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Six of the best char siu restaurants in Hong Kong

Char siu - or barbecue pork - is a favourite among Hong Kong foodies, but there’s more to the dish than you might imagine. Bernice Chan and Vanessa Yung found six of the best in the city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2015, 1:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2016, 4:58pm

Char siu is one of the most popular – and ubiquitous –  classic Cantonese dishes. Some like the glossy, salty-sweet roast pork to be soft throughout, while others prefer an exterior with crunchy char to contrast with the tender meat. We polled friends, family and food lovers to find their favourite char siu, getting a mix of high-end and inexpensive places. Here are six of our favourites.

Most tender

Everyone who visits Tin Lung Heen at The Ritz-Carlton knows that one of the must-order dishes is the barbecued Spanish Iberico pork (HK$308). Chinese executive chef Paul Lau Ping-lui says he uses the shoulder because it’s the most tender part of the pig.

To make the marinade, Lau mixes eggs with sugar and salt, then adds diced shallots and ginger. The pork is  marinated for 30 minutes  and cornstarch is added before it is roasted at a high temperature of 280 degrees Celsius for about eight to 10 minutes to seal in the juices, then the temperature is lowered to 100 degrees for another 10 minutes.

When the char siu is almost done, a mixture of honey and sugar is brushed onto the meat and it’s roasted again at a high temperature for four to five minutes.

We were impressed by how tender the meat was, owing to its marbling. One serving has eight thick  slices. Surprisingly, however, the flavour wasn’t very meaty.

Tin Lung Heen, 102/F The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2263 2270

See also: Top five roast goose restaurants in Hong Kong

Sweetest

If you love your char siu soft and sweet, Mott 32 is your go-to. Chef Leung Ka-wo says he uses Iberico pork because the meat is so soft there’s no need for tenderisers, which are often used at places that serve cheaper meats.

Leung marinates the meat for 30 minutes at most, saying that any longer will toughen  the meat fibres. While you can find most of the usual suspects in the marinade, Leung mixes in a house-made hoisin sauce, and adds coriander, instead of wine, to get rid of any gamey flavours the pork might have.

 The 40-minute cooking time includes temperature adjustments and two honey glaze coatings, giving the barbecued prime Iberico pork (HK$295) a nice char with some crispy bits. The pork has an appealing sweetness, thanks to the generous use of Yellow Mountain honey.

Mott 32, basement, Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2885 8688 

Best balanced

Tsui Hang Village is well-known for its char siu and offers different versions of the dish.  One  called “yin yang” consists of honey glazed barbecue pork with honey glazed Japanese pork (HK$188). The former is made with pork from Shandong or Sichuan, the other is Japanese and has more fat, although the cooking methods are the same.

The meats are marinated in pork lard, garlic and Chinese wine for two hours and then roasted for about 45 minutes, although that’s about all chef Mok Ming  was willing to reveal.

 Whatever the secret, we were impressed by the Chinese pork, which is slightly crisp on the surface, with a  tender but meaty texture and flavour.  

A plate of the honey-glazed barbecue pork is HK$128, or for individual servings, there’s the steamed rice with barbecue pork served with choi sum and salted egg at HK$158.

Tsui Hang Village, L5, FoodLoft, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2376 2882 (Other locations)

Strongest meat flavour

Lin Heung Kui may not be as old as its sister restaurant on Wellington Street, but the six-year-old venue has plenty of Cantonese classics on offer. In addition to other must-haves, such as pork liver siu mai, lotus seed bun and ma lai go (steamed sponge cake), there’s the rustic char siu (HK$80) prepared by the roasted meat sifu, who has 40 years of experience.

For the char siu it uses fresh pork (never frozen) sourced daily from Guangdong. Light soy sauce, chu hou paste and hoisin sauce are important ingredients in the marinade, but what elevates the dish is a good splash of premium Tianjin-imported mei kuei lu chiew, or Chinese rose wine.

The presentation of the dish may not be the most elegant – the meat is chopped into irregular chunks and plated causally – but it is satisfying. Each slice has a nice distribution of lean meat and fat, and the burned bits add crunch. The peanuts on the bottom of the plate, which become soaked with the meat juices, are another highlight.

Lin Heung Kui, 2/F-3/F, 46-50 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2156 9328

Best char

Also well known for its barbecue pork with honey sauce (HK$108) is Pearl Delight in Sha Tin. The pork comes from Sichuan, and  only pork shoulder and collar butt is used to ensure the tenderest and most flavourful meat.

Consultant chef Kwok Kam-man is coy about the marinade, saying only that he uses salt, sugar and some “secret” ingredients, including herbs, to bring out the flavour of the pork, which is marinated for 30 to 45 minutes.

His secret for roasting the char siu is to wrap the fattier parts with the leaner ones so that the fat is absorbed by the latter and enhances the flavour.

The  result is a wonderful char on the surface, which gives the meat a smoky flavour. The char siu is also thick-cut to retain its moisture.

Pearl Delight, shop 127, Phase 1, New Town Plaza, Sha Tin, tel: 2681 2200

And the winner is ...

The moment we took our first bite of Island Tang’s honey-glazed barbecued pork (HK$218), we knew we’d found the winner. The coin-shaped, bite-sized pieces of pork tick all the boxes – tender, full of flavour and delicately marinated. Our chopsticks kept reaching for more.

Like most  of the restaurants we tried, it uses pork collar butt to make the char siu. But rather than using the whole chunk of meat, executive chef Li Cheung removes any excess tendon and fat so that every bite has the same pleasant texture. Because of its circular shape, it takes an hour to marinade the meat, plus some laborious rubbing and patting, for the seasonings to soak in. The meat is roasted slowly, for 60 to 70 minutes, to prevent it from drying out.

The char siu is cooked in two batches – for lunch and dinner. If there is any left over from lunch, it is used to make the restaurant’s popular dim sum item, baked pineapple char siu buns.

Island Tang, shop 222, The Galleria, 9 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2526 8798