Chinese Barbecue Pork, also known as Char Siu, is this gorgeously fire-roasted slab of pork with a sweet, salty, sticky glaze of goodness. It is an authentic southern Chinese dish that is widely consumed all over the world today. Its flavors are distinctive, yet very friendly to a wide range of tastebuds. Today we are taking a traditional Chinese meat dish, adding some veggies, and making a delicious rice bowl out of it. Yum.
Let’s start by talking about each component of the dish – Chinese Barbecue Pork, sauce, Bok Choy (or vegetable of your choice), and steamed rice. Then we combine them all together, eat (!!), put away leftovers for “meal prep”, and then, the fun part…improvise. The foodie in me just did a happy dance. But first…
Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu)
When we moved to south of the Austin area, I came to realize that on a regular day, with Austin traffic (translation: severe gridlock everywhere, all the time), it is a long way for me to get to my beloved Char Siu to scratch my cravings for authentic Chinese food. So I turned to my only other solution – make it at home. We have tried multiple versions of Char Siu, and this is our household’s favorite thus far.
The marinate for the Chinese Barbecue Pork is a beautiful concoction of a handful of ingredients – my suggestion is to not skip any of them if you can. Ingredients are *drumroll please* hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sweet soy sauce (kicap manis), oyster sauce (or oyster flavored sauce), brown sugar, honey, five spice powder, sesame oil, and vegetable oil.
These days, you can find most, if not almost all of the ingredients at a regular grocery store in the U.S. The trickiest one to obtain is probably kicap manis. This is a thick, sweet sauce that is used widely in Malaysian and Indonesian dishes. If you have to remove this, add additional hoisin sauce to make up for it.
Pork shoulder is the more traditional piece of meat used for Char Siu. It is, however, tougher. Therefore we have always opted for pork tenderloin. Marinate pork in these ingredients for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Then throw the meaty beauty onto a charcoal grill.
When grilling, place pork tenderloins to the side of the burning coals to get indirect heat on it – this will prevent the pork from being heavily burnt since it is glazed with a delicious (but easily burnt) layer of sweet marinate. It is, however, totally normal for the meat will be slightly charred. Also, turn the pork every 20 minutes, and brush additional sauce onto tenderloin every time you do so. Once internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, the pork is done. Remember to check the temperature on multiple spots on the tenderloin. As a point of reference, our charcoal grill was at 220 degrees F (on a cold 40-degree day outside), and we cooked the pork for 80-90 minutes, with many flips and brushing of marinate during that period 🙂
If you do not have a charcoal grill, this can be done in the oven as well but it does not have the distinctive smoky flavor you get from cooking the pork over coals. If you are working with an oven, heat it at 350-375 degrees F, cook for 30-40 minutes, or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Flip and brush marinate on the pork a few times throughout the cook time. You can also try broiling it at the end for a few minutes to caramelize the meat.
Meat, meat, meat… The glutton in me is salivating…
Char Siu Sauce
Because rice bowls are much less lovely without sauce.
Transfer leftover marinate to saucepan, add water, bring to boil, and then lower heat and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.
I am using Baby Bok Choy for this recipe. It is basically a smaller, cuter version of Bok Choy. Peel each stem out from the bunch, and wash Bok Choy thoroughly. Zoom in closer and you will see dirt clinging onto the unwashed Bok Choy in the picture. Thank you fancy camera 🙂
We will be blanching the Bok Choy, which means adding them into hot boiling water for a very short amount of time (30-60 seconds) and removing them promptly. Be very careful to not over-cook these vegetables as the leafy portion will be wilted if over-cooked.
Wilted leaves = sad veggies = bad-tasting veggies
It is also important to drain all excess water. Create a mixture of sesame oil and oyster sauce (1:1 ratio), add to vegetable to taste, and mix well. If desired, fry up some garlic in oil (do not burn garlic) and add to veggies. That adds additional flavor but it is not necessary.
There are other Chinese leafy greens will work just as well, and are cooked similarly, e.g. Chinese broccoli (Gai Lan), Choy Sum, etc. Additionally, other vegetables such as broccoli and green beans can be used also, but they will require a slightly longer blanching time.
I used Jasmine Rice for this recipe, and used my handy dandy rice cooker to make rice (2 cup rice, 2 1/2 cups water). If you don’t have a rice cooker, cook it over the stove top (2 cups rice, 3 1/2 cups water) for 20 minutes.
Combine and Feast
A.k.a. my favorite part…
Remember to drizzle on that delicious sauce you created… Pour onto the pork, pour onto the rice, pour, pour, pour. I am a sauce girl. Sauce it up and I’m happy as a lark. Remember the sauce is a concoction of the marinate with additional water added, so if you need to make more sauce, you have the ingredients to do so.
Since the internet is filled with meal prep ideas, let me get on that train as well. This recipe has meal prep screaming all over it. Make little containers of this and have it for the rest of the week – the flavor permeates the pork and it tastes better daily.
What if I have even more leftover pork?
Fret not, for I have solutions for you…
- Add to ramen noodles – Add some protein (or even veggies) to your ramen noodle packets. Barbecue pork is an excellent add
- Add to other noodles – Wan tan noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles…
- Use as a sandwich meat – Eat it with white/wheat bread, steamed buns, create your very own version of Banh Mi…hmm?
- Ingredient for egg foo yong – Egg Omelette with Chinese spices, filled with shrimp, onions, barbecue pork, or anything you have on hand really. I eat mine dipped in chili sauce…delicious
So many possibilities!
I have to admit we made four pounds of Chinese Barbecue Pork in my attempt to write this recipe up and also feed my hubby, sister who was visiting, and me. We still have a ton in the fridge, and loving every bite of it!
Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu) and Bok Choy Rice Bowl
Fragrant steamed jasmine rice topped with sweet and salty glazed fire-roasted slices of Chinese Barbecue Pork and Baby Bok Choy. Drizzle with sweet sauce. Delicious and great for meal preps!
Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu)
- 2 lbs pork tenderloin
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kicap manis)
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp five spice powder
- baby bok choy
- sesame oil
- oyster sauce
- 2 cups jasmine rice
Chinese Barbecue Pork (Char Siu)
In a pot, combine hoisin sauce, sweet soy sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, vegetable oil, and five spice powder. Stir and heat under medium heat. Once boiled, switched off heat. If you do not have sweet soy sauce (kicap manis), you can omit it but add an additional tablespoon of hoisin sauce to the mixture.
Place pork tenderloin(s) into a zip lock bag, add sauce to zip lock bag. Refrigerate and marinate for 24 hours.
Fire up charcoal grill. Place pork tenderloins to the side of the burning coals so that it will be exposed to the heat indirectly. Turn pork over every 20 minutes and brush additional marinate onto tenderloin after every flip. Once internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F on multiple spots on the tenderloin, pork is done.
Slice tenderloin into thin slices
Char Siu Sauce
Transfer leftover marinate to saucepan, add 1/3 cup water, bring to boil, and then lower heat and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Peel baby bok choy into individual stalks and wash to remove all the dirt on vegetable
Heat up pot with water. Once water is boiled, add in bok choy. Cook for 30-60 seconds and remove promptly. Pat dry bok choy.
In a small ramekin, combine sesame oil and oyster sauce in a 1:1 ratio. Use amount to taste. As a reference point, for two bunches of baby bok choy I used 1 tsp of each. A little goes a long way.
Add mixture to bok choy and mix well.
If steaming rice in rice cooker, follow instruction and rice to water ratio on rice cooker manual.
If steaming rice using a pot, add 3 1/2 cups of water to pot and bring to boil. Once boiled, add 2 cups of rice and close lid (use a pot with a good-fitting lid). Cook for 20 minutes - do not lift lid.
Transfer rice, Chinese Barbecue Pork, Bok Choy into bowl. Pour sauce onto pork and rice. Serve and enjoy!