BBQ Pork Recipe (Char Siu/Char Siew/蜜汁叉烧)
April 19th, 2009 239 Comments

BBQ Pork Recipe (Char Siu/Char Siew/蜜汁叉烧)

BBQ Pork (Char Siu/Char Siew)
BBQ Pork (Char Siu/Char Siew) pictures (9 of 9)

BBQ pork or “char siu” (also spelled as “char siew”) is a famous Chinese dish that everyone loves.

Char siu (char siew) is of Cantonese origin where skewers of pork meat is marinated in a honey hoisin sauce, and then roast in oven to charred, savory, and sticky sweet perfection. If there is a pork recipe that defines Chinese cooking, I think char siu (char siew) would be it.

The secret ingredients to the best-ever char siu (char siew) are.

  1. Choice of meat – if you love your char siu (char siew) tender, juicy, moist, and a little fatty, use pork belly. If you prefer a meaty char siu (char siew), then go for pork loin. If you like it somewhere in between, then pork butt will be a great choice.
  2. Maltose – called ” 麦芽糖” in Chinese, maltose is the secret ingredient that gives char siu (char siew) that sticky sweet taste and texture. Honey is just the icing on the cake.
  3. Chinese rose wine – this wine is very fragrant and lends a very nice flavor to this BBQ pork or char siu (char siew) recipe.
  4. Five-spice powder (五香粉) – mixture of 5 spices used in Chinese recipes.

Without further ado, here is the Chinese BBQ pork (char siu/char siew) recipe, which I learned from my friend S. This recipe makes KILLER char siu (char siew) that is better than any Chinese restaurants–juicy, moist, tender, delicious, and sublime.

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239 comments... read them below or add one

  1. noobcook says:

    I didn’t know char siu can be made at home, u make it look simple. U’re good!! =D

  2. NYMY says:

    OMG, this bbq pork looks so good. I have seen too many char siu or Chinese BBQ pork that is too dry or too red in color. Your char siu looks very juicy and delicious!

  3. Tuty says:

    Chinese Rose Wine is hard to find… can’t find it in 99Ranch (Seattle)… what is a good substitute?

  4. hm, after coming out from the oven, it still needs to be grilled over open fire?
    Thats alot of work hahahaha.

    What about those Char Siew sauce that comes in a bottle? Have you used that before?
    I use that to fry mince meat, and they are quite tasty.

    Nice pics. Very tempting.

  5. wow..u just made char siew look like a fine dining dish!!

  6. helen says:

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Christine says:

    Oh thanks for sharing this, I’ve been bugging my uncle (whom I thought made the best ever char siew) but he would never let me in on his recipe, I’m gonna try this and show him that he’s not the only char siew “king” around! :) hee hee, thanks again!

    • Christine – sounds like you got a Char Siu master in your uncle. The real sifu :) You can try my recipe and challenge him. Maybe then you get him to finally share his version with the whole world :O, or at least just me :)

  8. Gigi says:

    very very yummy!!! i never know we can prepre BBQ pork sauce from sctrach! i always buy the 李锦记Char Siew Sauce to marinate my BBQ pork. Since i dun hv the metal skewer and not able to transfer the BBQ pork to grill on stove top, would shd we do next after that 15 minutes in the oven? shall we continue to roast it?

    • Gigi – I used the 李锦记Char Siew Sauce a lot in the past, especially college days. After 15 minutes, the meat is basically done. I suggest you can serve it as is. Leaving it longer at high heat may charred the meat but may also make it chewy.

  9. lk says:

    Oh my! The best-ever char siew I have seen! Looks so juicy! Go well with wantan noodles!

  10. Manggy says:

    One of my most favorite things! :)

  11. Tim says:

    Great photos! They capture the stickiness of great char siu so well — damn I’m hungry now :)

    • Tim – I sure hope I captured the essence of char siu. Picturing the traditional way char siu is sold. The meat hanging at the front of stores make most of us hungry.

  12. Oh I was wondering about char siu! Your blog is a mine of recipes I actually want to reproduce :)))

  13. Valerie says:

    Oh this looks delicious!! I love char siew and so far, I have not found the perfect recipe or a store here in the US. The char siew meat here is usually tough. I like the meat juicy and the outer part crispy! haha. I guess that is why you grill it. hehe.

    I will try this, but where can I find Maltose??

    • Valerie – yes, that’s why I have to make it. The meat here being frozen and all, is really not the best way to interpret our delicious char siu. But it’s worth the try. You can find maltose in most Asian grocery stores.

  14. Kudos for making it at home. I would of never attempted it because it is readily available at Chinese deli counters. After reading your post, I think I will attempt to make it myself.

  15. That looks delicious… I am definitely going to have to try this recipe.

    It would make my grandmother proud… thanks for sharing! :-)

  16. JW says:


    I’ve been looking for this recipe for a long time but the recipes never came with pictures that showed how the char siew ended up!

    How long do you grill yours over the stove top for? I was always under the impression that you had to cook pork belly for a very long time on a low heat otherwise it would be too chewy?

    • JW – depending on the size and portion of the pork, you can cook in low heat for a much longer time. The pork is already cooked when you take them out of oven. Grilling over the stove top is to give the meat the final BBQ appearance. So, not too long, just till it is charred nicely.

  17. I am sold with your fabulous recipe. I was a little worried with the red food colouring at first. I will bookmark and try your recipe for sure. I am missing this in Switzerland. I am not sure if I can get pork butt, can I use other parts such as filet mignon but this is rather expensive part.

  18. Elaine says:

    Look at that sheen on that pork. Yumm.. Roasting them over open flame and all must make a huge difference in flavor, I would imagine. Last time I made mine, I use a friggin’ oven on very high and almost smoked the whole house out!

  19. Miss Tish says:

    This looks delicious and beautiful! My thai mom loves char siu and and I can’t wait to try this recipe for her – I think our mommies deserve us to go the extra mile, not just buy it at the store already made (good….but can’t be as good as this!) Thanks for sharing the ‘secret ingredient’!

  20. joey says:

    You are so right…this is definitely a much-loved Chinese pork dish! I do love it! And I had no idea it was easy to make at home…I will have to hunt down maltose and Chinese rose wine first…

  21. veron says:

    Ahhhh! this has been on my to do list for the longest time. I did not use to like this as my Dad made it too red (one of the few things he made that I did not like). And then I had it at a local restaurant over here known for their authentic chinese food and I loved it. Now I can’t wait to try this recipe. I think I have seen maltose in the Asian market.

  22. rokh says:

    oh gosh your char siew/siu looks really good, probably able to fight those i reviewed as best in KL :) i do wonder though when i would have this culinary skill and patience to try this at home

  23. Pinenuts says:

    Nowadays, char siew is easily available in Melbourne. However, to find one with the correct right texture, fragrance, taste and appearance can be a challenge. To date, I have yet to find one that come close to those that I had in Petaling Street when I was growing up in Kuala Lumpur.

    I am intrigued by your recipe with maltose and chinese rose wine and shall give it a try. One thing though, I am a still doubtful on the need to roast and then barbeque the meat.

    All in all, you are doing a great job with your blog. Keep up the good work!

    • Pinenuts – Oven will never ever do a great job when it comes to the grilled/BBQ/charred taste and texture, so I roasted the char siu first (to cook the meat) and then grilled them over the stove top (it would have been impossible to cook the meat just over the stove top). I would have just BBQ it if I had set up my outdoor grill. You need not follow my exact steps; it’s the char siu sauce and marinate that make the char siu great.

  24. Ninette says:

    I didn’t know about maltose. Thanks for the tip! Love your blog.

  25. tigerfish says:

    I don’t know where to get maltose in S’pore and in USA….hmmmm…I want to try them soon and in future. Coincidentally, there was home-made char siew in my parents’ home recently and my father told me the butcher in the market recommended him to get this part of the pig to make char siew – “不见天” ….I don’t know the technical name in English…hahaha…but I think it is the “chest” area of the pig which is always facing downwards. This part is really lean. I think I would prefer my char siew lean with fatty bits :) …yours look perfect!

  26. S says:

    Your Char Siu is one lean, mean, hunky machine!:) Could lolli them up in a jiff. Can’t remember the last time I had them:( Anyway, if there’s any leftovers, they make a flavorful porridge too, with a tad BBQ-sweet taste, yums! Now, where’s that 1-800-RM-BBQ-Pork one can place an order?

  27. matt says:

    looks great and i’m making this on friday your recipes never disappoint love your satay too

  28. babe_kl says:

    homemade char siu rocks!!! btw what happened to S these days? she stopped blogging?

  29. Sandy says:

    That looks delicious! My dad used to make it, but I never actually got to learn it until it was too late. I’ll have to try this recipe and let my mom try it out~! :)

  30. jaded says:

    Oh me, oh my……. my drool is dripping all over my keyboard. I’m a big big fan of char siew!!! Makes me want to rush out to the nearest Kai Fan stall for some char siew. but it will be mediocre )): Thanks for the recipe, your char siew looks waayyyy better. I’ll have to try making it.

    Btw, this is your silent fan, piping up on rare occasions :P

  31. Loren says:

    Could someone tell me what is rose wine and where can I get some to make this recipe? I live in Southern CA.

    • Rose wine is cooking wine and you can find it in Asian grocery stores. You can definitely find it in Ranch 99, with many locations in Southern California. Check out cooking wine aisle.

  32. luke says:

    well, i have few cook books that recommends diff ways of cooking char siew and it all turned out anything but char siew.your recipe and picture looks more convincing and *slurpy*. i must try it when i get those ingredients on hand :D

    and i like the way of char*ing the meat on top of the stove that you recommended. it works pretty well on my chicken wings :D

  33. deming chau says:

    i tried this recipe and it works. The taste came out almost close to store bought, if not better. I improvised on two things. 1) instead of using a grill or stove top to char the meat, I simply broiled the meat in the oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking. 2) since i couldn’t find maltose, i used rock sugar instead.

    thanks for sharing this recipe, will definitely try it again….

  34. matt says:

    i know ive already posted once but this is so good i have to post again i’m making this for the third time in a month but i’m also combining the chicken kabob recipe,skewering red bell pepper,pearl onion and pineapple with the pork don’t pass this recipe up it’s truly great!

  35. Aldo says:

    I got lucky as I went to my asian market and just right in front of me I see both rose wine and maltose….I decided on that spot to do this recipe and bought the rest of the ingredients.

    Pork’s marinating in my fridge right at this moment.

  36. kaitlin says:

    Wow that looks great! But if I want to use pork belly, how much do i need and how should it be prepared? The same way as pork butt?

  37. kaitlin says:

    should i remove the top layer of fat/skin?

  38. kc says:

    This recepie is great! this is the third recpie from you web site and every dish has gotten an A+from my dh who is a picky eater. next time i think i will make extra marinate/sauce to put on some rice. kc

  39. Bahasa Malayu says:

    Sedap La!!!

    • Simon says:

      Well, I tried this tonight for dinner after I saw a piece of pork at the supermarket for sale. I didn’t have maltose, hoisin sauce, 5 spices nor rose wine. Regardless, I did a sauce approximating it with raw sugar for maltose, oyster sauce for hoisin sauce and nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon powder for the 5 spices and port for rose wine. I didn’t have time to marinade it overnight either. I put it in the oven on the top rack, and put it on grill with a tray of water underneath it to catch the dripping and to keep it moist.

      Guess, what is still came out super tasty. My wife approves. Thanks for the recipe! Never thought I’d be able to do this at home!

  40. Lissa says:

    Tried those bottled sauce before but didn’t like it. I tried your recipe today (well, yesterday since I marinated the pork overnight) and it was as my daughter said, “Yummy!”. It tasted almost like the ones sold at the kopi tiam in Penang. Love it!! Will try it again and this time double the ingredients.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  41. lyn says:

    I wonder if i could use chicken instead of pork and for the rose wine what do u suggest i replace it with bcoz i’m muslim.It’s look sooo yummy !!! :p

  42. Anil says:

    Hi. I want to make this with pork belly. Should I leave the skin on or cut it off?


  43. baby says:

    Wandering if soneone have a good recipe for ham(chinese ham – salted )?

  44. Hi Rasa

    Pleasure to meet you. Yeah, I liked your picture. Tell your hubby he is one very lucky man to have someone like you. On the recipe for char siew where you use maltose? I’m here in San Diego, CA. and since i’ve never bought it before nor heard of it when i go to buy maltose, what kind of packaging should i be looking for and where may i find this stuff? Is it in a cardboard box or bag? Asian stores like Seafood city?

    • It looks like this:

      Not sure about Seafood City but 99 Ranch has it.

    • DavidDerby says:

      Maltose is known by several different names. It depends on where you are using it. Growing up in the US Malt (maltose) was used in making malted milk or malted shakes (1950′s & 1960′s). After a quick search on the internet, I also found it listed as malt flour, malt sugar. The product I remember was Malt-O-Meal (product brand), they made malt for shakes, malted cereals & other similar products. After my search of the internet, I found several companies on Amazon the will ship their malt products almost anywhere. This includes the US military addresses (FPO, APO) which a lot of buisinesses will not ship to, even though they use USPS.

  45. Patrick says:

    Hi Rasa, I’ve tried a few of your recipes so far and they all came out great! I can’t wait for your book. Char siu is going to be my next recipe. I just wanted ask one thing, are pork butt and shoulder the same thing? I’ve heard from somewhere that they are the same cut, i was hoping you could tell me, thank you!

    • Hey Patrick, thanks, I am working on a Chinese cookbook, it will be awesome! I am not sure if they are the same, but I think they are different, but I really don’t know. LOL.

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  47. Grace says:

    Thank you so much for posting such yummy recipe. I am definitely going to try it. I lived far far away from Chinatown and sometimes are so home sick. Thank you so much!!!

  48. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the recipe, I am marinading now. One concern I have is the cooking time you listed. 15 minutes in the oven just doesn’t seem long enough for pork butt. From my experience, to get pork butt tender, it needs to be cooked longer at a lower temperature, or maybe seared at a very high temperature (if a very thin cut). 15 minutes looks more like pork tenderloin time. Can you confirm your times are for pork butt? I realize there is the 2nd step of charring over flame, which I of course plan to do, but you’ve said above that “The pork is already cooked when you take them out of oven.” I’m thinking pork butt would prefer 1-2 hours at 300* though, before the charring step – to allow the fat to render somewhat. Thoughts?

    Mahalo from Hawaii – no stranger to good, authentic char siu here!


    • Hi Jeff – 15 is just nice. Noted I cut my pork butt in very small pieces. You don’t want to overcook it by leaving them in the oven too long because they will turn dry and not juicy. My char siu is very juicy and just cooked, and the chars are great.

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