Recipe – Char Siu Pork Fillet

Barbecued Char Siu is one of the great recipes of Cantonese cuisine. Char Siu means ‘fork roasted’. Char Siu is sometimes referred to as Chinese BBQ Pork. Traditionally cuts of pork are roasted over a fire or in an oven on long forks. It’s a great way to liven up pork, especially fillet (also called tenderloin). Char Siu leftovers can be used in fried rice or other dishes.

This recipe creates Char Siu pork that is exactly like that from a takeaway. It is a very simple way to cook Pork on the barbecue. It relies more on the right ingredients than on complicated cooking, and a good quality piece of pork. I recommend leaving at least 24 hours for the pork to marinade, and the cook itself takes about 45 minutes.

You must be careful when using pork fillet to not let it dry out on the barbecue by overcooking it. You can use fattier cuts such as pork shoulder as an alternative.

The Recipe

Most of these ingredients are simple to find, or will be in the cupboard for anyone that cooks Chinese style food from time to time.

I have elected to use red food colouring – usually something I’m against. I prefer to let the natural colours of the ingredients come through. Here there isn’t much difference in colour and it closely replicates the classic takeaway. Some recipes suggest red bean curd as an alternative.


  • Marinade
  • Mix all of the ingredients together and stir well to combine.
  • Add the marinade to a bowl and add the pork fillet.
  • Let the pork marinade for a minimum of 24 hours, turning occasionally to make sure the pork is equally covered.
  • Pork
  • Remove the Pork from the marinade and place on the barbecue.
  • Add the remaining marinade into a saucepan, and reduce until it is very thick.
  • Brush the Pork with the marinade from time to time as it cooks.

Coverage of the marinade is key to this recipe. The marinade will create the red colouring around the pork that you’d expect from a takeaway. Without proper coverage of the marinade you’ll have uncoloured spots when the meat is cooked.

I find that marinading in a ziplock bag is more effective than a bowl. It keeps the marinade closer to the meat and makes it easier to get a better coverage.

The Cook

This is a simple recipe to make, relying more on the right ingredients than on complicated cooking. I use a direct two zone approach, or the equivalent in a Kamado style barbecue with the deflectors in place. It’s important to use a drip tray as the sugars in the marinade will burn, and are a pain to clean.

The Pork is cooked at an internal temperature of 75C. Interestingly the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a lower safe temperature for pork of 62C (with resting time). This takes roughly 45 minutes but as always – cook to temperature not time. Pork fillet can dry out easily as it contains little fat. Take that into account and take the pork off to rest at around 70C. It will carry over to the correct temperature.

You’ll want to see some char on the outside of the pork, as this adds to the flavour. I remove the pork from the grill just before it hits this temperature and wrap lightly in foil. Rest the pork for at least a few minutes before serving.

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