Char Siu With Fig Jam Glaze

December  9, 2021
13 Ratings
Photo by Mandy Lee
  • Prep time 6 hours 40 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

So many recipes exist for char siu, a world-famous Cantonese barbecued pork, that you may not think another is needed. However, as is the case with many staple dishes, there is no "perfect" or “correct” interpretation, but only a favorite one. And this one is proudly mine. Here, I achieve the meat’s iconic dark red exterior stain—often so vibrant because the marinade contains food dye—with fresh beet juice, just one of the mixture’s both traditional and unconventional ingredients, which strike the perfect balance in flavor and consistency. Baked in relatively low heat to achieve an almost sous-vide-like interior juiciness, the char siu is then glazed and torched with a gooey-sticky coating that is both floral and fruity for that classic charred and glistening finish. I've had my fair share of char siu, you see, and I can't think of one that I'd like to eat more than this version.

Note: This recipe calls for a kitchen torch to get the signature charred exterior—it’s necessary for the best end result, but if you don’t have a torch, skip it.
Mandy @ Lady and pups

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Char Siu With Fig Jam Glaze
  • Pork & Marinade
  • 1 pound (450 grams) pork shoulder (preferably marbled), or skinless pork belly
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) beet juice
  • 1/4 cup (72 grams) hoisin sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons (37 grams) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) potato, tapioca, or cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (30 grams) yellow miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) Chinese rose wine, baijiu, or gin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • Fig Jam Glaze
  • 3 tablespoons (60 grams) floral honey
  • 2 tablespoons (36 grams) fig jam
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  1. Cut the pork into 1½-inch-wide strips, then use a wooden skewer to poke a few holes on each side of the strips. In a large bowl, whisk together the beet juice, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, potato starch, miso, fish sauce, sugar, rose wine, mustard, five-spice, and pepper until combined. Place the pork in the mixture, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours, turning the meat once halfway.
  2. Remove the pork from the fridge and mix in the smashed garlic. Heat the oven to 355°F/180°C with a rack in the middle position. Place 4 small heatproof cups or ramekins on top of a parchment- or foil-lined sheet pan, then place a roasting rack or heatproof cooking rack on top of the cups (this promotes air circulation around the pork as it bakes).
  3. Place the pork on top of the rack 2 to 3 inches apart, then place the sheet pan and rack in the oven. Keep the container with the marinade nearby. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Pick up each piece of pork with heatproof tongs, carefully dip each back into the marinade, then return to the rack with the side that was facing up now facing down. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 150°F/65°C. Discard the marinade.
  4. While the pork is roasting, in a small pot, stir together the honey, fig jam, butter, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  5. Once the pork is cooked through, use a kitchen torch to add a little char to the exterior of each piece of pork. (Don’t use the broiler to do this or the pork will be completely overcooked.) Let the pork rest on the rack at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  6. To serve, slather the top and sides of the char siu with the fig jam glaze, then torch it again for about 15 to 20 seconds on each side, until sizzling. Flip, then glaze and torch the bottom of each piece of pork. Let the char siu rest again for 5 minutes for the glaze to set before slicing and serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kelli Solomon
    Kelli Solomon
  • Julie Vu
    Julie Vu
  • louisw
  • Eddie

8 Reviews

louisw December 22, 2022
While some of the ingredients in this recipe are not traditional, don't let that put you off as the results are spectacular.

I followed this recipe almost as written. I made a few substitutions because I ran out of ingredients. Specifically, I used some gochujang because I ran out of miso. I also couldn't find rose wine, so I used sherry and a splash of rose water. Lastly, I left out the beet juice because I was ok with the color as-is.

The recipe make plenty of marinade. I had two lbs of pork, and it was more than enough. I cut my strips too thick though, and so I ended up baking the meat for almost 30 minutes after dipping it. Don't be tempted to turn up the oven because the technique is similar to reverse sear. The medium heat ensures the strips cook evenly; the char comes at the end from the torch, not the oven.

I loved the results. The pork was fatty and juicy as expected, and the exterior was a savory, sweet, and little bitter from the char. The glaze in particular is so simple in ingredients, but brought so much depth of flavor. Don't skip it, and don't skip the part about torching it. I also used the leftover to glaze the meat again at the end.

On the hoisin, make sure to use the kind that comes in a jar. I used Koon Chun but LKK also makes a good one. Don't use the LKK that comes in a bottle though; save that for pho.

Thank you Mandy for the keeper recipe!
Eddie January 30, 2022
Char siu is my go-to dish at any Cantonese restaurant. This was the first time making it at home. My verdict is if I had been served this in a restaurant I would have been very happy. It exceeded my expectations of what I could make at home. The only thing I would do differently next time is buy the beet juice. I do not have a juicer or a food processor so getting the juice was….difficult. However, the color it gave the pork was worth the effort given I would not use food coloring.
ATLSWIMMAN8 January 4, 2022
Referencing the recipe by 'Mandy' of Food52.
Whatever 'this' is, it is NOT Cantonese Char-Siu Pork.
Perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist and I am too protective and proud of my heritage... even so, I doubt that any professional Cantonese pit-grill-Master would consider this as Cantonese Char-Siu Pork. Beet juice, miso, mustard, fig jam? Mention those to any Cantonese Grill-Sifu and he'll laugh his donkey off.
It is, however, a version-variety of barbecue pork..... albeit, of your creation. (commendable! And yes, I'd give it a try too.)
But please, don't call it Char-Siu. It definitely is not Cantonese Char-Siu Pork.
ATLSWIMMAN8 January 4, 2022
Call it WHATEVER you want - but, this is NOT 'Char Siu Pork'. Period.
marc January 27, 2022
Reality: Perfectionism is a flaw attributed to ego. Period.

What part of her opening premise did you choose not to understand?

"So many recipes exist for char siu, a world-famous Cantonese barbecued pork, that you may not think another is needed. However, as is the case with many staple dishes, there is no "perfect" or “correct” interpretation, but only a favorite one. And this one is proudly mine".
Kelli S. January 3, 2022
Substituted the fig jam with fresh plum jam, used powdered beetroot for color, gin (strangely I couldn't even find rose wine at H Mart) and it worked out beautifully. Also, I loved the excuse to finally get a kitchen torch. 🔥🔥🔥
Julie V. December 26, 2021
Just made this today and the results were amazing (even with marinating for only 6 hrs instead of overnight)! Succulent, flavorful interior that paired perfectly with the sweet, floral glaze. I also love how well the beet juice worked as a natural colorant. Definitely agree with Mandy that this cha shao is special.
Cookycook December 21, 2021
5 stars!!! Somehow I could leave only 3?
I am at most an intermediate cook. What's more, I live in a place where certain ingredients in this recipe are not the easiest to find. When I saw Mandy's video, I jumped at the chance to make this, it looked simpler to me than some of her previous recipes, and it starred pork whick is very available to me and somehow festive for the season. I made this with only a 6 hour marinade and it is amazing!!! Dare I say, I am proud of myself! Thank you Mandy and this website! I have gone up a level in my cooking, I am so thankful.
Full disclosure: could not go to the health food store that carries miso. I substituted with hot gochujang which I had had from a previous Eric Kim / Maangchi recipe and I loved it!!!