnight.

Second, rather than a vertical skewer, I'll hang the strip from a hook, letting gravity to do it's work. It will avoid the skewer sag and let even more of the fat melt off. Also, it will be a lot easier to handle and I'll avoid burning my wrist on a skewer.

Overall, I'm pleased with the outcome, but plan try again for better results.

Posted by michael at February 17, 2012 09:04 AM