chinese BBQ pork
char siu (叉燒), cha siu
One of the most famous Chinese meat preparations, char siu is Cantonese barbecue pork. Naturally, that makes it especially popular in the Cantonese parts of southern China, as well as popular in local adaptations throughout much of Southeast Asia. Similarly, Japanese chashu pork — often found as a ramen topping — originates from this Chinese char siu, just like how so many Japanese dishes have their origins in Chinese dishes from hundreds if not thousands of years ago.
We aren’t sure exactly how long this method of preparation has been around, but various accounts list earliest examples as anywhere from 1,700 to 3,000 years ago.
While the specifics vary by recipe and chef, char siu is flavored with many ingredients, including five spice powder, a sweet glaze, and the rotisserie barbecuing process.
The glaze marinade often includes honey or sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, shallots, ginger, and other sauces and flavoring agents. Traditionally, the signature red hue comes from red fermented rice used during the cooking process, although today red dye is sometimes used.
Along with the different spices, sweeteners, and sauces, the flavor and texture of char siu is affected by which cut is used, its fat content, and connective tissues. Different cuts will be selected depending on the intended use and what flavor and texture profile the chef wants to emphasize.
As a rich protein, char siu is often eaten alongside carbohydrate-heavy foods like rice, noodles, or in bao buns, to help form a more balanced meal.
You can find prepared char siu as well as baos with char siu filling in our deli. If you’re interested in making your own, our butchery has different pork cuts that suit char siu barbecuing.