The cheat: char siu
Author: Alice Storey
Photography: John-Paul Urizar
12:00AM, Feb 3, 2014
Lacquered in finger-licking glaze, Cantonese pork picked up
from your local barbecue shop makes light work of fast
Hanging glistening in the windows of Chinese barbecue shops next to the mahogany-lacquered ducks is this delicious sticky meat - char siu pork.
Char siu falls into the Cantonese category of siu mei, roast meat, and translates to "fork burn roast", after the traditional cooking method.
Char siu is a versatile meat and pops up in other Asian cuisines, whether it's Japanese ramen or Thai stir-fries. Add it to a salad with plenty of herbs, crunchy cabbage and a sweet, sour and salty dressing or, for a take on Peking duck, load pancakes with hoisin or char siu sauce, crisp cucumber, spring onions and plenty of sliced pork - a perfect party entrée.
Char siu is best eaten warm or at room temperature; if you want to reheat it, ask for extra sauce to baste it with when warming it in a hot oven, or add it to soups, stir-fries or fried rice. It also makes a mean sandwich.
Char siu banh-mi style
Stir 100ml rice wine vinegar, 50gm caster sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, set aside to cool, then add 1 julienned carrot and refrigerate to pickle (20-30 minutes). Split 4 long white rolls horizontally, spread each with chicken liver pâté, top with pickled carrot, spring onion batons, and about 70gm thinly sliced char siu. Top with coriander and a squeeze of Sriracha.
Snow pea and char siu stir-fry with peanuts and chilli
Heat 2 tsp sesame oil in a large wok over high heat, add 1 tbsp julienned ginger, 2 crushed garlic cloves and stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds). Add 100gm each snow peas and sugar snap peas and 4 thinly sliced Swiss brown mushrooms and stir-fry until tender (1-2 minutes). Add 300gm thinly sliced char sui and stir-fry until warmed through (1 minute). Add 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine and stir-fry to combine. Serve with steamed Jasmine rice and scattered with chilli flakes and crushed roasted peanuts.
Choy sum and char siu soup
Bring 1.5 litres chicken stock to boil over medium-high heat, add 2 bruised garlic cloves, 1 star anise and 2cm ginger thinly sliced and kernels of 2 corncobs and cook until bright yellow (2-3 minutes). Add 200gm fresh egg noodles and 100gm chopped choy sum and cook until noodles are just tender and choy sum is bright green (1-2 minutes). Divide among 4 bowls and top with sliced char siu (about 350gm in total) and serve hot with spring onion and thinly sliced red chilli.
Char siu omelette (pictured)
Whisk 3 eggs and a couple of drops of sesame oil in a bowl and season to taste. Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add eggs and cook, stirring initially, until cooked through (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat, spread with 1½ tbsp hoisin sauce, top with ¼ cup each Thai basil and coriander, ½ cucumber sliced into ribbons, ¼ cup bean sprouts and 80gm sliced char siu. Gently fold omelette over and serve scattered with sesame seeds, thinly sliced spring onion and extra hoisin.
+ Char siu is best eaten on the day you buy it, but if you have some left over, coarsely chop it and use it as a filling for char siu bao or in fried rice.
+ Don't skip the sauce offered at many stores - it has a great barbecue flavour.
Related link: make your own char siu pork.