Backyard BBQ: How Chinese barbecue master Jack Tsoi makes his grilled honey char siu pork chops
Now that it’s officially barbecue season, we’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what summer dishes they’re grilling in their own backyards, on their balconies or in their kitchens
Like many of us, East Court & Mike’s BBQ chef Jack Tsoi is at home more than usual these days. We asked him what summer dishes he’s grilling. His recipe: honey char siu pork chops.
Chef Jack Tsoi says that pork is “like a religion for Cantonese people.” So naturally, he was inspired to make this easier honey char siu pork chop recipe for home cooks. The version he serves at East Court & Mike’s takes hours to prepare, but this one can be grilled up within a few minutes. He loves this dish because of the savoury and sweet components that meld together during the grilling process. “The spice blend is often used for Southern Chinese chicken or pork dishes,” he notes. And the honey dip gives the meat a sweet lacquered finish. The key is to not overcook the pork, so make sure to have timer on hand: “The finished chops should be just cooked, tender, with a slight blush of pink.” If done correctly, Tsoi says, you end up with this gloriously fatty and succulent pork-y chop that’s best served Cantonese style, “with lots of steamed white rice, veggies, and ginger scallion sauce on the side.”
Here’s the straightforward recipe, but if you want to step up your culinary game, and for a more tender chop, chef says mix two tablespoons of baking soda to the pork chops after rinsing. Let sit for a few hours, rinse, then proceed with the spice mix.
Cleaver or chef’s knife
2 brushes (one for the honey glaze and one for the vegetable oil)
Serves 12 (1 chop per person) or 6 very hungry people.
For the chops
12 centre-cut pork chops, about 6 lb, rinsed and drained
1 ½ tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp chicken bouillon/broth mix powder (sometimes called chicken seasoning)
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp zedoary powder a.k.a. “sand ginger” powder (found at Asian supermarkets such as T & T; you can omit or substitute regular ginger powder, but it won’t taste the same)
1 tbsp lemongrass powder (also available at T & T)
3 large eggs
1 ½ tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
Vegetable oil (for basting)
For the honey dip
1 cup of honey dissolved in ½ cup just-boiled water
Using the back of a cleaver or a meat tenderizer, pound each pork chop to break down the fibres:
To prepare the spice mix, add all dry ingredients to a small bowl and stir well:
Add eggs to the spice mix. Beat well until incorporated:
Add soy sauce and mix well:
Add marinade to pork chops; mix well until the marinade gets absorbed by the pork:
Add sesame oil and mix well:
Let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the fridge (the longer you marinate, the tastier the chop):
Prepare the grill. Using a chimney, fill briquettes to the top, and light ’em up:
Once the coals turn grey and ashy, add them to the bottom of your grill. You want direct heat. Here we’re using a rondo grill, but a hibachi would work well for this, too.
Wait until the coals are the right temperature. Here’s how you tell: hold your hand over the grill and count “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand.” If you can’t keep your hand over the grill for that long, it’s too hot, so let it cool down before cooking.
Brush your clean grates with vegetable oil so the meat doesn’t stick.
Add the chops to the grill and baste those babies with oil:
Once the chops come loose from the grill, start flipping every minute to develop colour and char.
Keep basting with oil to ensure chops are browning, and to prevent them from drying out:
Continue to grill for 1 to 2 minutes more on each side until brown, but not overcooked. When the chops just begin to firm up, start basting with the honey dip, flipping and basting to lacquer the chops:
To prevent sticking and flare-ups, you can place foil under the chops during this last phase (you want a generous coating of honey).
Total cook time of chops should be 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Take the chops off the grill and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the meat relax. And voila, the finished chops:
Chef’s note: These can also be deep-fried at 375°F for 3 to 4 minutes, or baked in a preheated 350° oven for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Brush with the honey dip while still hot.