Char Siu

Oh Hong Kong food, how can I count the ways I love and miss thee? Crispy pork buns, sweet and sour pork, chicken in lotus leaves, spicy noodle soups, wontons, Shanghai soup dumplings.....why oh why aren't you available in Sweden?!

Well, one way to solve the problem is to make it yourself. We decided to start off lightly, and attempt to make char siu, Cantonese BBQ pork. After consulting The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung we set off on a mission to find crushed yellow bean sauce and red fermented bean curd - quite a daunting task in our culinary challenged town. We had no luck with the bean sauce, but after a visit to (the only?) Chinese store in Uppsala, there's now a rather big jar of bean curd standing in our fridge. The same store also had frozen chicken feet and canned durian, so we now know where to turn should we ever feel inclined to give those a try again.

Making the char siu was straightforward, but a bit time consuming. The marinade smelled right (it smelled kind of like Hong Kong, minus the traffic fumes and weird dried sea animals) and after tasting we had to say that we got it pretty damn close. Next time we'll use some other cut of pork, the pork loin got a bit too dry. Any ideas? We had to skip the crushed yellow bean sauce, but if we do find a jar of it somewhere, we'll make sure to get back to you to report if that got the taste even closer to right.

We used our very fancy, very expensive made-of-wood-that-you-shouldn't-buy-because-it's-bad-for-the-environment chopsticks for the first time, to eat our homemade char siu- we think it was a fitting way to inaugurate them. Now there's leftover Char Siu in the fridge and we have plans for that, oh yes we do...!

Char Siu
From The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-Ta Hsiung

2 kg pork loin
3 tbsp honey, dissolved in a little hot water

For the marinade:
2 tbsp sugar
(2 tbsp crushed yellow bean sauce - we skipped this since we didn't have any, add it if you do)
2 tbsp Hoi Sin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp red fermented bean curd
4 tbsp rum, brandy or Chinese liquor (we used dark rum)
2 tsp sesame oil

Cut the pork into about 1½ cm thick slices. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the meat in a shallow dish or in double plastic bags (we prefer plastic bags) and add the marinade. Blend well so that all the meat is covered in marinade (this is where it's easier to use plastic bags, simply seal them (well!) and then you can "massage" the marinade into the meat from the outside). Let marinade for at least two hours, turning occasionally.

Set the oven to 220°C (425°F). Arrange the meat on a wire rack - save the marinade for later. Place the rack over a baking pan with about 2 dl boiling water in it. The water will give some steam in the oven and the pan catches the marinade that drips of the meat. Place the whole deal in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 175°C (350°F). Baste the pork with some of the reserved marinade, turn them over and baste again. Cook for another 8-10 minutes.

Brush the pork with the dissolved honey on both sides and let it brown slighly under a medium broiler for 3-5 minutes, turning once or twice. Our oven don't have a medium broiler, so we simply turned on the grill function of the oven (strong heat from above) and positioned the meat closer to the oven roof.

Allow the meat to cool before serving. Make a sauce by boiling the left over marinade with what has collected in the baking pan. Strain before serving. We ate this with rice, some sauce and a little thinly sliced leek (that's how the university's lunch restaurant served it). Char Siu is really never eaten alone as a main course (few Chinese dishes are) but rather as an appetizer, as a part of a larger meal or as an ingredient in other dishes. More on that last part later...!

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