Char Siu, Siu Mei – best Hong Kong food
Siu mei, world famous Chinese BBQ meats, specifically Cantonese-style roasts, are the soul and the staples of innumerable Chinese restaurants. You should have seen siu mei, including char siu, siu yuk and roast goose hanging in restaurants’ front windows, if you have been to places with Chinese communities. This cuisine is actually ubiquitous and must eat in Hong Kong!
Siu mei, literally means roast-flavored, is one of the Hong Kong famous food. It is revealed that over 50% of Hongkongers eat siu mei twice a week, according to a survey of 1,706 people in 2011. Almost 80% of them have siu mei at least once a week, on average once every four days. A whopping 66,000 tons of siu mei is consumed by Hong Kong people every year, if 100g of siu mei is consumed each time!
In addition, Oxford English Dictionary has recently included 13 Hong Kong terms, of which five of them are food-related terms. Not surprisingly, char siu, siu mei and yum cha are on the list, which show that Hong Kong local culture is being recognized and appreciated.
Varieties of Siu mei/ Chinese BBQ
The classic types of roasts include: barbecued pork, roast pork, roast goose and duck, as well as roast suckling pig. Do not mix siu mei up with siu mai which is a kind of dim sum made of pork and shrimp. The most popular roast is char siu (barbecued pork), followed by siu yuk (roast pork) and siu ngo (roast goose).
Char siu/ char siew (叉燒) – Chinese barbecued pork, literally means fork roast. The boneless pork is cooked on spits over an open fire or in a roast furnace and hence the name. Their red colour comes from pork sauce. You can always find them dripping in honey and their flavourful juices. Good char siu should be delicious, tender and juicy. Also, char siu can be used as the ingredient of fried rice and the fillings of dim sum like char siu bao (bun) and char siu chang fen (rice roll).
Roast suckling pig (燒乳豬) is a banquet favourite in Hong Kong and usually served as the first dish. Two to six month-old pig is cooked on spits over an open fire or in a roast furnace, which is similar to char siu. Top grade roast suckling pig is crispy tender. It is believed that Chinese people have had the tradition of eating roast suckling pig since the Western Zhou period (1046–771 BC). The Cantonese style roast suckling pig is the most prevailing. Other than in banquet, it is also one of the must-have in Ching Ming Festival and Cheung Yeung Festival in homage to ancestors. Roast suckling pig is not only well-liked in China, it is also popular in food cultures around the world, for example in Spain and Germany. For now, try the suckling pig platter in Hong Kong style.
Siu yuk (燒肉) literally means roasted meat. It is well-known for its crispy tender and is one of my favourite dishes. The cooking method is basically the same as roast suckling pig roast, except the use of mature pig weighted 10 to 20 kg. The entire seasoned pig is traditionally cooked in a charcoal furnace at high temperature until the skin is crispy and the meat is juicy and tender. You may also have a glass of red or white wine as it pairs well with Chinese roast pork. One thing to note is that the price of roast suckling pig is much higher than that of siu yuk and may not be regularly available. It is generally subject to prior reservation.
Roasted goose, siu ngo (燒鵝) and roasted duck, siu aap (燒鴨) are cooked in a roast furnace until crispy tender. They are then sliced and are normally served with plum sauce. As the cost of duck is lower than that of goose, it has usually become a substitute.
Soy sauce chicken (豉油雞) – chicken cooked with soy sauce and white cut chicken (白切雞) – marinated steamed chicken are other favourite dishes. Although they are not barbecued, they are key members of the siu mei family.
Where to taste Siu mei/ Chinese BBQ
Siu mei can be found everywhere in Hong Kong, you can try them in siu mei specialty stores, high-end restaurants, fast-food chains, bigger Cha Chaan Teng (tea restaurants) and supermarkets. It is also common to buy them as takeaways. The menus are usually highly flexible, you can pair your siu mei with rice, noodles or rice noodles. Why not try the combo plates to taste all of them! There are a number famous restaurants for roast goose Hong Kong, including those in Sham Tseng near Tsuen Wan in the New Territories and Yung Kee Hong Kong in the Central district.
Have you tried any siu mei or char siu in Hong Kong? Which one is your favourite must eat in Hong Kong?
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