Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cha - Stick a BBQ Fork In It

Cha Shao 叉燒 may be more familiar to you as Char Siu, the famous bbq pork filling for Char Sui Bao 叉燒包, those lovely white steamed buns. What Cha Shao 叉燒 actually means is "Fork Roast". (You remember Shao, don't you?) The Chinese assume you know they're talking about pork, the same way they assume you know they mean pork when they mention meat.

This tasty staple of Chinese cooking is made by marinating sheets of pork and hanging it on a fork in a very hot oven. It's a variation on spit roasting, and if you think about it, the character for "fork" looks kind of like the stand for a spit you put over a fire. (And since the Chinese don't use forks as tableware, that's the most suitable symbol for it.)

Cha Shao 叉燒 gets used in a lot more dishes than just bao 包. You'll see it on just about every menu on things like BBQ Pork Fried Rice (Cha Shao Chao Fan 叉燒炒飯) and many other dishes. We'll move into rice territory next time, when we make way for a tasty duckling.

The Pinyin spelling is chā, or cha1 (first tone).

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