Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Char siu

Char siu is Chinese marinated and roasted pork. It's traditionally considered to be something that you buy rather than making at home, because few people in China had ovens. When I'm in the corner of the Asian supermarket that is near the lunch counter, the tempting aroma of char siu is overwhelming.

Marnie Henricksson has a recipe she calls "Chinese Roast Pork Tenderloin" in Everyday Asian. The last time I read through the cookbook, it caught my eye.

The dish starts with a marinade. The ingredients are a third of a cup each of hoisin sauce, rice wine and soy sauce; a tablespoon of ketchup; two minced garlic cloves; and two tablespoons of light brown sugar (I used palm sugar). Henricksson recommends marinating the pork for one to three hours, but I let it go overnight.

In a 400 F oven, bake the tenderloin for 20 minutes, while boiling and slightly reducing the marinade on the stovetop. Remove the meat from the oven, baste, then return it to the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. Since I was using a relatively small hunk of boneless country ribs, I let it go for 10 minutes. The key is to let it go until it has a deep red color and some toasty browned bits. Simmer the remaining sauce for three minutes and let the meat rest for five minnutes before slicing.

Since my boneless country ribs were presliced, the meat dried out more than it would had the meat been in one unsliced chunk. That was a bit disappointing. However, the sauce was a terrific smoky barbecue type sauce, the kind of thing I'd happily slather on grilled meat (assuming I lived in a place where I was allowed to grill). The sauce was rather garlicky, too; the bits of minced garlic clung to the sides of the meat and imparted their toasted flavor to the dish. Not at all bad, but a little bit goes a long way. No wonder this meat is used to pep up flavors in Chinese cooking.

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