Monday, 21 July 2014

Char: One of a kind Char Siew!

Char Siew
Sio Bak
Claypot Roast Pork Bean Curd

Char Siew is not easy to define. When you see it, you know it. But if I were to try to describe it in terms of its attributes, it would not be so easy. It's most basic description might be that of sweet strips of pork that is sliced crosswise and served. That is just about the only common feature of the myriad versions of Char Siew available. It can can be made in a charcoal oven or a wok. It can be boiled or roasted. It can be fat or lean. It can be from any part of the pig from belly to butt. It can be sticky sweet or dry. It's colour can range from bright red to dark brown. As such there is no single classic recipe for Char Siew. The only ingredient that is present in all forms of Char Siew is sugar. You don't even need the pig, some people even make Chicken Char Siew. The rest of the ingredients can be a permutation of hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, fermented bean paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, fermented bean curd, salt, rice wine, rose wine, HP sauce, 5 spice powder and the list goes on.

Why the lengthy pre-amble? Well, I just wanted to pre-empt those of you who might argue that the Char Siew served at Char isn't really Char Siew but roasted Kong Bak. (Braised pork) In Singapore, most Char Siew is quick roasted in a Charcoal oven such that the meat retains some springiness and the fat is still bouncy. The Char Siew here is not like that at all. It is made from pork belly which has undergone 4 different cooking processes over 2 days to transform the fat into the texture of bone marrow fat that is sandwiched between layers of tender meat and encased in a charred, treacly sweet sauce.

It's reminiscent of the Char Siew I had at Overseas Restaurant in KL execept that it is even softer. If you don't like fatty Char Siew, then don't waste your time and money going to Char because half of it will be left on the plate. But if you love the unctuous, smokiness of charred fat, then you'd be in Char Siew paradise!