Char Siu is a sweet barbecued pork, popular in Cantonese cooking. It's bursting with the vibrant asian flavors of Chinese 5-spice, hoisin, honey and soy. Make sure when doing this recipe you get a high grade pork belly like Berkshire Pork. You can find this cut at high end butcher shops.
SMOKED CHAR SIU PORK BELLY
PREP TIME: 20 minutes, plus brine for two days
COOK TIME: 4 1/2 hours
SERVES: 6 to 8
RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Cherry
1 to 3 lbs pork belly
3 to 4 star anise pods
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup hoisin
1/3 dry sherry or Chinese wine
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
1 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
STEP 1: BRINE THE PORK BELLY (start this 2 days before you want to cook and eat the pork belly)
Start by toasting the spices for the brine to bring out their warm, robust flavors. Start the Traeger on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established, 4 to 5 minutes. Preheat to 350 degrees F with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes.
Spread out the star anise pods, peppercorns, fennel seed, whole cloves and the cinnamon stick on a baking sheet. Toast them in the Traeger at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until they look lightly toasted and smell fragrant (but NOT burnt).
Once the toasted spices have cooled, slightly crush or break them up to help release their amazing flavors. (You can use anything small and heavy to crush them, or even a mortar and pestle if you happen to have one.) Put the crushed spices into a large pot along with most of the other brine ingredients: salt, sugar and half of the water (1 quart).
Bring the brine mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Then remove from heat and pour in the rest of the water and the garlic. (To cool it down faster, you can substitute ice for some of the water.)
While the brine is cooling take the belly out of the fridge and score the top fat 1 1/2 inches wide in a hatch pattern. Only cut just enough to get through the top layer of fat.
After the brine is completely cool add the pork and brine to a non-reactive container, cover and store in the fridge for 48 hours.
STEP 2: SMOKE THE PORK BELLY
The day you want to enjoy the pork belly (or even the day before) start the Traeger on Smoke with the lid open for 4 to 5 minutes or until the fire is established.
Remove the pork belly from the brine, knocking off any whole spices. Allow it to sit out 30 minutes to let it come to room temperature. Place it on the grill grate (fat-side up) and smoke for 3 hours.
STEP 3: CHAR SIU SAUCE
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine the soy sauce, hoisin, dry sherry or Chinese wine, sugar, honey, Sriracha sauce, garlic cloves, toasted sesame oil, and Chinese 5-spice powder and cook over medium-low heat until the sauce is reduced, thick and very flavorful. (As you tilt and turn the pan it should leave a thick layer of sauce on the sides and the bottom.)
Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool.
After the pork belly has smoked for 3 hours, brush on the Char Siu sauce on all sides. Then turn the temperature on the Traeger up to 250 degrees F and let the pork belly continue to smoke for about 1 1/2 hours more or until the internal temperature registers 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. It should have a nice mahogany color with blackened edges.
You can slice it and eat it same day or chill over night and then slice and reheat for a better formed slice.