Six of Hong Kong's top chefs reveal their favourite spots for the classic Cantonese style of barbecued pork
Char siu, or barbecue pork, is a Cantonese food staple for many in Hong Kong. As an add-on during family dinners, in dim sum pastries and fluffy buns, or sitting pretty atop rice fortified with a fried egg and glossy sauce, char siu is undoubtedly one of the most well-loved local dishes.
The meat-to-fat ratio of the pork is usually around the 50:50 mark—although this is often debated among char siu connoisseurs—which accepts all manner of flavour and seasoning before it is roasted and rendered into juicy, tender meat charred with crispy edges. In a bid to find the best, we asked six top chefs in Hong Kong how they like their char siu and where to find it.
Agustin Ferrando Balbi of Ando
"My top choice [for char siu] is Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons. It is one of the best that I've tried in Hong Kong. They use either Chinese or Spanish pork and roast it in a vertical oven, which is very traditional. There is no analogue temperature reading so the whole process is based on the experience and sensitivity of the chef. Using the most tender part of the pork, they roast it twice—once at high temperature and once more at a much lower heat. The char siu is also cut precisely for the perfect bite and the balance between fat and meat is just great. It tastes like heaven!"
Lung King Heen, 4F, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 3196 8882
Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room and Mora
"My favourite char siu is from Yung Kee which is known for housing one of the city’s only charcoal-fired ovens, giving its roasted meats exceptional flavour and aroma. Since the Hong Kong government no longer grants charcoal licenses, the number of restaurants that still roast with charcoal is quite limited. This charcoal roasting method gives the char siu slightly charred, caramelised edges—definitely my guilty pleasure.
Yung Kee uses the classic collar cut, or mui tau, of fresh local pork which ensures juiciness and lovely marbling. The maltose glaze is also rich and flavourful, delivering just the right amount of caramelisation, sweetness and smokiness. The braised beans are a unique touch that soaks up the generous glaze and natural pork jus."
Yung Kee, 32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2522 1624
May Chow of Little Bao and Shim Jungtaek of Mosu Hong Kong
May Chow: "The Chairman uses a specific cut of pork—the top blade—which is a good mix of fat and meat and they use camphor wood inside the oven to achieve the smoky flavours. They’ve masterfully refined a humble dish without completely removing it from its original context. There’s no doubt that they use premium ingredients but they do so without the frills of Iberico, caviar or gold leaf. In the one bite of char siu that each guest is served, you can taste the distinct flavour of the marinade and you get the perfect meat-to-fat ratio and amount of char. Each element is in complete harmony, never overpowering another."
Shim Jungtaek: "My favourite char siu is from The Chairman. It's smoky, fatty and fragrant. It's my top choice, not only because the sauce tastes great, but because the taste of the meat is solid. I also like the aroma."
The Chairman, 18 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2555 2202
Danny Yip of The Chairman
"I get my favourite char siu from Kamcentre Roast Goose. Kamcentre’s chef used to be the head barbecue chef in the legendary Yung Kee Restaurant which has been offering Chinese barbecue for 80 years. Kamcentre offers a thick cut, fatty and charred char siu which cannot be found in other places. It's marinated with sauces and herbs, slow cooked and then roasted in an oven on high heat for tender, juicy, smoky, fatty, and very charred char siu."
Kamcentre Roast Goose, 1/F, South China Athletic Association, 88 Caroline Hill Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; +852 3580 2938
Gregoire Michaud of Bakehouse
"Sun Kwai Heung is at the top of my list for char siu. It's 200 metres away from work so it’s really convenient for me. It's sweet and savoury with hints of spice, charred and juicy. I really like how they char the ends so I always ask for the end cuts and boon fei (half fat) to have a good balance of meat and fat.
My order is the set with rice, which I'll get with another roast meat like chicken and the daily soup. I love sitting there to eat too! The flavour, the cooking and charring of the meat is always on point. It’s definitely a notch above many places. They do it daily and the sifu (master roaster) there takes pride in his work which translates into his food."
Sun Kwai Heung, G/F, 17 Kam Tam Yun House, 345 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan; +852 2556 1183