I love Char Siu or Chinese Barbecued Pork, but I don't like paying the high price that they usually charge at the Asian markets. Plus, I don't really want to eat the food coloring they often put in their sauce. So, I usually just make my own. Actually I make two different kinds - one contains Hoisin Sauce with honey and the other one is made with soy sauce and ketchup - yes ketchup! The inspiration for this recipe comes from a Hawaiian friend whose mother created a ketchup based sauce to use when cooking spareribs and I watched him carefully when he was making it. It was so good that I was inspired to create my own. It's less sweet than the Hawaiian version and I added garlic and green onions to give it more Chinese flavor and I use a lot more soy sauce - actually Tamari. This is my son's favorite BBQ sauce and the really good thing about it is that it naturally colors the meat (or tofu) a little pink so that the Char Siu looks authentic. It's fantastic on pork, but I have even used it to marinate and bake tofu.
When using pork, I usually buy country style pork ribs that are very meaty. I think meat cooked on the bone is more tender or I will buy a pork roast that is not too lean and cut into 4 long pieces to marinate and then roast in the oven. Of course, you can barbecue the meat as well, but you will have to be careful and turn it often as the sauce might burn. In the oven, the sugar caramelizes and gives the meat a barbecue-like brown bark on the edges. I cook the meat long and slow at fairly low heat (325 degrees). The ribs take at least one hour and usually a bit longer - about 1 1/2 hours. You want the meat falling off the bone.
This sauce is also good with pork chops and I have used it with a pork tenderloin but I personally find that cut of meat a bit too dry. If you are using it with tofu, buy the Firm Chinese kind that you cut in half so that you have two tofu steaks. I haven't tried it with chicken, but I don't see why it wouldn't also be good although I would use it with bone-in thighs instead of breasts.
I always cook a lot of Char Siu as the leftovers are my favorite part! The pork can be cut up and used in many stir fry dishes and is especially good in fried rice and I use it chopped up (with some of the sauce) to fill Chinese Barbecue Pork buns or Char Siu Bao. It's soooo good!
Chinese Barbecue Sauce
1 inch chunk of ginger root
1 large clove of garlic
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup Rice Wine
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Ketchup
2 green onions, cut into small pieces
Peel and then mince garlic and ginger root. Combine with green onions, sugar, Rice Wine, soy sauce and ketchup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Use as a marinade for either 2 - 3 hours or overnight. The longer you marinate the meat (or tofu) before you cook it, the better it tastes.
Five Element Analysis
The major two components of this sauce are Ketchup, which is primarily a Fire Food and Soy Sauce or Tamari, both of which are a Water food so those two elements are covered. The Rice wine adds even more Fire. The garlic and green onions contribute the Metal Element and the sugar and ginger bring in the Earth Element. If you use this as a marinade for pork, you are adding more Water and if you use tofu, the Metal Element is enhanced. Only the Wood Element is missing so make sure to serve your pork or tofu with sauteed green vegetables to create a balanced meal.