Pork · Vietnamese

Thịt Xá Xíu {Char Siu – Chinese Barbecue Pork}

Thịt Xá Xíu {Chinese Char Siu - BBQ Pork}
Stroll down the streets of most Chinatowns and I am rather certain that hanging alongside the lacquered Roast Ducks in shop windows, you’ll also find the ubiquitous Char Siu – or Chinese style barbecue pork.

You can’t really miss it from its bright reddish-pink hue, coupled with its deeply savory, spiced and somehow sweet mouthwatering scents.

In Vietnamese, we call it Thịt Xá Xíu and you can find it pretty much served with everything due to its versatility.  We love it with our noodles, whether it be , bún or hủ tiếu. It’s a very common protein in our beloved bánh (sandwiches) and can be found in bánh bao –steamed buns. Heck, it’s great just over steamed rice!

Thịt Xá Xíu {Chinese Char Siu - BBQ Pork}

Since I’ve been on a real kick lately of restocking my freezer, I thought it was high time to add a few stashes of Xá Xíu to the mix.

I’m a BIG fan of keeping a well stocked freezer. Not only for those days that you just feel too BLEH to cook but also for those times you’re hankering some comfort food but don’t have the time to commit hours in the kitchen to make anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given myself a little pat on the back when I was quickly able to throw a bowl of Bún Chả Giò (Cold Vermicelli Noodles with crispy Vietnamese Imperial Rolls) together or heat up some Pan Fried Dumplings because I stockpile the freezer.

Seriously, it’s a lifesaver.

Thịt Xá Xíu {Chinese Char Siu - BBQ Pork}

Enough on that…let’s get back to the Xá Xíu…..

Right off the bat, I’ve got to tell you that I happily turn to a Char Sui seasoning packet to start the marinade. I’ve got absolutely no guilt about this and totally feel justified because this is how Mom used to do it.

Can’t argue with that, right?

Thịt Xá Xíu {Chinese Char Siu - BBQ Pork}
I do doctor it up with few things like Shaoxing wine, garlic, pepper and a bit of five spice powder before rubbing the pork shoulder with the mixture. It then marinates in the fridge overnight so that all that goodness seeps in.

Two quick things before we move on.

1) If you use a seasoning packet, the powder (and eventually the marinade) will be pink. Super pink. It can vary on brand but it’s mostly due to some curing salt (think corned beef) and well, food color. If that freaks you out, nix the premixed seasoning and make your own.

2) I like using pork shoulder instead of something too lean. The Xá Xíu should have a bit of fat on it and pork loin, particularly tenderloin, doesn’t it cut it for me.

Thịt Xá Xíu {Chinese Char Siu - BBQ Pork}

Once the pork is done marinading, I bake it in a hot oven for 20ish minutes on a wire rack that sits on a rimmed baking sheet. This not only helps with even cooking but it lifts the pork up from any excess liquids that may render out.

Pro Tip? Add a bit of water to the baking sheet while the pork cooks. The water helps keep the moisture in the oven (and thus in the pork) as well as helps reduce the amount of smoke that may occur from any fat drippings that will accumulate on the sheet.

While the pork roasts, take the marinade and whisk some hoisin sauce into it. You’ll then use this to glaze the pork to help add a bit more flavor as well as get that sheen. Don’t worry that the marinade had raw pork sitting in it because after you brush it over the Xá Xíu, you’ll then broil it for a few minutes on extremely high heat.

Thịt Xá Xíu {Chinese Char Siu - BBQ Pork}
And that’s it!

Easy-peasy, right!? Maybe one of these days I’ll attempt to make it without a premixed seasoning packet but gosh….it’s just so darn convenient and tasty.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Ăn Ngon!

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Thịt Xá Xíu {Char Siu – Chinese BBQ Pork}

Ingredients:

 

1 packet Xá Xíu/Char Siu seasoning
½ teaspoon five spice power
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into long pieces about 2-3 inches wide
cooking spray
water
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce

In a bowl, whisk together the Xá Xíu/Char Siu seasoning, five spice powder, pepper, garlic, Shaoxing wine and oil. Rub the marinade all over the pork and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with aluminum foil. Lightly cover the wire rack with cooking spray. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Place the pork on top of the rack and place in the preheated oven. Pour about ¼ cup of water into the baking sheet. The water helps keep the moisture in the oven (and in the pork) as well as helps reduce the amount of smoke that may occur from any fat drippings that will accumulate on the sheet. Roast the pork for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until its internal temperature reaches about 145 degrees F.

While the pork roasts, pour the marinade from the pork with any liquids that may emerged into a small bowl with the Hoisin sauce. Whisk together to create a glaze. Set aside.

Once the pork has cooked through, remove the tray from the oven. Brush the glaze over the pork and place it back in the oven, directly under the broiler. Broil the pork, rotating every 45 seconds or so to create a nice char. Be careful to keep a close eye on the pork at this point since it can burn quickly. Remove the pork from the oven and let rest for several minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

 

Vietnamese

Hủ Tiếu {Vietnamese Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup}

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
The East Coast has been experiencing some crazy snow storms lately –to the point that I’m sure that the White Walkers are just vacationing around there until Season 8 of GoT is released. Or at least until a release date is announced.

Just thinking about it makes me shudder and want to bundle up. But before you laugh at me, know that it’s actually been cold in San Diego these past few weeks—even by non-Southern Californian terms. We’re talking in the 30 degrees F in the late nights/early mornings! BRRRRRR!!!!

Maybe a straggling Walker wanted to check out Disneyland?

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
I’m constantly cold. Which is why I have been nonstop cooking and eating soups lately–noodle soups, mostly. Can you blame me?

I’ve been getting my full of chowders, ramen, wonton noodle soups and of course, Phở. Hey-I need comfort food! But as much as I love phở, there are so many other noodle dishes in Vietnamese cuisine than the popular soup.

There’s Miến (glass noodles), Bún Riêu (tomato & freshwater crab noodles), Bánh Canh (Udon-like noodles), Bún Măng Vịt (bamboo and duck noodles) and Bún Thang (Northern Vietnamese chicken-based noodles)……

But my favorites are Bún Bò Huế (spicy beef noodles) and Mì Quảng (seafood & pork turmeric noodles).

SUPER NGON!!!

Translation: SUPER DELICIOUS!!!

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang

Though I’ve got to tell  you — I do LOVE me a big bowl of Hủ Tiếu.

Which type of Hủ Tiếu?

Well, that’s where things get a bit difficult because depending on who you ask, the “variations”, well…….vary.

There’s Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang which is considered the Vietnamese version of the Cambodian noodle soup from Phnom Penh.

There’s Hủ Tiếu Mỹ Tho which is the signature noodle dish of the city Mỹ Tho located in the Tiền Giang Province on the Mekong Delta.

And there’s also Hủ Tiếu Tàu, which just translates to Chinese Hủ Tiếu. Yeah…they could have been more creative with that one.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang

What are the origins of Hủ Tiếu?

Whelp, other than the fact that it originates from China and somehow blended its way through Southeast Asia, everything else is a bit fuzzy. But it has become iconic in Southern Việt Nam and most can at least agree that the broth is pork bone based.

Oh…I forgot to mention that on top of the different the types of Hủ Tiếu you order, you can choose to have it khô (dry noodles served with a dark salty-sweet sauce and the broth on the side) or with nước (broth and noodles served together).

I know….we’re a complicated bunch. But we’re a People that like options.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
So which type of Hủ Tiếu do I make?

I can’t really say it’s traditionally Mỹ Tho or Nam Vang. And I’ve got to admit, although it sounds trivial, it’s definitely times like these that I wish I could ask Mom. Would she have the right answer? Eh…questionable. But she’d likely give me a confident answer and just tell me to do what tastes good.

Smart woman.

So that’s what I do.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
I enjoy Hủ Tiếu broth because it’s light, slightly sweet and not as spice-forward as phở. Again, I do adore phở –but it’s good to have options. But like phở, it should be wonderfully clear like a beautiful consommé.

Most Hủ Tiếu broths start off with lots of pork bones but I like to add chicken bones too. Why miss an opportunity to have a richer broth right?

To start on that consommé-like path, you’ve got to give the bones a good scrub down. Mom always taught us to clean bones and all proteins first before cooking by exfoliating it with salt and thoroughly rinsing it. Then you’ll need to parboil the bones for several minutes, dump out the water and rinse off any of the impurities that have come out before starting the broth in a clean pot.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
I then throw in some onions, shallots and to provide some sweetness– daikon and dried shrimp. This is when you can also add dried squid that has been rehydrated. I didn’t have any on hand when I made this batch but I will next time. Following those ingredients are some dried shiitake mushrooms (not traditional but I like the added depth of flavor), salt and rock sugar. Once you’ve gotten to this point, let the broth simmer on very low but steady heat for about 2½-3 hours.

And remember that consommé-like goal we’re aiming for? It’s this low and slow simmer that seals the deal. That and also skimming the broth every 30 minutes or so to discard of any impurities that may have risen to top.

I know —this is a labor of love….for my stomach.

I should note that traditionally the broth is seasoned with only salt and not fish sauce. But I’ll admit it, after the broth has simmered for a few hours, I’ve been known to throw in a few dashes of Vietnamese liquid gold if I feel that it needs a bit more magic.

I’m a rebel.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
Now let’s spend a few moments talking about toppings, shall we?

I believe across the board for Hủ Tiếu, you’ll find that there will be some variation of pork and whole shrimp. But when it comes to everything else–it’s all fair game.

Common items in various Hủ Tiếu are boiled quail eggs, offal, Vietnamese ham, fried shrimp crisp and sliced beef. And when it comes to pork, it can come in the form of poached, ground or  Chinese “barbecue” known as char sui or xá xíu.

They also say that Hủ Tiếu Mỹ Tho should have an abundance of seafood so in addition to the usual suspects, you’ll find toppings like crab claws, squid, fish balls, imitation crab, fish and so forth.

For me, I’m not a fan of many offals, let alone poached pork liver. Don’t get me wrong– I do love a good pâté but liver in this soup form has never got me excited. So I don’t include it. And as much as I love all kinds of eggs, boiling and peeling them are just too tedious for me –so I nix those too. And no–I don’t buy or enjoy canned quail eggs. They taste very metallic to me.

I generally stick to the basics such as poached shrimp, imitation crab and browned ground pork. But if I really feel like going the extra mile (or if I was smart and kept a stash in the freezer), I’ll make xá xíu, too.

Oh–and don’t forget the accompanying veggies, herbs, chilies and fresh lime!

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
Now let’s talk about the noodle types.

One of the reasons why I like Hủ Tiếu so much is that most of the time, it is served with what is called Hủ Tiếu Dai which are tapioca based noodles. The texture is much more firm than phở noodles have — which are typically rice flour based. Hủ Tiếu Dai are chewy in similar ways to why I adore bucatini pasta  – but without the hole in the center of the noodle. Delish.

But you can also find Hủ Tiếu served with standard rice noodles or even Chinese egg noodles. In those cases, it’s called Hủ Tiếu Mi – also good, but just different. And if you can’t decide which you prefer, some places will serve the different noodles mixed together for you!

Told you we like options.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang
Lastly, let’s chat a bit more about what I mentioned earlier on having it served khô or with nước.

If you were to ask for a bowl of Hủ Tiếu (whether it be Nam Vang, Mỹ Tho or Tàu), you’ll likely have a wonderful steaming bowl of noodle soup delivered to you. The noodles and broth are in one bowl — and it’s a party. Sometimes they’ll call it Hủ Tiếu Nước (with broth) but generally if you say “Hủ Tiếu”, that’s what you’ll get. And it’s glorious.

However, some spots will have Hủ Tiếu Khô available and I’ll tell you, it’s also glorious. Essentially, the bowls are assembled nearly the same with the exception of two things. The noodles will have a rich salty-sweet sauce either drizzled on top or underneath the noodles and the the broth will be served in a small bowl on the side. You’ll stir the noodles up with that rich sauce — and of course you can pour some of the broth in it too. But this way, you’ll get to enjoy the flavors of the noodles, toppings sauce and then slurp the broth separately. And I’ll tell ya, when I was young, I wasn’t really much into the broths of noodle soups. Sure–I liked some of it but I was more focused on the GOODS! This method was perfect for me! Plus, the sauce adds another level of flavor—yes, it too, is glorious.

Nowadays I enjoy both so don’t make me pick sides.

Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang

I know. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about Hủ Tiếu but I was feeling wordy today. I blame it on the weather. ❤

Ăn Ngon!

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Hủ Tiếu {Vietnamese Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup}
Makes approximately 6 bowls

Ingredients:

 

4 pounds pork bones
2 pounds chicken bones
kosher salt
water
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 large shallot (or 2 small ones), quartered
1 medium-sized daikon, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
1 small rock sugar piece, about 1 tablespoon
½ cup dried shrimp that has been rehydrated with boiling water, rinsed and drained
3-4 dried squid that has been rehydrated with boiling water, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 pound ground pork
½ tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 package Hủ Tiếu Dai– chewy tapioca noodles
¼ pound imitation crab, cut into 2 inch pieces
herbs and veggies: fried shallots, fried garlic, bean sprouts, cilantro, culantro, chilies, limes, scallions, etc.
other protein options: pork slices (poached or char sui/xá xíu), boiled quail eggs, liver or other offal, sliced squid, etc.

Sauce for serving Hủ Tiếu Khô:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoons minced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon 5 spice powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
½ cup Hủ Tiếu broth

Place the pork and chicken bones in the sink and liberally sprinkle salt over them. Using the salt as an exfoliant, scrub the bones well and rinse. Place the scrubbed bones in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the heat to high and boil or 5-7 minutes. At this point, some of the impurities and “scum” will have boiled out. Place a colander in the sink and carefully pour the bones in to drain. Rinse the bones thoroughly to remove all the impurities. If you intend on using the same pot for the Hủ Tiếu broth, wash it well before adding the bones back in. Do not skip any of the above important steps in order to get a clear and clean broth.

Pour in about 6 quarts of water over the cleaned bones and bring to a boil. Add the onions, shallots, daikon, shiitake mushrooms, rock sugar, rehydrated shrimp, squid, peppercorns and 2-tablespoons kosher salt. Stir until the rock sugar has dissolved and lower the temperature to a gentle simmer. Allow the broth to simmer, uncovered, on very low heat for 2½-3 hours. During that time, periodically skim and discard any impurities that may have formed on top of the broth. At the end, you’ll want a semi-dark but very clear broth like a consommé. Before serving, taste the broth and add additional salt if needed.

While the broth simmers, prepare the toppings.

In a small bowl, mix the pork, fish sauce and pepper together. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium. Sauté the garlic until fragrant but not browned. Add the pork and cook thoroughly while crumbling up the ground meat. Take off heat and set aside.

Place the shrimp in a mesh metal strainer. Dip the strainer into the simmering broth and stir the shrimp around so that it poaches in the hot liquid. Once the shrimp becomes bright pink, shake lightly to remove excess liquids and set aside.

Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Usually it will instruct you to soak the noodles for 10-15 minutes in hot water and then boil for a quick few minutes before draining well. Set aside.

To assemble if serving the broth with the noodles, divide the cooked noodles among the bowls. On top of each bowl, place 3-4 poached shrimp, a couple of pieces of imitation crab and a few spoonfuls of cooked ground pork. Sprinkle on the fried garlic, fried shallots and chopped scallions. Ladle the boiling broth over the noodles and toppings. Serve with fresh herbs, chilies and limes on the side.

If serving Hủ Tiếu Khô (dry noodles), prepare the accompanying sauce by heating the oil over medium low in a small saucepan. Add the shallots and cook until just golden. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, stir to avoid it from burning. Sprinkle in the 5 spice powder and cook for 30 seconds before adding the remaining sauce ingredients. Raise the heat so that the liquids boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow the sauce to cook for 2-3 additional minutes. Assemble the Hủ Tiếu Khô by adding a heaping spoonful of the dark sauce at the bottom of each bowl. Top with the cooked noodles, 3-4 poached shrimp, a couple of pieces of imitation crab and a few spoonfuls of cooked ground pork. Sprinkle on the fried garlic, fried shallots and chopped scallions. Serve with a small bowl of hot broth on the side along with fresh herbs, chilies and limes.