Monday, 17 March 2014

Homemade Char Siew (Char Siu)

I love a good Wan Tan Mee (mee means noodles in Malaysia) and usually get my fix from the local hawkers you find all over Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. It's cheap, quick and delicious... well, most of time.

The highlight of the Wan Tan Mee for me is always, always the Char Siew. It's the star of the show. The Wan Tan, noodles, etc. are all supporting actors and actresses. As far as I'm concerned the quality of Char Siew can make or break the deal. It can turn your meal into a delicious, lip-smacking (from all that porky lusciousness) delight or an unsatisfying, stomach turning affair.

Again (thanks to procrastination), I have spent lots of time over the years looking for Char Siew recipes online, but no time at all actually trying any of the recipes out. A few weeks ago, the desire to make a good Char Siew at home became unbearable, so I did one last search on the Internet for recipes, settled on one and headed out to the supermarket to buy the pork. 

The method I chose to cook the Char Siew in is slightly more complicated than what is described on The Food Canon. If you prefer less hassle, please follow his instructions. My cooking method was chosen simply because I hadn't used the Le Creuset in weeks and wanted to give it some 'airing' time. I have not tried his method myself, however there's no reason whatsoever why I cannot make Char Siew again... and again... and again. So there'll be another time to try it out, of that I'm sure!

How did my Char Siew turn out? Really well! I loved the flavour and choosing a piece of meat marbled with fat made all the difference. They were succulent morsels of honeyed meat that went so well with my Wan Tan Mee

Auntie Ruby's Char Siew (Char Siu)
Adapted from The Food Canon

About 400 - 450g Pork Shoulder, with fat marbling
2 tablespoons Peanut Oil
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Dark Soya Sauce
1 teaspoon White Pepper Powder
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 tablespoon Shiao Hsing Wine
1 bowl Water

Cut the Pork Shoulder into thick strips. Set aside.

In a Tupperware large enough for the Pork and marinade, pour in the Oil, Salt, Sesame Oil, Dark Soya Sauce, White Pepper, Honey, Oyster Sauce and Wine. Mix thoroughly. Add in the Pork Shoulder strips, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for about 4 hours.

When ready to cook, remove the Tupperware from the fridge and transfer everything into a cast iron pot. Add the bowl of Water, put the cover on and cook for about 45 minutes in a 140 Celsius oven.

Meanwhile, line a square baking tin with foil making sure the four ends of the foil are turned up to form a bowl of sorts.

After 45 minutes, remove the pot from the oven. With thongs, remove the Char Siew strips and place it on the prepared baking tin. Set aside.

Put the cast iron pot (with the marinade juices) on a low fire and let the marinade turn slightly syrupy. into a sauce. If you use a cast iron pot, this should take you only a matter of minutes.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool slightly. Transfer a little of the sauce into a small bowl. With a basting brush that can withstand heat (or a spoon in my case) baste the Char Siew strips with the sauce and a little extra Honey.

Turn on the grill in your oven to about 130 Celsius and slowly grill the meat on one side with the door open. Once you see char marks and the meat looks like Char Siew, remove the tin from the oven, turn the meat over with thongs, baste with the sauce and Honey and grill till you are happy with the char marks.

Remove from the oven and immediately cover with foil. Let the meat rest and come to room temperature before slicing thinly and eating it with the reserved sauce drizzled over.

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