Candy Red Roasted Sweet Cantonese Char Siew (叉燒)

Char Siew 2

Char Siew

Char siew is the term we give to a long strip of pork shoulder butt, pork loin or pork belly that has been roasted in a marinade typically consisting of maltose (or honey), fermented bean curd, hoisin sauce and Chinese spices. This is a Cantonese dish that is typically found in many local food stalls, such as those selling chicken rice, roast duck and meat and wanton noodles. It is often made into a filling for buns or breads that are sold at the bakeries too. Not just that, the gravy sauce from the char siew is what people love to request for to have together with their plate of plain rice, especially if it’s char siew rice you’ve ordered.

I love eating char siew; I have been eating it my whole life. Personally, I feel that the nice ones are the ones that have been roasted with a bit of fat in it, such that the meat becomes very tender and juicy after it gets roasted because of the trapped oil within it. I especially love the two charred ends of the whole strip of roasted loin. It’s got this burnt taste that comes from the charring of the meat and the maltose – that’s what makes for an especially crispy and yummy char siew. Every time char siew is being served on the dining table, I  would always quickly reach out for these charred bits of char siew and snatch them away before anyone else could.

Actually, I’ve never thought of making char siew at home myself since it’s really easy enough to buy them from the market or hawker stalls at any time, any day. Not all of them are done nicely by the hawkers though, but the nice ones, especially for those done in the traditional way of roasting the meat on a skewer in a big oven over a live fire, are to-die-for, what with the smoky flavours of the oven roast. Nevertheless, I recently came across some recipes for char siew and saw that it is actually not too complicated to roast this at home in my mini oven and decided to give it a try. Here it is, tried and tested. Yummy and tender.

Try it!


  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Hoisin sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Light soya sauce: 3 tbsp
  • Shaoxing wine: 1 tbsp
  • Garlic: 2, finely chopped
  • Maltose: 125g
  • Sesame oil: 1 tbsp
  • 5-spice powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Red colouring: 3 drops
  • Fermented tofu (Nam Yue): 2 cubes, mashed
  • Pork shoulder butt: 500g, cut into one long strip


  1. Combine salt, sugar, hoisin sauce, light soya sauce, shaoxing wine, garlic, maltose, sesame oil, 5-spice powder, red colouring and fermented tofu together in a pot.
  2. Heat pot and bring sauce mixture to a simmer to combine. Switch off heat and leave to cool.
  3. Place pork in a resealable bag. Pour marinade into bag. Press air out and seal. Leave to marinate in fridge overnight.
  4. Preheat oven at 230 degrees.
  5. Place pork onto grill rack, with bottom of oven covered with aluminium foil to catch the drippings. Bake 15min.
  6. Turn pork around. Bake for another 15min.
  7. In the meantime, place remaining marinade sauce into another pot. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer and reduce the sauce until it is thickened.
  8. Brush reduced marinade over pork after 30min of baking.
  9. Continue baking for 4 min at 200 degrees Celsius.
  10. Turn pork over and brush with marinade. Continue baking for another 4min.
  11. Remove from oven and rest 15min before slicing to serve.

Char Siew 3


  • You can make a bit more of the sauce as a gravy for the rice for serving. Just add about 1 cup of water to the remaining marinade after it’s being reduced for the glaze, simmer for 5min and it’s ready to serve!

3 persons as side dish

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