Wok-Cooked Char Siew (Bu Jian Tian cut)

Monday, February 08, 2021

I ate some very good Char Siew at You Kee XO restaurant at Joo Chia Place yesterday. 

I am inspired to think about my Mum's version again. Her written recipe do not match my palate memories of some of the batches she came up with. I think the main reason being that her written recipe is simply not sweet enough. It needs more sugar or honey. Or even better, just add more maltose which is cheap and has a thick consistency. 

As for the pork cuts, while Indonesian Pork Belly seem to be a good and widely available choice, it can be too lean and the strips of meat (especially at the bottom) can be too hard for good CS. I have used Brazilian pork (:frozen pork") and surprisingly, they turn out better. The lean parts are softer (cooks faster) and the fats are laid out better. I think another reason is Indonesian Bulan pigs are culled when they are younger and this you can tell by looking at the size of the knuckles. This is one reason why the belly cuts are too lean. 

If you can find "no see sky"cuts (Bu Jian Tian 不见天), that will be cheaper ($10-12 a kilo for frozen pork) and definitely more suited for CS. 

I will share a revised version of the Char Siew recipe here which I used yesterday. Do note that her original written recipe can still be accessed here and in the cookbook. 

If you prefer your CS to be stickier and sweeter, feel free to experiment with the recipe below. In my opinion, the most important ingredient is the sweets, soy based sauce (ie Hoi Sin or tau cheong) and the pork cut. CS is just caramelised sweet meat and other ingredients i.e. ginger, garlic, 5-spice powder, wine, play second fiddle.  Please check this video below for a visual of what I did for a recent batch of CS.  

While it won't match up to the version by You Kee XO Restaurant which uses the traditional roaster, this home cooked version is very good. 

1.5 kilo of pork belly or armpit cuts (about 5-6 strips, skinless))

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp (heapful!) Maltose honey 
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp Hoi Sin sauce
1 tsp 5 spiced powder
1 tsp  salt
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 cups of water

2 tbsp of honey (to glaze the pork at the end)

  1. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a large bowl.
  2. Add the pork strips to the sauce. If you have time, just keep it there and marinated 
  3. Heat up the wok. 
  4. Add the pork strips and sauce.
  5. Simmer (low fire) and close the wok. 
  6. Once in a while (i.e.10 to 15 minutes interval), turn the pork. 
  7. At about the 40 minute mark, the sauce should have thickened. Remove the wok cover and and scoop out some of the sauce. Increase the fire to medium. Pay close attention to the pork as it is being seared. Control the fire and adjust. Some prefer it to be very charred but you do not want to overdo it either as there will be a bitter taste. 
  8. Remove the pork strips. Add water to the wok and heat it up for easier cleaning. 
  9. Add honey to the sauce which you have scooped out and glaze the pork strips.
When the pork has cooled, slice and serve. 

Cooking in the wok

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  1. Can this chat Siew be made using a non sticknwok?