I think my family must be sick of hearing about this book now, but “The Banh Mi Handbook” by Andrea Nguyen has been the source of MANY meals since I received my copy about 6 weeks ago. The first recipe I tried was Classic Chicken, and I’ve been hooked since. I have made several batches of her quick pickled daikon and carrots, which are used to top all of my banh mi sandwiches. Luckily, you can find the recipe here. But the recipe that I’m obsessing over right now is her Chinese Barbecue Pork, also known as char siu.
I have always loved those delicious thin strips of BBQ pork found in various dishes when we get take-out Chinese food, but I never thought to order char siu by itself. Sure, “fat is flavor,” but my preference has always been towards leaner meats. Bacon being an obvious exception. I never though to make it myself until I was introduced to “The Banh Mi Handbook” through Nguyen’s thread on Chowhound. The pork combined with the acidity and crunch from the pickled veggies is additive, and there are endless ways to combine them. I know it sounds like a lot of effort to make the pork for a sandwich, but there are many potential uses for it. Each time I make this, I find myself adding another pork tenderloin to the batch. It is delicious on its own, in a banh mi, but also in fried rice,tacos topped with pickled veggies, cilantro and cabbage, as a topping for ramen noodles, and I could go on and on. You can also be a fabulous daughter/friend/neighbor, etc and share. This recipe doubles and triples easily, and the pork freezes well.
A couple of notes about this recipe: when selecting tenderloins, try to avoid those that have liquid added. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy organic Berkshire pork, but avoid the cryovac pork tenderloins that advertise that they have any added ingredients. They release too much liquid while cooking, so it is hard to get a good coating. Also, look for Chinese Five Spice in the ethnic sections of your grocery store, or at most Asian markets. If you can’t find Shaoxing cooking wine, sherry is a good substitute.
This will not have the reddish tone you are used to. You could try adding food coloring, but I think it looks pretty tasty without it. Marinate it for at least an hour and up to 24 hours, but don’t be surprised when the the marinade thins from juice from the pork.
Char Siu/Chinese Barbecued Pork
adapted from “The Banh Mi Handbook” by Andrea Nguyen
1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1 pound
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine or sherry
2 tablespoons of honey – the thickest you can find
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
aluminum foil to line cookie sheet
1. Mix together all ingredients except for the pork in a large bowl. Whisk together well.
2. Trim any silver skin and chunks of fat from pork tenderloin. Slice in half the long way, and then slice each half in half again the same way.
3. Mix pork into sauce. Refrigerate – transfer everything into a plastic bag, if you need help fitting it into the refrigerator.
4. Preheat oven to 425°
5. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and top with a cooling rack.
6. Lay strips of pork across top of the cooling rack, and save the marinade. If the sauce is in a bag, transfer it to a bowl.
7. Bake in oven for 10 minutes.
8. After 10 minutes, baste pork and flip over. Baste again.
9. Bake again for 10 minute.
10. Repeat step 8.
11. Repeat until pork is firm when you press it with tongs. This should take about 30 minutes.
12. Let pork rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Banh Mi style taco with pork, sliced cabbage, cilantro, pickled veggies, a drizzles of sriracha and a mayo (try Kewpie)
Sliced and served with rice and roasted veggies
An actual Banh Mi sandwich!
Quicky fried rice, using leftover rice, frozen veggies, sesame oil and soy sauce
Try adding slices into soup with udon noodles or ramen.
Or what I do on a regular basis – eat slivers of cold pork while making any of these delicious options. You will too. Its that good.