Been a little while since my last post, but not all my chosen fault. About the beginning of the month, I had cataract surgery, but admittedly, these days, that’s not much of an excuse – my Doc tells me it’s now the most common surgery done, and truthfully, it’s no more serious that a visit to the dentist – in fact, I’d rather have cataract surgery than go to the dentist! So, yeah, it ain’t much of an excuse.
But then I read an article on computer security, and one thing led to another, and eventually I was in over my head. You see, I’ve got this thing about not calling tech support -doesn’t matter whose – and frankly, for the past ten years or so, I’ve never had to do so – I just do a lot of researching online, spend a good deal of time on a few favorite tech sites, and try a lot of ‘things’ with my own machines until at last I solve whatever problem I initially had. However, this time the issue was changing the security settings in my present router, and if any of you have had the experience, it can get a little hairy – not so much with the router settings themselves, but once the router settings are changed, you must go back and change many, many settings on the devices that communicate with the router – and that’s where things can break down.
In the middle of everything, I spent a few days without internet connection, and that’s always very discouraging – but I persevered. I’ve worked with Windows from way back in the days of ‘Windows 3.1’ (1992), and it’s just amazing to see how much more intuitive it is today than it was back then – but we’re also asking it to do things now, that we weren’t back then, so there are still lots of times when our computer has no idea what we’re trying to do – and then it’s up to us, sadly!
Whatever, that’s where I’ve been, excuse or no excuse – but I’ll not leave this subject without sharing with you the fact that many of us are still not well protected as far as a home wi-fi network security should be. If you have a home network, and use a router, please check your router settings to see if you have WEP selected as your current level of firewall security – and if you do, please know that you are not very secure. WEP was an early wi-fi security protocol, but there are newer alternatives which if available will provide a far better level of security for your network. Unfortunately, even current routers are shipped with WEP as the default security because it lends itself to an extremely simple installation and setup – and it also lends itself to an extremely simple way for any local hackers in your neighborhood -or mobile hackers who prowl up and down residential streets – to steal any wi-fi signal they pick up. WEP is really no protection at all.
If you find your router is set to WEP security, do a little research to change it to something more secure – (start here) – a better choice would be WPA, or even better, WPA-2. And if you find that your current router will only provide WEP security, I’d suggest you get a new router – it’s time!
OK, on to better things.
I’ve been talking about making bao for some time now – and since bao are steamed, they fit well into my current obsession with steam. However, as you know if you’ve ever had bao from an Asian grocery or bakery, they are simply light fluffy breading around a savory filling – some bao are made with sweet bean paste, but in truth, Asian baked goods don’t seem big on sweet buns like us westerners – that’s probably why Asians tend to be more healthy too. But that may not keep me from making some sweet bao with almond paste – hey, that sounds really good.
One of my favorites is BBQ Pork Bao, which is made with that wonderful looking stuff you see hanging in the window of the Chinese grocery – often it goes by the name of Char Siu. The literal translation of Char Siu is ‘fork roast’, supposedly because it is skewered onto metal rods (forks) and hung from the interior of ovens to roast – there is no relation to our use of ‘char’, even if the meat is often ‘charred’ – just semantic coincidence.
So, let’s make some Char Siu, so we than can use it to make BBQ Pork Bao.
There is a mystique that’s grown up around Char Siu, and maybe 10,000 ways to make it – maybe more! I’m drawn to the Hawaiian versions, just ’cause I think they are some of the best I’ve tasted. The one I share today has come from a Hawaiian restaurant named Golden Dragon (RIP), and has a small cult following. Some Char Siu purists claim that soy sauce is never used in making Char Siu (as is true with Golden Dragon’s version) and other purists swear against the use of 5 Spice Powder – but I personally love 5 Spice Powder, and I choose this recipe because it DID use it.
This particular recipe also uses Wet Red Bean Curd, which is a form of fermented (lactic acid), preserved tofu – it gets its red coloring from being fermented with red fermented rice. Apparently, the red coloring of the Wet Red Bean Curd is strong enough to give the Char Siu its red coloring – so if you do find some of this stuff (I did not), you need not worry about using red coloring. Actually, both the Wet Red Bean Curd AND the red coloring are optional – red coloring just makes the meat look better. You can look for this in an Asian grocery – it comes in glass jars or crockery containers – and although I’m not familiar with it, and didn’t use it, the chef at Golden Dragon swears it’s the secret to making really good Char Siu. But one final word of warning – fermented bean curd comes in many forms, some of which are strong in flavor (think Natto), so try before using – or ask a lot of questions before buying.
So here is the Golden Dragon’s version of the extremely popular, Char Siu.
Char Siu Pork – Golden Dragon
5 pounds pork butt, fat trimmed (You may of course use less meat)
1 cup sugar
2-1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 ounce (about 1 cube) wet red bean curd (available in Asian groceries) OR
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons brandy
- Cut pork lengthwise into 1-inch thick slices, about 2 inches wide.
- Cover in water and soak 1 hour to draw out blood.
- Combine marinade ingredients, breaking up bean curd and stirring until well-combined.
- Drain pork well and dry with a towel.
- Cover with marinade and mix well with hands a few minutes, so meat is well-coated and to work in flavor.
- Cover and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place pork on a rack over a roasting pan.
- Roast 45 minutes.
- Reduce oven heat to 300, turn meat, baste and roast 20 minutes longer. Serves 12.
My Notes: If you’d like to add some char to these (looks nice!), add five minutes of roasting time, turn heat up to 500 and baste with a mixture of 1 Tbs of honey, 1 Tbs of barley malt syrup, and 1 Tbs of boiling water – turn and baste each minute of the five – watch carefully and end roasting whenever the char is sufficient.
The original recipe rightly calls for pork shoulder (yeah, on a pig the ‘butt’ is his shoulder – go figure), because it contains the right amount of fat to stay nice and moist – I used what I had; pork sirloin – it’s not as good as using shoulder – but whatever you do, do not use pork tenderloin – it has far better uses, it’s too expensive, and your roasted pork will be very dry. Yeah, I know lots of Char Siu recipes call for it – but it just ain’t right.
Char Siu is fantastic as the protein in hundreds of Asian dishes – but our interest is in using it to make BBQ Pork Bao, which I’ll cover shortly in an upcoming post.