Char Siu, the Cantonese version of BBQ pork. You know, those lines of roast pork hanging by the window of some of the restaurants in Chinatown. Char siu is such a stable and comfort food to me growing up. It's like fast food in a way because it can be served so quickly as inexpensive take-out. It's tender, sweet, savory, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. My mouth is watering just thinking of freshly made and sliced char siu on a bed of warm jasmine rice with some extra sweet soy sauce. So when I thought about making pulled pork, I automatically thought about char siu and that sweet and savory sauce.
So what do you do when you can't smoke a pork butt or pork shoulder? You dig out your slow cooker! It's really too bad that I don't own a grill big enough or even have the outdoor space to cook the pulled pork properly, and give it the smokey flavor that I love. But hey, I learned how to do it in a slow cooker so that's pretty good.
For the sauce, I looked at Bee's char siu sauce over at Rasa Malaysia, and adjusted her recipe a bit to my liking. My blogger friend Yi also has a recipe he posted on Yi Reservation. In general, here's what it takes... maltose, honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Chinese rose wine, white pepper powder, five-spice powder, and sesame oil. Maltose is malt sugar, and you can find it in most Asian markets. I've never cooked with maltose before, and learned that it needs to be heated lightly so it's easier to handle. Otherwise, it just sits like a rock.
And once it cools, it goes back to being a rock again..
Here are 2 big pieces of pork butt being seared. I was gonna go for the pork shoulder but the butcher actually didn't have any so I went with the butt instead which is still a good hunk of meat for making pulled pork. Sometimes the shoulder comes with the skin, and the fat from it adds more flavor to the meat and could also make it less dry. I've also heard of pulled pork made from pork belly. So really depends of what you like, the pork butt is quite typical.
After browning the meats, coat them with the char siu sauce generously while they're still in the pan. Then transfer them in the slow cooker, on a bed of raw onion. Pour some more sauce on top (whatever is left on the pan). Turn it on high and let it do its thing for the next 4 hours!
Here's what it looks like about half way. Using a pair of tongs, flip the meats over and brush on some more sauce.
Here's what it looks like when it's closer to the 4-hour mark. The meat should be very tender at this point and already start to fall apart. I ended up leaving it cooking for another hour simply because it wasn't dinner time just yet.
HERE'S THE MAGIC. Get ready to pull!
If you want to get down and dirty, wash your hands and feel the tenderness of the meat by pulling my hands or just use a pair of forks!
Sauce it! Now, don't go too crazy. Taste, taste, TASTE as you go. I like to add some of the sauce that was left in the slow cooker as well as some of the char siu sauce as I'm mixing.
I can't have pulled pork without pickles. I just cannot. What's the icing on the cake is that I have some pickled daikons that I made last weekend! So that was a total no-brainer to throw some of that on the sandwiches.
The meat is so flavorful and tender while the pickles and daikon gives you that crunchiness. It's a win-win!
Chinese Char Siu Style Pulled Pork
Serves: 14-16 sandwiches
- 2 1/2 – 3 lbs pork butt/shoulder
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, slice into rings
- 14-16 hamburger buns
- Some pickles (and homemade pickled daikons)
- 4 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp maltose
- 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp Chinese rose wine (玫瑰露)
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp freshly minced ginger or ground ginger powder
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tsp white pepper powder
Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the sliced onion rings. Mix the sauce together in a sauce pan over very low heat. (Note: heat the maltose slightly in a microwave for easier handling.)
Season the pork with salt and pepper, then sear on medium-high heat with some oil untill all sides are brown.
While the meats are still in the pan, coat them with half of the sauce. Then transfer them into the slow cooker on top of the raw onion. Pour the rest of the sauce that in the searing pan in the slow cooker.
Turn the slow cooker on high heat and let it cook for 4 hours.
About half way through, flip the meats and coat them with more sauce.
After 4 hours, the pork should be very tender, and already falling apart when removing them onto the chopping board. Let it cool for a few minutes.
Start pulling the meat with a pair of forks or a pair of clean hands!
Sauce, taste, sauce, taste as you‘re mixing the meat and the sauce. (Whatever is left in the slow cooker is still good to use!)
Finally, toast some buns and have your pickles ready – it‘s chow time!