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Fat Guy

Making Hong Kong-Style Roast Meats at Home

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I've been completely dissatisfied with the roast pork and related roasted meat items from the Chinese restaurants in my neighborhood, and I refuse to believe that my only choice is to get this stuff in Chinatown. In addition, given how cheap pork is in supermarkets it seems logical that I should be able to make pounds and pounds of the stuff for the price of one small portion in a restaurant. So what's the basic procedure for making, say, that nice red roast pork at home? What cut of pork is used, what do you need to do to it before cooking, and how do you cook it? Please assume zero knowledge on my part (always the case).

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Cocking an ear, here.....I can get it a relatively-local store (20 minute drive) but I agree...it's do-able.

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There's a recipe for Cantonese Roast Pork in The Chinese Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee (1972; Lippincott; ISBN unknown). This one calls for "lean loin of pork or other boneless cut." But I think that might make it too dry. The marinade looks pretty tasty, though.

The Hong Kong Cookbook by Arthur Lem and Dan Morris (1970, Funk & Wagnalls) uses boneless pork butt, and has a better method -- hanging the meat in the oven over a pan of water -- but the flavorings will probably NOT give you a superior product.

I've probably got more recipes in other books and in files; let me know if you want them.

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I'm interested in understanding the process, particularly what gives this type of pork its unique texture, crust, and sweetness.

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The Virginia Lee recipe has a multi-step coating process: first you marinate the meat in a mixture of alcohol (she uses bourbon, cognac, or rum, because at the time "the Chinese counterpart" -- shao hsing? -- was not available here), light soy sauce, sugar, 5-spice, and salt. Then before cooking it you coat it with a mixture of "red bean curd sauce," bean sauce, light soy, sugar and sesame paste. While it's cooking you brush it with dark soy. Finally, after it's cooked you dip-and-dry several times with light and dark soys, sugar, and corn syrup or honey. That explains the crust and sweetness.

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Sounds elaborate. I wonder if there is a minimalist approach that gets 99% of the result with 25% of the effort.

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Sounds elaborate. I wonder if there is a minimalist approach that gets 99% of the result with 25% of the effort.

Ken Hom has a fairly simple recipe in his book, Easy Family Recipes from a Chinese-American Childhood.

He cuts boned pork shoulder into strips about 1" wide, and makes shallow diagonal cuts into the meat for the marinade to penetrate. The pork is marinated overnight in a mixture of salt, black pepper, 5 spice powder, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, hoisin sauce, bean sauce and sugar and then roasted on a rack over a pan filled with a little water in a fairly hot oven, basting to start. After 30 minutes you turn the heat down to medium, and baste again with a little honey and the rest of the marinade, and roast again for another 30 minutes or so.

Other recipes I've seen coat the pork with honey after marinating it and then broil it on a rack over a pan filled with a little water, for about 10 minutes per side, basting halfway through. Some recipes use pork loin, but I think shoulder is probably better, being juicier. Another recipe uses gin or Mei Kuei Lu Chiew instead of the Shaoxing wine, and also adds oyster sauce, and a little red preserved bean curd (comes in jars) to the marinade.

Apparently the barbecued pork (char siu) hanging in the windows is colored with red vegetable dye.

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i think my mum uses either shoulder or leg for char siu at home... marinades it in bbq (hoison?) sauce and other goodies. not loin - it would be too lean.

for some of the other ones I suspect oven temp is also an issue - domestic ovens just don't get hot enough.


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The choice of spices is flexible -- any combination of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, licorice, nutmeg and Sichuan peppercorns, but star anise and cinnamon are pretty much always included.

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It should probably be called "choose any five out of eight spice powder" then.

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Well, I just read that you can go into a Chinese herb shop and ask the herbalist for a package of 5-spice seasoning made up to your specs.

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That's sort of like how at the Imperial Herbal Restaurant in Singapore we had to be examined by the herbalist before we ordered our meal so that he could prescribe the appropriate spices and dishes for us. Which reminds me I still have a prescription I need to get filled.

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It was just normal Chinese food. The herbs and dish choices didn't really seem to make a difference. There were some people being served things like deer-penis soup (including Westerners, so it wasn't a discrimination thing), but I guess our requirements were less elaborate.

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It should probably be called "choose any five out of eight spice powder" then.

The "5-spice" we made at Match (Gary Robins) had 7 components: Star anise, fennel seed, cinnamon, coriander, black peppercorns, allspice, and cloves. If you buy pre-made, Vann's is pretty good, but quite different: ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, pepper, thyme, and star anise.

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Mai Leung has a nice recipe in Dim Sum and Other Chinese Street Food (called The Chinese People's Cookbook in hardcover, probably now out of print). She marinates, then puts the pork strips on skewers right on the oven rack over a water-filled roasting pan, roasts at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, turns heat down to 450 for 15 minutes, and then brushes the pork strips with a simple glaze of honey, thin soy and sesame oil, and returns pork to oven for 1 minute.

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Does Ed or any of the other newer eGulleters, have any experiences making Cantonese roast pork, & want to comment about it on this thread?



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