Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Char Siu Chicken

Char Siu. In Hawaii, we all grew up eating this in so many ways. A few slices in your saimin, chopped up in fried rice, straight from the meat hook at the China Town roast pork and char siu man's stand, inside a manapua (char siu bao). I really have no idea what the correct pronunciation is of Char Siu. Growing up we all said, "Char Shoe." Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it?

For those of you that aren't in the know - char siu is the pork many Chinese restaurants use in their Roast Pork Fried Rice. It is red on the outside from the tons of food coloring that goes into it. In Hawaii and anywhere else there is a China Town, you can get Char Siu and Roast Pork by the pound. Here, 40 miles away from Chicago, good luck.

I never even thought of making Char Siu myself. Fortunately, our friends, C&C, that live about 30 minutes away from us and are also Hawaii born made this Char Siu Chicken for us once and we have been making it ever since.

Here's an interesting story, we met C&C at a Japanese restaurant in Naperville, IL about 11 years ago. We were waiting for our table and I saw this Japanese guy and his little girl walk up to get some mints at the front counter. My husband and I looked at each other. I said,"They're from Hawaii." My husband said, "Oh, because of his shirt." C was wearing a Crazy Shirt with a gecko on it. I said, "No, I heard him talk."

So, as C&C and their 5-year-old daughter E were leaving I said, "Eh, you from Hawaii?" We started with the usual questions: What high school did you got to and what year did you graduate? Where did you grow up? and so on. Of course, like every local person, you make connections. C went to high school with my cousin at Kaimuki High School. And, that was the start of a great friendship. In fact, they were in Hawaii this past New Year's Day and came to my grandpa's house in Manoa to join us for lunch. Crazy, small world, isn't it?

We are grateful that we met them. They are good friends, C loves beer as much as my husband, but the best part of having them for friends is we go the Char Siu recipe. Just kidding. After getting the recipe, I realized that I had the cookbook this recipe was in for years, but had never tried it. You can make this using pork also, but the chicken is great to throw on the grill. See how much I've lost my pidgin - I meant to say on the - hibachi.

We find that for the most ono results you need to soak the chicken for at least 2 days. I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs I get from Costco. I have also used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They are, as you would expect, a little drier, but still good. Oh, and if you want, you can always add red food coloring to make it look more Char Siu-y.

First make the sauce.

Place your chicken in a zip top bag, close it well, and place in a bowl just in case it leaks. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. (48 is best). Flip the bag every once in a while to make sure the sauce coats all the chicken well.

Grill until perfectly charred and caramelized. Serve up with some white rice and veggies. Grind!

Char Siu Sauce (from Taste of Aloha)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce (shoyu)
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/8 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. sherry
1 tbsp. Hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. red food coloring (optional)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Marinate meat 24-48 hours and grill. You may also bake your pork, chicken, or spareribs at 350 degrees. 1 hour for chicken and pork. 30 minutes for spareribs.

* I usually make a double recipe to soak my chicken. This ensures that each piece is well coated.


  1. mmmm...you are making me hungry even though I don't eat meat. Can't wait to make this for my hubby

  2. One of my best small kid time memories is going to the Chinatown fishmarket with my grandpa and getting a piece of char siu from Naka the butcher...you know, the guy with the pig head in the case. I love how none of this makes sense because Naka wasn't Chinese and char siu has nothing to do with fish. And that's what makes Hawaii so special!

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  4. If you want, you can also marinade tofu if you don't eat meat.
    Same great flavor.
    If you freeze, thaw, and drain your tofu - use hard or extra hard tofu, the marinade just gets sucked in.