Look, we love a good Chinese takeout as much as the next guy. Heck, probably more than the next guy. If we’re not grilling, chances are a Chinese menu is probably on-hand. But, what if we could combine the best of both worlds? While we aren’t talking grilled Chinese takeout (not exactly), we do have some ideas.
Today, we’ve put together a few pro-tips for bringing some quality Chinese flavors to your next grillout.
This one alone isn’t going to get you the perfect Chinese flavor, but it’s still worth mentioning. The rough Chinese word for ‘barbecue’ is Shaokao. This style of cuisine usually consists of kabob-style foods on a bamboo skewer, cooked over an open-air grill. It’s a common style of street food in China, but to bring that to your backyard...you’ll need the grill. Those can be had for around $100 off Amazon, and are definitely fun to use... but truthfully, your standard, lid-off charcoal grill will probably do the trick.
This is where the authentic Chinese flavor is going to come in. Chinese Five-Spice powder is (unsurprisingly) popular in Shaokao cooking. So, what exactly is five-spice? Generally, it’s a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. We hate to bring “pumpkin spice” into a conversation unnecessarily, but Five-Spice is oddly reminiscent of the Millenial favorite. Albeit, spicier -- and just objectively better.
A typical recipe calls for equal parts of these ingredients, but if you’re looking to color outside of the lines...Black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, and licorice are all relatively popular inclusions.
To pull some Chinese inspiration with our proteins, we’re going to look at a technique called Char Siu. Although Char Siu has its own sets of rules, regulations, and procedures, we can take some liberties. Typically, with the Char Siu style of grilling, proteins are cooked while skewered (Char Siu roughly translates to ‘fork-roasted’) for a long time in wood-fired ovens. The most popular meats used are pork belly, butt, loin, and neck. Any one of these has a welcome spot on our grill. Add some Five-Spice, and you’re one step away from your own Chinese feast.
Look -- you could throw some Five-Spice into your favorite barbecue sauce and call it a day. We’d even say that’s probably a delicious idea. But, for something more legitimate, we’re again going to look at the Char Siu style. Below is a great recipe for a Char Siu-style barbecue sauce.
1/2 cup sherry wine
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons black bean paste
1 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
Pinch of salt
Combine all of these ingredients and simmer on low heat, until sauce begins to thicken. The result will be a wonderfully sweet, earthy, and spicy sauce that is sure to knock your socks off.