It's a new year, and I've pledged to be less discriminating in my cooking choices. I'd much rather bake than cook, cook with veggies than with meat, and cook with poultry or seafood than pork and beef. So this year, in order to be more of a well balanced and better educated cook, I'm making a real effort to cast a wide net and explore new ingredients and methods that make me slightly trepidacious. So here's to a year of hopefully more pork, lamb, and offal recipes, more sky-high towering layer cakes, ethereally light and voluminous souffles, and eventually home brewed root beers and libations.
Char siu, or cha shao, is basically Chinese BBQ. It's sweet and smoky and glows a disturbingly bright red hue (all due to red dye no. 40), but it's so good it's addictive. If you've ever walked through Chinatown, you've probably caught a glimpse of pinkish-red cuts of pork dangling from hooks in small deli windows, all perfectly roasted with caramelized skin. A fattier cut of pork makes for a delicious product, but lean tenderloin can also be used. I prefer to eat my char siu cold, sandwiched in a steamed bun, or thinly sliced over a bowl of udon noodle soup. Here, I've taken it freshly roasted, and did a take on the traditional pulled pork sandwich, creating a Chinese style pork slider burger.
What's the appeal of the mini burger? Well, they are certainly fun to eat. More importantly, they're easy to eat, to pick up with one hand, instead of the requisite two hand Neanderthal grip on a monstrous double decker burger. Sliders are to the burger what dainty cupcakes are to the party-size sheet cake. We all love a gluttonous hunk of layer cake every now and then, but there is a bit of whimsy and refinement to a single serving mini cake. Similarly, when a burger gets downsized, it suddenly takes on a newfound lighthearted appeal. (Though I suppose gluttony can still apply when you eat a whole frickin' mountain of sliders.)
Char Siu Pork
2 lb pork loin or shoulder
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
4 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp five spice powder
1" piece fresh ginger, julienned
1 tsp red food coloring
1. Combine all the ingredients in a large quart-size plastic freezer bag. Seal, and gently massage the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate to let marinate for about 24 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 425F. Lay the pork out onto the wire rack of a roasting pan. Pour enough water into the bottom pan so that it comes up to about 1/2" up the sides. (This creates a steam that keeps the meat juicy.) Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F.**
3. Baste with the leftover marinade every 10 minutes. Roast for about 30-40 minutes or until the center of the cut registers 160F on an instant read thermometer.
4. Remove from oven, and let cool for 15 minutes. Slice and serve immediately or let come to room temperature and refrigerate for a later use.
** An alternative method to pan roasting would be to hang up the pork on S-hooks from the top rack of your oven over the dripping pan. This would be preferable for a fattier cut of meat in order to let the grease slowly drip out of the meat.