These last few weeks have been a bit of a drain on me if I am being completely honest. Sure I had a few shifts which were long and more tiring than usual, but it doesn’t explain why I have been feeling so out of it. It’s more likely a combination of my postponed trip and not taking enough breaks in between (I was saving days to see the fam in Feb!). What has been really weird though, is since October when I made those plans, I have been absolutely positively craving Chicken and Char Siu Rice.
Every decent hawker centre in Malaysia will have a Chicken Rice Stall which sells Hainanese Chicken Rice with the option of Roasted Chicken and Char Siu (sweet bbq pork, unless it’s Halal of course). My favourite combination is to get a plate of Roasted Chicken and Char Siu. It is served with a bowl of soup, rice that is so flavourful you can eat it on its own, chill sauce, a bit of the sweet char siu sauce and sometimes a side of bean sprouts. It is one of those dishes that really is quite simple, on the mild side spice wise and yet as my friend Soupy put it – ” is the ultimate comfort food!”. And while it is not something I would necessary crave on a regular basis or hype up, it has been on my mind constantly these last few weeks and since Dan is wanting Char Siu Bao’s, I decided Char Siu Rice was exactly what we are having.
Char Siu in all honestly is not difficult to make, it just needs to marinade overnight and the next day you just stick it in the oven (or on the barbecue!) with a break in between for a bit of a glazing of course! This is a recipe has been tweaked a number of times to get it just right and is something I am quite proud of as the first time my mum and I made it a few years ago – it didn’t quite hit the spot.
Now which part of the little piggy should we use? This really is a matter of preference. I have made it with both pork shoulder and belly, and genuinely prefer the belly as I feel it is easier to work with. The tough part is getting the right cut and ratio of meat : fat (50:50 or 60:40). If possible try to get thicker cuts pork belly if you can, width wise – aim for about 5cm diameter and 3cm height. I managed to find some decent pork belly at Waitrose that kind of fit this criteria, though I have also made it with pork belly strips that I bought in Tesco which were far thinner (see photo). The only difference of course is the cooking time and it is a bit thinner, cause it shrinks as it cooks. Either way it tastes great. Also, don’t forget to remove the skin.
Another thing I do for my rice in this dish is use goose fat. Why? Because I can get it in a jar easily from the shop and don’t have to scrape bits of fat together for a recipe. And yes, it is not the most authentic but the rice still tastes great and is a lot easier, especially when I am not making Hainanese Chicken Rice.
I know this recipe is pretty long, but the rice and the accompanying chilli sauce is just as vital to the completion of this meal. So I have included it together as one post.
As always I love to hear from all of you – so do let me know if you give this recipe a go!
* For additional notes at the bottom
CHAR SIU RECIPE
(The linked video is for 1kg of meat, so double the amount)
500gm pork belly
2 pieces of fermented red bean curd (2.5cm squares) * can be omitted see note
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce (light)
2 tablespoons thick caramel sauce (caramel cooking sauce, kecap manis is a lot sweeter)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp Chinese Five spice powder
2-3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and give it a good mix. Then add pork. belly (remove skin) to it and let it marinade overnight.
2. The next day let the meat come to room temperature, while the oven preheats to 200 degrees Celcius.
3. Place the char siu on a roasting rack in a roasting tin. You can place it directly on a pan but it tends to become quite fatty and sticky, so I don’t recommend that. *
4. Roast for 15 minutes, before taking it out and basting it with more char siu sauce.
5. In five minutes, remove again flip over and baste the other side with the char siu sauce.
6. Then put back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes, till you get the nice charred sides and it is done.*
7. Now with the remaining char siu sauce, pop it in a pan and bring to a simmer. It is basically done. If you find that it is a little too thick or want a little more flavour, add a little bit of pork fat (if you collected the drippings) or some chicken stock to it and let it come to a boil. Adjust to your liking and serve drizzled over the char siu and rice.
CHICKEN RICE – RICE
2 cups of rice – approx 400gm rice
2 tablespoons of goose fat (preferably pork fat/chicken fat but I never have any on standby!)
6 – 8 cloves of garlic
1 – 1.5 inch ginger
250ml Chicken stock
Top up the rest with water (I use the very precise finger measuring method of – up to your first Distal Interphalangeal Joint from the top of the rice, but you can use 1 cup water to 2 cups rice too)
Additional flavours (I have tried this before and change it up when I feel like it)
– 2 sprigs of Pandan Leaves
– 2 whole Spring Onions
1. Cut the ginger into a few large pieces and chop the garlic into big rough pieces.
2. Then fry them in goose fat till they are brown.
3. Add the rice to this and give it a good stir, then add the chicken stock. If you want to add pandan leaves or spring onions – do that now.
4. Bring to a boil and then drop the heat immediately to low heat and cover till rice is cooked or stick it in a rice cooker.
CHILLI SAUCE RECIPE for CHICKEN/CHAR SIU RICE
4 Red Chillies – (Mild – Medium heat)
1 – 2 birds eyes chillies (adjust accordingly)
1 – 1.5 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons of lime juice
6 cloves of garlic
1cm X 5cm piece of ginger
100ml chicken stock (6 – 8 tablespoons of chicken stock)
1. Pop all in a blender and blend till smooth. Serve!
For the chilli sauce, this is the rough guide of how I make it. If you are not sure about how strong your chillies are, skip the birds eye chillies altogether. If you would like your sauce a little runnier, add a few more tablespoons of chicken stock to it until you get the consistency you want. Sometimes I even add a little more garlic, ginger, lime juice and sugar. Basically what I am getting at is – have fun with it, taste and tweak as you go.
1. The fermented red bean curd can be found in most Asian supermarkets and I usually get the Wang ZhiHe brand. You can omit it from the recipe – I have made it without but it does an additional depth of flavour so if you can find it. Get it!
2. I sometimes line the roasting pan with some foil, so I can mop up all the juices for the char siu sauce but this is not strictly necessary as the sauce is pretty indulgent already! Also I add a little bit of water at the bottom as the char siu sauce tends to burn when it collects and it is bit of a pain.
3. For the last 5 minutes of roasting, depending on your oven you can increase the heat to about 220 degrees Celcius so it gets that nice charred burnt caramel bits on the end. This is a must for Char Siew.
3. I have never made this recipe with Maltose – which is what they use in a lot of the hawker stalls. Honey is just easier to get and I use it for other things too.