Desperately Seeking 叉燒 Char Siu (Also Known As 焼き豚 Yakibuta)


All has been quiet on the Gekiuma front which is rather deceptive cuz I’ve been tinkering with different flavors and reverse engineering recipes out of sheer desperation as well as in an attempt to clean out our groaning pantry before we’re inundated with the annual flood of well intentioned holiday gifts. The main culprit in this tale is my timeline overload which has resulted in spotty blog posts. Apparently I can only do so much writing at a time even if it’s in completely different genres. So, until I finish my other writing duties which hopefully I won’t as they’re somewhat self propagating which is good for my underused brain and idle hands, I suspect my blog posts will be limited to sporadic moments of inspiration or sheer genius [snort]. I also apologize for dropping off the face of the blogosphere in terms of interacting with my favorite blogs (you know who you are) and responding to comments in anything resembling a timely fashion. Mea culpa.

While Portlandia is for the most part a gastronomic wonderland where you can sample delightful Peruvian anticuchos a hop, skip and a jump away from savory or sweet Scandinavian lefse concoctions there is a glaring void in the midst of culinary nirvana [cue dramatic music]. Most Chinese butchers that sport roast duck or 叉燒 char siu in this town seem to hold to one of two schools of thought, “gristle and fat adds character” or “who doesn’t love pork jerky?” Since my motto is juicy, tender & savory-sweet, I’ve been trying to reverse engineer my own spin on char siu based on the mouthwatering delights I could partake of if I only relocated to San Francisco or Vancouver (and somehow miraculously doubled our income). You’ll notice that the recipe title includes the kanji 焼き豚 yakibuta cuz well yes, I prefer the more gingery flavors of the Japanese take on char siu. I’ve added Korean 고추장 gochujang to give it a little heat as well as that fermented soybean umami goodness. The lucky red hue is just a bonus 😉 The mirin adds a lovely sheen to the glaze as well as a round sweetness while the sake helps to remove some of the gaminess from the pork while also tenderizing it somewhat. If you want more of a traditional Chinese taste you could switch out the anise stars and gochujang for 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder and toss in a tablespoon of hoisin sauce for good measure.


How many cooks does it take to …
1) If you could distill this down to one thing to make your yakibuta/char siu delectable and easy to cook it would be your trusty old meat thermometer. Overcooked protein just gets dry and leathery 😦 In fact, I like to undercook the pork to 135F (5F below done) because the internal temp will continue to rise another 5F to end up at a perfect 140F while it rests.
2) Maltose? Wasn’t that a Humphrey Bogart movie? Nope. It’s a thicker than honey liquid sugar that caramelizes beautifully and adds a slightly reddish hue to your food. You can find it at your well-stocked Asian market but if that’s a bust you can simply double the honey.
3) What do BDSM and butcher’s twine have in common? Erm, hopefully nothing? Perusing the interwebs for some inspiration, I found a strange trend of porcine shibari that would turn many a dungeon master green with envy. While tying your meat is necessary in some instances like to keep pieces that want to wander off on their own together or in this case to bind irregularly shaped or overly narrow shapes to the main body so that your tenderloin maintains the same thickness and volume, thus ensuring even cooking, elaborately trussing it up in anticipation of a prolonged session with a cat o’ nine tails is probably overkill 😉

4 tbsp light soy sauce (I like Yamasa brand) **if cooking gluten-free look for 溜まり醤油 tamari soy sauce without wheat in the ingredients
4 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp maltose
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp 고추장 gochujang
2 tsp (3-4 cloves) crushed garlic
3 inches ginger, peeled and lightly smashed
2 anise stars
2 stalks green onion, lightly smashed
1 lb pork tenderloin
2 tsp canola or toasted sesame oil
Butcher’s twine


Combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, toasted sesame oil, maltose, honey, gochujang, garlic, ginger, anise stars, and green onion in a gallon-sized zip bag. Seal and squeeze to mix well.

Trim any fascia or gristle from tenderloin and lightly score in a hatch pattern to help the marinade soak in. If you have any thin trailing ends or loose little edges tie them with butcher’s twine to the main body so that the tenderloin has the same thickness throughout its length. No safe word necessary. (Sorry, I can’t help myself 😀 ) Seal tenderloin in marinade zip bag making sure to remove as much air as possible from the bag so that the marinade will be flush against the tenderloin and marinate in refrigerator for 6-12 hours.

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a large cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet with 2 tsp canola or sesame oil. Place tenderloin in skillet and roast till a meat thermometer registers 135F (the internal temp will continue to rise another 5F while the tenderloin is resting). With a 1 lb tenderloin and convection it takes me ~15 minutes. Allow tenderloin to rest for ~15-20 minutes on a cutting board while reducing your marinade.

Carefully strain marinade into hot skillet and discard solids. Reduce over med-hi heat till it has thickened to the consistency that you like. I like mine to resemble a thin ketchup which in this case reduced to half its original volume.

Remove butcher’s twine and cut tenderloin into thin ~1/4-1/2 inch slices. Drizzle with marinade. Serve with the carb or veggies of your choice (I served mine with yakisoba). Makes 4-6 servings.

About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)


  1. wow, damn delicious and finger licking good.
    btw, i just made a charsiu with 8 kilos of pork belly for my sister gathering party and it’ turn out really2 good!!!

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