20 June 2014

Slow Cooker Char Sieuw Pork .. or Char Sui ... or however you want to spell it!

I have a lovely Facebook friend, Mab, who very recently made Char Sui Pork - and it looked SO good, I just had to have a go at it myself.  

I knew that any version of Char Sui Pork that I might make would be quite different to Mab's version, as I had my fat-phobic menfolk to take into account.  After all, if I'm intending on making something so delicious, I can't possibly leave them out of the experience!  Now Char Sui (or Sieuw) Pork should, ordinarily, be made with a quite fatty piece of meat so that as it cooks the fat will baste the meat, keeping it moist and flavourful.  Obviously, in the circumstances, I couldn't do that.  So I had to think hard about how I was going to keep the meat tender and juicy, whilst rendering down the majority of the fat.

So the first thing to think about was the cut of meat.  Pork shoulder is okay for me to use in things like Pulled Pork, as the very nature of the dish means that I can remove any unrendered fat at the "pulling" stage.  However, it's not much use for anything else - because of the lovely (well, I think they're lovely) veins of fat that run through the meat.  The meat of choice, then, for my menfolk is loin.  Fortunately, our local butcher sells six pork steaks for £2.99 that are cut across the loin and are just perfect.  The back of each steak has a neat line of fat that helps in the cooking process and can be removed in a twinkling just before serving.  Of course, you do still have to concentrate on keeping the meat moist, as loin can dry out and become unpalatably sawdust-like when you're not concentrating.  As such, I have included pork shoulder in the recipe - but if you have to cater for fat-phobics, then go for some loin with the fat still attached.

Now the original recipe - which I used as a guide more than instructions - was for an oven cooked pork.  However, knowing how my menfolk like their pork to be tender, I opted for the sure fire guarantee that is the slow cooker.  Give a car tyre enough time in a slow cooker and I reckon it'll become palatable somewhere along the line.

See the difference between this (still cooking) and the finished article. Huge.
However, just cooking the pork in the slow cooker wasn't enough.  You are required to marinate the pork before cooking - to enable those lovely flavours to gain a good toehold in the meat.  Because a slow cooker takes so long - the clue's in the name, folks - I felt that marinating as well as cooking was a bit of overkill.  Spending 7 hours in the slow cooker - in all its marinating juices and flavours - would be a splendid way of giving them a toehold of deliciousness, with marination taking place as it went along.

The end result worked very well indeed!  The aromas wafting through the kitchen and beyond, were just incredible.  I took the lid off at half time and turned the pork steaks over, which were looking pretty much done.  However, the difference a number of hours more made to the meat by way of colour and flavour was incredible.  So don't be tempted to take it out too soon.  It is well worth the extra time.

Also, save the cooking liquid as it makes a fabulous basic sauce for either noodles, or with rice.  Not to mention that being so tasty, it would be criminal to throw it away!

Having taken the pork out of the slow cooker, saved the saucy juices and removed the fat, I basted each piece with a little of the cooking liquid (again, to prevent the meat drying out too much) and drizzled with honey.  Into a very hot oven for around 10 minutes - or under a hot grill would do fine - just to get the charred edges and you're there.

This pork was so good that it moved Son & heir to shout from the living room to the kitchen to say that he thought it to be "absolutely fantastic".  Gosh, there's approval!  I will admit that I had to agree with him - considering the huge flavours that had been jostling for position all day, to be able to still taste the pork under it all was something of a miracle, I thought, but you could.  Being scrupulously honest, it didn't taste like the "red pork" that you find in Chinese Takeaway meals - but did it taste authentically "Chinese"?  Yes, it certainly did.

The vegetable noodles - made using a sliced Portobello mushroom, Bok Choy greens, spring onions and beansprouts - were very happy to have the cooking liquid added to them and accompanied the meat very well indeed.  I am sure the meat would do very well in a stir fried rice dish too - and it'd be well worth making a little extra just for that!

So thank you, Mab.  Now, what are you making tomorrow?  :D


Ingredients :

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
120g sachet black bean sauce
120g sachet hoisin sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp medium Sherry
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine (Mirrin is acceptable)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 star anise
freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1kg Pork shoulder, cut into thick steaks or thick strips
Runny honey for drizzling.

Method :

1.  Mix all the ingredients together well, except for the pork and honey.  Pour the resultant sauce into the slow cooker and spread out until the base is completely covered.

2.  Place each steak or strip of pork into the sauce and turn until completely coated.  Then lay out in the slow cooker in one level layer - or successive level layers.  You need to maintain the layers so that when it comes to turning at half time, the pork is easier to get at.

3.  Turn the slow cooker on to low and cook for 7-8 hours.  You can reduce the cooking time, by increasing the heat.

4.  Around 4 hours into the cooking time, remove the lid and turn each steak over, giving them a baste in the sauce if possible.

5.  When the cooking time is done, remove the pork from the slow cooker and place onto a flat baking tray.  You can take this opportunity to remove any fat that is surplus to requirements.

6.  Spoon a little of the sauce over the steaks, then drizzle with honey and place into a hot oven (220degC) for 10-20 minutes (or alternatively, place them under a hot grill for a similar time), so as to get the charred edges.

Serve with noodles, rice or just a spoon and a good t.v. programme.

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