Monday, March 15, 2010

Char Siu Pork (Chinese Roast Pork)

It might seem a little strange to make a traditional Chinese roast pork from a recipe found in a Vietnamese cookbook, but since the Chinese have so heavily influenced the cuisine in most of South East Asia, it's actually not as bizarre an idea as it might first seem.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with char siu, it's the violently red and sweet pork filling often found in steamed buns (bao).  It also turns up in various forms in dim sum, and can be found hanging in windows all over Chinatown next to roast ducks and the like.  When done right, char siu has an appealingly crunchy exterior that contrasts wonderfully with the meltingly tender pork.  When done poorly, it's just appallingly sweet and mushy.  Any Chinese grocery store sells pre-mixed seasoning packets or marinades that you can use to create your own char siu pork at home, but what fun is that?

Because I always have pork tenderloin in the freezer, I decided to use that instead of the pork shoulder that Andrea Nguyen uses in her recipe.  Then I tweaked the cooking instructions to use pork tenderloin, rather than slices of pork shoulder.  Pork shoulder should give you a texture more similar to traditional char siu than the pork tenderloin will, but I always find using pork tenderloin to be much simpler than wrestling with pork shoulder.  The only time I really mess with pork shoulder is when I am making BBQ.  Oh and if I am braising pork, because pork shoulder takes a braise really really well.  Otherwise I am all about the pork tenderloin.

This version of char siu is delicious.  Texturally-speaking, it's not exactly traditional but the flavors hit all of the right notes.  The pork is sweet, but not overly so, and is wonderfully savory at the same time.  We served the char siu over steamed rice, but I think next time I might serve it over pan-fried noodles.  As of right now I am planning on mixing the leftover char siu with the leftover rice from tonight's meal and making some roast pork fried rice.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Char Siu Pork
Adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors
By Andrea Nguyen

2 lbs. pork tenderloin, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
3 tbsp hoisin
2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (can substitute dry sherry)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tamari (dark) soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Whisk together garlic, sugar, five-spice, hoisin, honey, rice wine, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a medium bowl.  Pour marinade into a resealable plastic bag.  Add pork tenderloin to bag, seal bag, and massage the meat to coat it evenly in the marinade.  Place plastic bag inside a glass baking dish (so that you don't risk the bag springing a leak and leaking nasty, sticky pork juices all over the fridge) to marinate in the refrigerator.  Marinate for 6-8 hours, turning pork over 2 or 3 times to ensure even marinating.

Remove pork from refrigerator 45 minutes before cooking.  Allow meat to come up to room temperature.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Place pork tenderloin in roasting pan on rack, or in rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Reserve marinade.  Roast for approximately 30 minutes, basting with reserved marinade every approximately 10 minutes, using tongs to turn the meat while basting so that it is evenly basted and browned.  Pork is done when an instant-read thermometer reads 150 degrees F.  Remove pork from oven, and allow to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. 

Thinly slice pork and serve over rice.

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