Char Siu Banh Mi

Sorry for the radio silence lately, the writer’s block has been hitting me hard. Most days it’s a challenge to get me to shut up, but for whatever reason the words just haven’t been coming. I’ve been cooking, but nothing has seemed good enough to share with you all.

After a BITCH of a migraine last night, I woke up this morning ready to roll. This time, I’ve got big plans for baking. I’ve never been a good baker. Something about the precise measurements doesn’t work for me, not to mention the patience, but I’m feeling refreshed and ready to try it again. I feel like good bakers are people that are calm and have their lives together and I’m… me. I may screw it up, we’ll see. Updates to come.

I have an intense obsession with the banh mi. You’ve seen it here before, you’ll see it again. It’s just the perfect sandwich. The acidic vegetables, the bright cilantro, flavorful pork… I’d eat it every single day if I could. This time, I switched it up a little. Instead of a tenderloin, I went with an entire pork butt and used a Chinese-style Char Siu-style marinade. I had Char Siu quite a bit in Hong Kong and I just haven’t been able to get it off the brain.

The thing with asian food is that yes, it’s often a lot of ingredients and the initial investment can be pricey, but once you own all the ingredients you’re set to make anything you want. If you have access, an asian grocery store is the best place to find all of these ingredients but if not, these days many can be found at your regular grocer. The hardest one to find will be the fermented bean curd, but if you can’t get it just adjust the salt content by adding a little soy and you should still be able to make something delicious.

So, here’s the method and recipe I went with this time. If you have any questions about ingredients or possible substitutions, don’t hesitate to ask!


  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 cubes red fermented bean curd plus 2 tbsp of the liquid
  • 2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp hoisin
  • 4 cloves garlic- minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger- minced
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 4-5 lb pork butt
  • 1 orange- zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp honey

    The Breakdown:

  1. Break the pork butt down into long strips, about 2 inches in height and width.
  2. Combine all but the last two ingredients in a large bowl and stir until homogenous. Set aside one cup of marinade, and pour the rest into a large zip-lock with the pork. Massage well and then seal. At this point, you can marinate in the fridge if you’re doing any other cooking method, but since I went with sous vide it wasn’t necessary as the liquid would marinate the pork as it cooked.
  3. Cook sous-vide at 140 °F for two hours. When finished, remove from the bag and dry thoroughly.
  4. Pre-heat the grill as high as it’ll go for at least ten minutes, you want a good sear on this stuff.
  5. While the grill heats up, add the orange juice, zest, and honey to the reserved cup of marinade in a small saucepan over medium high heat and reduce until thickened, about five to ten minutes. At this point, I added a few drops of red food coloring to really get that color.
  6. Grill the pork, basting with the sauce as it cooks. You want it to get nice grill marks and char all over the outside. Once it is well browned and crispy beautiful, pull it off and let it rest for a few minutes. Use this time to toast your bread.


    Assembly: Add a healthy drizzle of sriracha mayonnaise to both sides of the bread. Add sliced pork and pickled veggies of your choice (I went with radishes, onions, and carrots), top with cilantro. If you like it spicy, add a drizzle of Sriracha on top.


In a perfect world, I would put liver pâté all over this thing but I had to restrain myself because I refuse to buy new pants. It was delicious without it, but nothing was ever harmed by a little pâté if you’re feeling fancy.

One bite of this and I finally felt like I was back on my game. I really liked the acidity and background fruitiness that the orange gave in the sauce. The sugar content also helped it caramelize the outside beautifully.  The only thing I would change is trimming the pork down a little more. I was worried that it would be too dry if I cut out more fat, but I think it was plenty moist and I just ended up trimming it off anyways after cooking.

These went over great with the family, my sister especially. That girl LOVES homemade Sriracha mayo. For how easy it is to make (see my off-baste bowl post), it’s just so dang good.

Overall, I’m thinking I may be a proponent of the butt over the loin. Who doesn’t love a good butt? The other option recommended to me by the butcher was country-style ribs, but I haven’t tried it myself. Maybe next time. God knows I’m not gonna stop eating.

Here’s to a much shorter break before the next recipe. Until then, pray for my bread and (as always) my sanity.


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