Char siu (Chinese BBQ Pork or roasted pork) is delicious on its own and makes a great filling for Chinese steamed buns. This Instant Pot version uses a combination of the pressure cooker and oven to make the pork tender and give it that trademark sticky-sweet glaze.
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Take a walk through Chinatown and you’ll see this type of pork—bright red and glistening with fatty goodness--hanging in the windows of all the barbecue places. With its bright red color, you can’t miss it.
It is succulent, tender, sweet, and savory and can be made with pork belly, pork shoulder or butt, or pork loin. Whichever cut you use, it can be thinly sliced and served over rice. Or toss it in a sweet-savory hoisin-based sauce and use it as a filling for steamed buns or Char Siu Bao.
Traditionally, the red color of the pork comes from red fermented bean curd or tofu, but many cooks use red food coloring instead. Fermented tofu is sold in jars and you can find it in Chinese or Asian markets or order it online.
The fermented tofu can be tricky to find unless you have a Chinese or Asian market, so I’ve included both options in my recipe.
How to make char siu pork
This char siu recipe is easy to make. Most of the time required is just marinating time.
- Mix up the marinade ingredients (or use char siu sauce) and marinate the pork, ideally overnight.
- Pressure cook the pork using the reserved marinade as the liquid until it is tender. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can braise the meat on the stovetop.
- Brush a soy sauce and honey glaze on the pork and bake it in the oven until the glaze is sticky and blackened in places.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.
What is char siu sauce?
Char siu sauce is used to marinate the pork. It is a savory-sweet Cantonese barbecue sauce that is usually made by combining hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine (or another cooking wine), five-spice powder, and often molasses and/or maltose.
The red color of the barbecued pork usually comes from red food coloring or from the ingredients in the marinade, especially red fermented bean curd. Note that the pork in the photos was cooked with red food coloring. If you use fermented bean curd, you will get more of a reddish-brown color.
How to serve this bbq pork
For a simple meal, serve it sliced over steamed white rice with sautéed or steamed vegetables like broccoli, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), or bok choy.
You can also use it to fill Chinese steamed buns or char siu bao, toss it with stir-fried noodles, or use it to make pork fried rice.
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For the pork
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cubes red fermented tofu, mashed, plus 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the jar (optional, see note)
- ¾ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 ½ pounds boneless pork butt
For the glaze
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- In a large bowl, combine the honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce,
sesame oil, garlic, fermented tofu, if using, and five-spice and stir to mix.
- Add the pork and turn a few times to coat all sides well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Pour the marinade into the Instant Pot and then put the trivet in. Place the pork on top of the trivet.
- Close the pot and turn the valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 35 minutes.
- Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then quick release the remaining pressure.
- Remove the pork from the pressure cooker.
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack on top. Put the pork on top of the rack.
- To make the glaze, in a small bowl, stir together the soy
sauce and honey. Brush the mixture on the pork.
- Cook the pork in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the pork over, brush more of the glaze on it, and cook for another 4 minutes or so.
- Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before slicing.
If you don't want to use fermented tofu, you can color the marinade with a few drops of red gel food coloring. Or you can try using other more natural coloring methods like adding cherry or beet juice.