One of the benefits of growing up in Canada with Filipino and Persian parents was that from an early age, I was exposed to the foods from many different cultures. I grew up eating things that would make other kids squirm, and it gave me a sense of adventurousness when it comes to trying new foods and tastes. Part of what I wanted to do when I started this site was to try cooking recipes and techniques from different countries, and also sharing those experiences, starting with Chinese BBQ.
One of my favourite types of food from another culture is Chinese BBQ, otherwise known as Siu Mei, or Cantonese roasted meat. If you’ve ever walked through Chinatown in your city, it’s hard to miss the restaurants with the big glass display cases full of perfectly roasted meats. Chickens, ducks, and even whole roasted pigs will hang in the window, waiting to be ordered as part of a meal, or just purchased by the pound.
There are many varieties to be found, but here I’ll talk about 3 of the more common ones.
Char Siu (fork-burned) is one of the most common types of Chinese BBQ. These are glossy red roasted strips of pork from various cuts including the belly, shoulder, or loin, but typically the shoulder. The sauce is very sweet and sticky, and has flavours in it like: honey, five-spice powder, fermented bean curd, soy sauce, vinegar, and hoisin sauce. It’s typically cut into slices and served just over rice, or as part of another dish.
This is a whole roasted pig that you’ll usually see hanging whole in the display case at a Chinese BBQ restaurant. When you order, they’ll take a giant cleaver and hack chunks of it off to order, then chop them into little cubes and pack them up. They’re typically served with a sweet hoisin sauce for dipping. These have more of a pure pork flavour, with a really nice crispy skin like a crackling. Before roasting, hundreds of tiny holes are pricked in the skin using a tool with a bunch of little spikes on it. These allow the fat to render out while the pig is cooking, which helps the skin to render to a nice even crisp.
Soy Sauce Chicken
Soy Sauce Chicken is a whole chicken that is gently poached in a soy sauce based sauce, flavoured with sugar, star anise, ginger, onion, and other spices. The chicken comes out tender, with a sweet, jelly like skin. It is served with a ginger, scallion, and oil sauce, and is chopped into chunks when ordered.
Over the years I’ve tried almost every type of Chinese BBQ I’ve seen, and it’s all good. It’s usually pretty cheap, so it’s a quick meal for those days when you’re too busy to cook something. If you’ve passed by the display windows in Chinatown but have been too intimidated to try it, just go in and point at something in the case and they’ll be happy to help!
Hope you found this interesting – next I’ll be covering other types of BBQ from around the world, starting with the ones I’m more familiar with: Filipino, Persian, Korean, Brazilian, and Japanese. No matter where we’re from, we all share the love for a good meal, especially when it’s cooked over fire!