Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Char Siu (Nigella Lawson)

Being Chinese, we of course know our char siu...  

Accordingly to Wikipedia, char siu literally means "fork-roast" with the meaning of char being fork and siu being roast. Traditionally, char siu are long strips of seasoned boneless pork skewered with forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire to cook. Typically, char siu is usually the shoulder cut of pork, seasoned with a mixture of honey, five-spice powder, red fermented bean curd, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, red food colouring and sherry or rice wine and roast until its exterior layer turn dark red. For a final touch, maltose may be used to give char siu its characteristic shiny glaze. Although it seems not very technical at all for us to roast char siu at home, most Asians including us prefer the convenience of buying char siu at their favourite Chinese restaurants instead of roasting at home. For some who likes to roast their own char siu, there are a lot of variations that I came across. Some prefer to use pork neck. Some uses just hoisin and oyster sauce. And, some uses the ready made char siu sauce. 

This recipe by Nigella Lawson that I've cooked is found in the book, How to Eat from its low-fat chapter. To be honest, my eye brow raised when I first read this recipe and wonder what will a non-Chinese, Nigella know about char siu? In fact, I can tell that Nigella sounds very modest with her writings and mentions that her char siu is "not quite char siu, it's just char siu-ish".

Char siu-ish? Instead of using the traditional fatty pork shoulder, Nigella uses the skinnier pork tenderloin. She has two recipes of marinade and I chose the first one which consists of everything that I have in my pantry. I must admit that the flavour of the marinade I used is pretty good and nice to know this version of char siu is "skinny" too.

Happy? Seriously, there is really nothing much to complain about this fantastic recipe except that I have to bast the char siu at least ten times while roasting it...

char siu grilled pork Nigella Lawson
Nigella's char siu served with egg noodles and choy sum
Marinating the pork tenderloin
Lots of basting and roasting...
The char siu was cooking in its own juice and can't develop an outer dark reddish brown colour. Transfer it to a new foil will fix the problem.
Slicing the "skinny" char siu
This is how I served our homemade char siu
low fat char siu grilled pork sauce
Nice to eat with or without any sauce...

Here's the recipe mostly adapted from the book, How to eat by Nigella Lawson
(with my notes and modification in blue)

One pork tenderloin, about 300g
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp sweet sherry

(I used Hua Tiao wine)
2 tbsp honey
2 scant tbsp dark muscovado sugar

(I used this sugar. If available, you can substitute this with dark brown sugar.)

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the pork tenderloin in half across. Place a piece of pork in each plastic freezer bag and pour in half the marinade. Make sure that the pork is well coated with the marinade and leave them in the fridge for at least 24 hrs.

To cook the pork, preheat the oven to 220°C or 200°C fan forced. Take the pork out of the marinade, reserving the marinade. Line a baking dish with tin foil and place the pork on it. Bake for 15 mins, then turn the oven down to 160°C or 150°C fan forced and bake the pork for another 20-30 mins, basting regularly (I did mine for 45 mins and blast my pork for more than 10 times!).

At this stage, I realised that the pork is baking well with its own juice and doesn't develop an outer reddish brown colour at all. So, I transfered my pork onto a fresh foil-lined tray and bake for another 10 mins at 200°C fan forced. When the char siew ideal colour has been achieved, remove it from the oven and let it cool. When cooled, slice the pork into very thin slices. Serve with cooked noodles or rice.

Note: I have also made an extra half amount of this marinade. I reduced the sauce with low heat until thick and syrupy and used it to serve with the thinly cut char siew and noodles.

Happy Baking

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  1. This char siu looks absolutely good! I have to try it!

  2. A lof of work..but I would still do it. It looks yummy ^.^

  3. Oh I've bookmarked this because my mouth is watering after reading this recipe! delicious!
    Mary x

  4. Char Siu recipe from Nigella? This is really interesting. :)

  5. Hi Zoe,
    This is a fabulous breakfast!!
    Can i have a bowl of your egg noodles with extra char siu ;)
    YUM YUM!!


  6. Hi Zoe,
    Your post reminds me that I have not eaten char siu for ages! Yes, it's true! Haha!
    This is simple enough for me to try at home, will try this out one day!
    Have seen this book at BX but did not buy it, perhaps I should really consider getting it now! wink, wink!!

  7. the marinade looks almost like bbq... love to try this.. but I will probably use a pork belly cut... hehehe

  8. can I use chicken instead of pork? the sauce looks very tempting :)

    1. Hi Nammi,

      I'm not sure if chicken will work as well as pork. However, the pork that I used in this recipe is the skinny version of char siu and reckon should work well too if chicken thigh fillets are used :D


  9. Hi Zoe, have I told you that my long-time favourite noodle is wonton noodles with wonton & char siu, hahaha! Love to see you put the noodles in these rooster bowls. I hope that I will be able to bring some of these bowls back from Malaysia next time without breaking them!

  10. Interesting to see Nigella's take on charsiew, thanks for sharing :)

  11. Wow! This looks seriously delicious! I've never heard of this dish before, but I'm sure my family would love it! Great pics too, Zoe!

  12. I laughed when I read what you wrote... I can hardly believe Nigella knows about Char Siew... but then again, looks like she does. As this looks so good.

  13. Zoe, I have always wanted to roast my own char siew. From your verdict, looks like Nigella's version is passable!

  14. wow! this is lovely, Nigella's cha shui looks seriously good!

  15. Zoe, I never know Nigella does Chinese
    this looks yummy but the process sounds pretty tedious I must have ample free time :)

  16. Wow!! That's is awesome looking dish...

  17. wow, we have the same book! I was gonna order it from Amazon but found a pile of this title at Bookxcess so made a huge saving!

    I think chicken would work too!

  18. char siu looks so scrumptious,beautifully clicked snaps,makes us want to have some right now :-)

  19. In Malaysia, we love to eat Wan Tan Mee with Char Siu. Yummy.....

  20. I shared your feeling when I saw your blog title. Non chinese making a chinese dish... mmm... you think it is better than ours?

  21. Being Chinese myself, I absolutely love char-siu pork. I've seen this in Nigella's book, but haven't managed to try it yet. Now that I've seen yours, I really want to give this a go. It looks so yummy.

  22. I love cooking char siew and I did it in the stove all the way, I think Nigella's recipe looks good too!

  23. ivy sew http://simplybeautifulhealthyliving.blogspot.comAugust 28, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    Hi Zoe, you char siew is so tempting :)

  24. I remember getting char siu from the Chinese restaurant and fighting over the last piece with my family!

  25. What a fun and delicious twist on a summer favorite

  26. I dont eat pork but the picture is just killing me..

  27. Always wanted to try but for some reason thought it was more complicated than this. Thanks for the inspiration

  28. Do you ever just play around and write your own formulas? It's great fun.

  29. haha, just 2 hours left and I managed to squeeze in an Apple Almond Cake, just in time! Phew! :p

  30. very helpful recommendations you have shared.. As i am chef in chinese restaurants in bangalore this will really helpful for me

  31. Wow! wonderful post! what a nice picture. Way too tempting. Yum! I don't have an outdoor grill, but well now I know I can try in my oven too, so I'm gonna try it out very very soon chinese food