Chinese BBQ Pork (Char Siu)

Do you remember, or have you ever seen the old Clapper commercials? They had that catchy little song; now I sing it, “mask on, mask off, mask on, mask off, we’re maskers!” The point is nowadays when you want to go out to a restaurant or grocery store, or anywhere for that matter, we have a whole new set of rules to follow. Granted, this also depends on where you live, but you get the gist of it.

What brought on this mini-rant, you ask? I wanted some Chinese bbq pork badly, and all the restaurants have earlier closing times, food delivery services have long wait times, and I might not have had enough caffeine that day. In my frustration, I ran to my laptop and searched for a recipe instead of using the usual Sunday Dinner resources. The first one that I found was from All Recipes; it looked easy enough, done! 

For this yummy homemade version of Char Sui Pork, you will need soy sauce, honey, ketchup, brown sugar, rice wine, hoisin sauce, red food coloring, or red bean curd, and Chinese five-spice powder. We read, in another recipe, that it is best to use Shoyu Soy Sauce, which is a Japanese style soy sauce. This soy sauce has only four ingredients and is excellent for cooking, where Chinese soy sauces have 11-12 ingredients. We also mistakenly grabbed Vietnamese five-spice powder at the grocery store; it was the only five-spice powder that was available. We could not find red bean curd at any store that we went to we settled for the food coloring. FUN FACT! Don’t let the store clerks fool you into thinking that rice wine is sake. The cooking rice wine is labeled, sweet cooking rice seasoning you are looking for Aji-Mirin by Kikkoman. You can usually find this in your local supermarket in the ethnic foods aisle; it is also available at Target and Walmart. 

I’d like to give the author of the recipe a shout out for nailing the flavors, David & Andrea whoever you are, AMAZING! I did as per usual, change the method a bit, the recipe called for pork tenderloin, we used boneless pork shoulder country style ribs. The choice of meat altered the cooking time and caused a little fuss in the kitchen; I didn’t grill them long enough and only realized this after slicing them. I had to sear them in a small skillet to finish them off, but they turned out great. The ribs were juicy, had little bits of char, and tasted just like a Chinese restaurant. Since the ribs were fatty it was almost like eating bits of pork belly! We had the Char Siu Pork over sticky white rice in bowls. 

How we served the Char Siu.

Is it a surprise if I tell you that we forgot to marinate overnight? It’s not that we forgot, we were defrosting the pork so we couldn’t marinate overnight. Whoopsie! We did marinate the pork ribs all day; we made the sauce at around 10:30 am and let the pork bathe itself in the deep red deliciousness for 7 hours. The instructions say to marinate anywhere from 2 to 24 hours. We had leftovers so three days later I made pork fried rice, it was amazing, two meals out of one! We LOVE when that happens!    

This recipe is straightforward and does not require a tremendous amount of effort. You make the sauce; you marinate the pork, you grill the ribs, you slice them, then you eat them. What we learned from this recipe: to start setting reminders in our phones when we pick the recipes, to look up where we can find ingredients ahead of time, double-check cooking times, and the most crucial lesson why eat out when you can cook at home wait…it’s so you don’t have to do the cleaning! 

Next week we’re reusing our ciabatta baking skills. We’ve also uploaded our first episode of Conversations About Food Over Food, where we eat and talk about all our favorites, in this episode we talk instant ramen. Just like with our recipes, we promise they will get better over time. You can find us on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, and Anchor.

Until next time, happy eating! 

David and Andrea’s All Recipes Char Siu Pork


Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 4 large pork shoulder country style ribs (boneless)
  • 1/2 cup Shoyu soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Mirin (rice wine)
  • 2 TBS hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tsp red food coloring or 2 TBS red bean curd
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (we used Vietnamese five-spice powder)

Original recipe calls for 2 pork tenderloins and has different grilling instructions.


  • Stir soy sauce, honey, ketchup, brown sugar, Mirin, hoisin sauce, red food coloring or red bean curd, and five-spice powder together in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Cook and stir until just combined and slightly warm, 2 to 3 minutes. We had to whisk it because the sugar and five-spice was clumping. We let it cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on medium heat. You know your stove, do what feels right.
  • First we poured the marinade into a bowl and rolled the ribs around the marinade. Next, pour the marinade into a bag with the ribs, squeeze the air from the bag, and seal. Turn bag a few times to coat all pork pieces in marinade.
  • Put bag in refrigerator and let marinate at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.
  • Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.
  • Remove ribs from marinade and shake to remove excess liquid.
  • Cook on the grill until the ribs reach an internal temperature of 145° (safe temp) or longer if you want them to be really tender. If so, shoot for at least 170° (minimum tenderness)

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