~ Fatless Char Siu ~
Who doesn’t like Char Siu? The slightly charred effect from caramelised sugar and/or honey glazed on pork with a savoury sweet taste is my family’s favourite too. Char Siu literally means “Fork Roast”, a name gained from its traditional cooking method where strips of pork meat are being skewed in the middle on a long skewer or giant fork left hanging in a big drum or charcoal oven for roast till they are slightly caramelised or burnt on the side and edges.
Many years back, Amy, a dear friend introduced me to a Char Siu stall in Kuala Lumpur. I can still remember that they were completely caramelised strips cut into thick slices. The savoury sweet flavour, slightly char-grilled dish stays in my taste bud memory bank forever. The belly fats have a melt-in-the-mouth effect. It was one of the most awesome Char Siu experience I have had, certainly a dish to die for. As I no longer have access to such delicacies these days and most Char Siu out there are disappointingly different from my memory bank, I have started making my own Char Siu right from the Pan at home!
Arguably Char Siu may be carcinogenic.
Despite the charred chunks, many may easily chomp down when the meat is carved and served in thin or thick slices on a plate, all because it is too delicious to resist the temptation. There are also many health enthusiasts who would not lay an eye on anything charred. Whichever side we’re on, I believe in moderation in all that we eat. As long as we strive for a balance in our daily food intake, we should be fine. It is a pity if I have to forgo heavenly food that liven up my spirit, for the name of “health”.
In this recipe that I have experimented, I particularly chose pork lean meat cooked fatless as a healthier choice. I made use of the AMC cooking system to cook this up to a precise temperature of 90°C which enables the lock-in of moisture in the meat, even when I roast lean meat with no additional oil added. This cooking method does not dry out the roasted lean meat on the inside. Although this does not give the melt-in-mouth effect with greasy glossy fat, like those from pork belly, I am certainly contended with this tender to the bite and savoury sweet for the taste buds lean meat Char Siu I made for my family at our home sweet home.
There are many other factors determining carcinogen compounds in food. In meat, cooking temperature determines the level of carcinogen harmfulness to the human body. Protein food (meat) or sugar food (including honey, palm sugar and any other form of sugar) may increase cancer incidences when cooked above the cooking temperature beyond 120°C. Here is a journal on Potential sources of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines in the Chinese diet published in the reputable European Journal for Clinical Nutrition in August 2014. Have a good read if you are interested to find out more.
Carcinogenic or not? You decide. Perhaps, make Char Siu a once a month treat?
Fatless / Zero Oil Char Siu Recipe (Serves 3) :
- 300 grams Pork Lean Meat (you may opt for other parts of choice or even chicken breasts)
- 2 cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Dark Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon 5 Spice Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Wolfberry Powder (optional, for red rim)
- A dash of White Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar (may be omitted if honey is preferred)
- 1 tablespoon Honey
AMC Healthy Cooking Method :
- Marinate meat with all ingredients overnight in an AMC 20cm Combi Bowl.
- Pre-heat AMC 24cm Roasting Pan unit (lid on) with Navigenio heat level “3”, up to 50°C or “Meat Window”. Use Audiotherm as an indicator by turning it on, place on lid knob/Visiotherm, indicating 50°C or “Meat Window”.
- When Audiotherm beeps, turn off Audiotherm, remove lid and place marinated meat into the Pan unit to sear.
- Cover lid and cook with Navigenio heat level “2”, till 90°C or “Turning Point”. Use Audiotherm as an indicator by turning it on, place on lid knob/Visiotherm, indicating 50°C or “Meat Window”.
- When Audiotherm beeps for the second time at 90°C or “Turning Point”, turn off Audiotherm, remove lid and flip meat over to the other side.
- Cover lid and cook with Navigenio heat level “3”, till 90°C or “Turning Point” again. Use Audiotherm as an indicator by turning it on, place on lid knob/Visiotherm, indicating 50°C or “Meat Window”.
- When Audiotherm beeps for the second time at 90°C or “Turning Point”, gravy would dry up looking sticky. Turn off both Navigenio & Audiotherm. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
- Slice Char Siu into 3mm thick, arrange on a plate and serve with steamed rice or noodles and waterless vegetables of choice.
Tips : To roast meat perfectly, it should always be of room temperature for preparation. Therefore, remove from refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before the preparation, depending on size. Cold meat would cool the pan base, delaying the start of browning process and therefore, by the time they are thoroughly cooked, meat may dry out more than it should.