Gochujang Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
Gochujang char siu is roast pork belly with a unique fusion of Chinese and Korean flavors. It is sticky and sweet from the sugar and honey, smoky from the aromatic Chinese spices, and subtly spicy from the Korean gochujang.
Char Siu Marinade
Most recipes include five-spice powder, a Chinese spice blend that’s supposed to have five tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and hot). It’s usually made from a combination of cinnamon, fennel, star anise, and cloves. For the most part, the fifth “hot” ingredient is white pepper or Sichuan peppercorn. I use a five-spice powder with white pepper.
Molasses and white sugar are also commonly added to the char siu marinade. I, however, use dark brown sugar which is made with white sugar and molasses.
I also use mirin (Japanese rice wine) in my recipe instead of the usual Chinese Shaoxing wine.
Char siu has a signature red tint that is usually made with red food coloring. I like sticking to all-natural ingredients and decided to add some red color by using gochujang, a Korean red pepper paste. The gochujang also adds a subtle kick of spice. I have seen a couple of other recipes use fermented red bean curd to get the red char siu color.
Most of the char siu recipes use pork shoulder. However, I like to use pork belly and serve it like pork belly in Korean cuisine (삼겹살, samgyupsal).
Samgyupsal is typically grilled (삼겹살 구이, samgyupsal gui) or boiled (보쌈, bossam), and served with vegetable wrap (쌈, ssam) ingredients. Ssam usually consists of lettuce, perilla leaves, sliced fresh garlic, and ssamjang (a paste made with gochujang and doenjang). While samgyupsal is not seasoned, I find that this gochujang char siu is unique with its different flavors and spices, and delicious with ssam. The char siu marinade also helps reduce the gamey pork flavor that often makes me shy away from eating samgyupsal ssam.
More traditionally, char siu is served with steamed white rice, noodles, or buns. Making these gochujang char siu wraps or ssam is my own idea that I hope you would also enjoy.
Char Siu Cooking Tips
- Marinate the pork belly overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
- A metal rack is often used to roast char siu. It allows the pork to roast more evenly and the water in the pan below catches any drippings that would otherwise burn. However, the 30 minute cook time for this particular recipe is fine and the drippings from the pork belly (a fattier cut than the usual and leaner pork shoulder for char siu) help prevent any significant burning of the marinade.
- Brush the pork belly with more of the reserved marinade after the 30 minute cook time and let it broil for a couple minutes or so to get some delicious char and cararmelization.
- You should let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving. This will allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat instead of flowing out if you cut too early.
- Drizzle more of the reserved marinade over the sliced char siu to get more flavor.
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Mise en place
If you make this Gochujang Char Siu, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag me on Instagram!
Gochujang Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- 1 lb pork belly about two 2×6" slices
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp five spice
- 2 tsp garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
Ssam ingredients (optional)
- perilla leaves
- garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- rice, cooked
- Mix the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Add about 4 tbsp of the marinade to the pork belly (or enough to thinly coat the pork belly).
- Let it marinate in the fridge overnight or for at least 8 hours. Store the reserved marinade in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the marinated pork belly in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil and roast one side for 15 minutes. Flip it over and roast the other side for another 15 minutes.
- Brush the pork belly with the reserved marinade and let it broil for a couple minutes or until there is a nice char.
- Flip it over and repeat the previous step.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- (Optional) Drizzle more of the reserved marinade over the sliced char siu for more flavor.
- (Optional) Serve with ssam ingredients.