We’ve been guilty of it many times. Guilty of staring through the windows of Chinese BBQ’s with our mouths watering at the red, glistening, long pieces of barbecue pork hanging by the dozens–watching each droplet of pork fat fall, as if in slow motion, from their charred tips. We would subconsciously lick our lips as the scents of five spice, soy sauce, hoisin, and charred pork fat reached our noses. And it’s these primary flavors along with the sweetness of maltose that gives it that unmistakable sheen and makes char siu pork so tantalizing to the senses.
The image of Char siu (also called cha siu, char sieu, or chashao) pork hanging in the windows of small Chinese BBQ’s can be seen across America and is synonymous with Chinese style barbecue. Char siu pork can be enjoyed in a variety of ways including in a bun (char siu bao) on dum sum carts, in noodle soups such as in egg noodles or ramen noodles, or simply over plain jasmine rice.
A few weeks ago, we catered a baby shower and to feed a large crowd of 40, we decided to use char siu as the main flavoring agent for a slow cooker pulled pork and paired it with a clean and crisp Vietnamese cabbage slaw. We made about 9 feet of char siu pulled pork banh mi (3 full length baguettes) along with a 5 lbs of pork shoulder and not a single trace was left. The char siu seasoning is not that complicated and in fact, quite easy to make at home using Metlting Wok or Rasa Malaysia’s recipes. Or you can buy store bought char siu sauce– Lee Kum Kee brand is a good option. We’ve adapted the recipe for a more managable 3 lbs of pork, but feel free to adjust accordingly.
In large bowl, combine the cabbages, rau rau, mint, basil and toss well. Season with nuoc mam cham to taste. For best results, allow the slaw to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. The slaw can also be made a day ahead of time. The longer the slaw marinates, the more liquid it releases–toss well and just drain excess liquid before serving.
When the pork is done, it will easily fall apart with gentle pressure–remove the pork into a large mixing bowl and pull using tongs or forks. The pork will release a lot of fatty juices in the slow cooker which you can discard–but we like to keep a small amount to mix in the pulled pork. Now add char siu sauce, 1-2 tbs at a time and coat the pulled pork well. Don’t over do it–we like to keep extra char siu sauce on the side those who want more.
Add the pulled pork to the toasted baguettes and drizzle additional char siu sauce if desired. Generously top with slaw and garnish with fried shallots.
Combining the finger licking sweet char siu with the crisp and clean slaw in a toasty baguette will have guests craving for more. Also, the slaw can be served as a side–many guests loved the fresh tart flavors of nuoc mam cham based slaw compared with the mayonnaise laden traditional coleslaw, so be prepared to have extra ready!
With 40 satisfied guests with minimal effort, this char siu slow cooker pulled pork banh mi recipe is a keeper!
Char Siu Pulled Pork Banh Mi with Vietnamese Slaw
3 lb pork shoulder
fresh cracked pepper
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut in 1/4 inch rings
1 1/2 cup char siu sauce (we made our own using recipes above)
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
1/2 head red cabbage, thinly shredded
1/2 cup of rau rau (coriander leaves) coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of mint, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of thai basil, coarsly chopped
4 tbs nuoc mam cham
optional diced hot chili pepper
French baguettes, toasted
Line your slow cooker with the onions. Lightly rub the pork shoulder with small amount kosher salt and pepper and place on top of onions. Brush on a generous layer of char siu sauce, coating evenly. Turn the slow cooker on low and leave on overnight or high, roughly 4-5 hrs.
In large bowl, combine the cabbages, rau rau, mint, basil and toss well. Season with nuoc mam cham to taste. For best results, allow the slaw to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. The slaw can also be made a day ahead of time. The longer the slaw marinates, the more liquid it releases--toss well and just drain excess liquid before serving.
When the pork is done, it will easily fall apart with gentle pressure--remove the pork into a large mixing bowl and pull using tongs or forks. The pork will release a lot of fatty juices in the slow cooker which you can discard--but we like to keep a small amount to mix in the pulled pork. Now add char siu sauce, 1-2 tbs at a time and coat the pulled pork well. Don't over do it--we like to keep extra char siu sauce on the side those who want more.
I've totally been caught staring too long in front of the BBQ pork window too. I can't wait to try making this for a party because it looks like the perfect party food. Great meeting you guys this weekend!
I just finished dinner….not hungry at all…not one bit. But I have to say, looking at this photo has me wishing for some! Great idea for your baby shower–I can see why there weren't any leftovers.
Fresh Local and Best — November 10, 2010 @ 4:44 am
This looks so good! I'm also one of those people guilty of staring at the BBQ in the window. What an impressive baby shower that must have been to have presented those three long banh mi sandwiches. Great idea!
I've been overwhelmed at work and haven't been posting or reading as much. I like how you've expanded your blog and I'm so glad for your success. You deserve it! Love this post. I've been experimenting with my slow cooker the last few weeks after turning up my nose at it for almost 20 year since I got it for a wedding gift. How funny you use a slow cooker here!
denise, the prime magpie — November 12, 2010 @ 5:08 pm
Oh my word. This sandwich has left me speechless… and HUNGRY. You've inspired me; was trying to come up with a different way to prepare pork shoulder and this looks outstanding. Mr. Wasabi loves char siu pork, so this will surely be a hit. Thank you for being the spark of inspiration!!
I've slow cooked char siew as well and have used it in sandwiches and in empanadas (its better in the empanadas if using just the meat.) Here's a tip – to get some of that "charred" taste and crunchiness, arrange the pulled pork in a iron skillet and broil until the sugars caramelize.
[...] pork with Asian flavours. I used the sauce from this website but used the cooking method from this one, since I was pretty sure that less than a cup of sauce in my slow cooker was a short path to [...]
Dont know if I already told you buuuuuttttt…this may be the “Vietnamese engagement chicken” we are all waiting for <3 I made this twice – once for a ski trip (portable, easy to assemble, so much flavor) and another time for a picnic weekend in the cabin on the lake. The Man was very pleased <3
Moreover – with blogs talking about making 300 sandwiches – I wonder if that lady made something like THIS to get to 300. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement. Next year, when I have someone to cook for – I am going to try all of your recipes and commit to keeping these recipes alive for the next generation. Super stoked!!!
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