Authentic Japanese Recipe to Make Tender and Juicy Chashu


chashu

Imagine this: Umami-rich, melt-in-your mouth, tender, marinated thin pork slices on top of a piping hot bowl of flavourful ramen.

Ramen toppings make your ramen creation a unique experience catered to your preferred taste. 

If you haven’t checked out our blogpost on the different types of ramen toppings yet, check it out here!
 
Today, we’re going to take a look at how to make pork chashu in the comfort of your own home! For those who do not eat pork for health or religious reasons, feel free to substitute pork meat for other types of meat such as chicken, duck or beef. 
 
What is Chashu?
 
Chashu is a thinly-sliced piece of braised pork. The origin of the word “chashu" (叉燒) is actually Chinese and it literally means, fork-roasted (pork). However, the Japanese meaning of the word refers to braised pork in general. Unlike its Chinese counterpart which features a firm piece of pork with a distinct and smoky grilled flavour, the Japanese take on chashu is more tender and juicy. 
 
Which cut of pork is Chashu?
The location of the pork plays a vital role in the taste of the chashu. 
 
Pork Belly (豚バラ / Butabara): Pork belly chashu is the best for people who enjoy the fatty taste of pork.
pork belly chashu meat
Pork Loin (ロース / Rosu): Pork loin chashu is the lean part of the pork, which is a great option for the health-conscious or for people who don’t like the oily taste of fatty meats.   
pork loin chashu meat
Pork Shoulder (肩ロース / Katarosu): A good combination of both the fatty part of the chashu and red meat is the pork shoulder. 
pork shoulder chashu meat
 
Learn How to Make Your Own Chashu
 
Ingredients:
  • Pork belly 700g
  • Vinegar 30cc/mL (or 1fl oz) - optional
  • Soy sauce 200cc/mL (or 6.7fl oz)
  • Sake 200cc/mL (or 6.7fl oz)
  • Sugar 1 spoon (Brown sugar can be used as a substitute)
  • Ginger 4 slices
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Japanese green onion (green part only) 1
  • Other: Thick thread or twine
Chashu Cooking Ingredients
Directions:
 

(A) Tie the pork belly

 
There are 3 main reasons why the pork should be tied up:
  1. It can be heated evenly
  2. The pork retains its nice and round shape
  3. Stays intact while boiling instead of breaking
 
There are two ways to tie pork: Easy (beginner-level) and Difficult (professional-level)
We will go through both today!
 
How to Tie Pork for Marination: Easy version (5-Step Process with Pictures):
  1. Roll the pork into a round log-shape piece. The pork piece should be oriented so that the fatty side (rind side) is facing outside. Cut off any excess parts of the pork so that it is flat and neat.Rolled Pork in Round Circular Log Shape
  2. Place a piece of thick cooking thread or twine onto the roll centred horizontally (as seen in the picture).Cooking thread on top or raw meat to prepare for tying
  3. From the end of the roll, start tightly wrapping the thread around the roll of pork working your way back to the starting point. Keep a distance of about 1cm between each wrap.Wrapping and Circling Cooking Thread around Pork Roll
  4. Continue tightly wrapping until you reach the starting point.Wrapping and Tying Twine around Pork Roll
  5. Once you’ve reached the starting point, tie both ends together.Tie loose ends together of Pork Roll
 
How to Tie Pork for Marination: Difficult version (10-Step Process with Pictures):
  1. Roll the pork into a round log-shape piece. The pork piece should be oriented so that the fatty side (rind side) is facing outside. Cut off any excess parts of the pork so that it is flat and neat.Prok rolled into log shape for chashu
  2. Wrap your thick cooking thread or twine on one end of the pork roll and secure with a double knot. This will be the first wrap.Cooking thread tied on Ends of Pork Roll
  3. Start your second wrap around the roll. Pay attention to keeping the thread tight, or all that handwork will be wasted!Tight wrap around Pork Roll
  4. This is the tricky part! To finish off the second wrap, take the end of your thread, and thread it through the middle of the first wrap. Threading end of twine back into the first wrap
  5. Continue this process while keeping a 1cm distance between each wrapWrapping and tying pork roll and working towards the opposite end
  6. Continue wrapping (tightly), working your way to the opposite end. You can do it! That chashu is calling your name!Tying and wrapping twine around pork roll
  7. Once you’ve reached the end of the pork roll, flip it over.Pork Roll Flipped over
  8. Starting from the side you ended on, thread your twine through each wrap as shown in the picture. Pull tightly. Threading twine on the flipped over side of the pork roll
  9. Continue doing so until you’re back at the starting point. (Not sure if you are doing it correctly? Skip to the next step to see what the finished product should look like!)Finished bind on backside of pork roll
  10. Once you’ve reached the starting point, tie loose ends together in a double knot to secure it in place.Tying lose ends of pork roll
Completed Bound Pork Roll (Front and Backside):
Completely tied pork roll front sideCompletely tied pork roll back side 
 

(B) Boil meat

Prepare a large pot of water, just enough so that the pork can be fully immersed and carefully place in the pork that you’ve just artistically wrapped! Start heating up your pork roll in water using high heat and bring to a boil. After it reaches boiling, turn the heat down to low (light bubbling) 
After removing the froth from the surface, combine vinegar, Japanese green onion, garlic and slices of ginger into the pot and and keep it boiling in this state for 2.5 hours.
 
The key point here is not to cover the boiling pot as the temperature will get too high. Maintaining a consistent 95C (203F) is optimal for the best juicy chashu. 
Boiling bound pork chashu in waterSkimming froth from pork chashu boil
 
While you’re waiting 2.5 hours for the chashu to soak in all the flavour, let’s take a look at why we took the steps that we just did! This will help you understand the cooking process better.
 
Why do we use garlic, ginger and only the green part of a Japanese green onion?
The compounds found in these ingredients actually contain a chemical that help break down unpleasant odors, a perfect and natural way to get rid of the pork smell. Only the green part of the Japanese green onion is used as Japanese people usually don’t like the white part and it melts while being boiled. 
Adding ginger and negi into chashu boilCooked negi and ginger in chashu boil
Why do we boil the pork for such long period of time?
Boiling meat gradually hardens it and gives it a nice firm chew, as it slowly starts to cook. However, for the purpose of making chashu, we want the pork to remain nice and tender. Boiling it for more than 2 hours, allows the meat to get melt-in-your mouth soft. 
 
Pan-fry vs. No Pan-fry
Some Japanese say that during the chashu-making process, it is better to pan fry the surface of the raw pork before boiling it. They claim that this will shut in the moisture, oil and umami flavour. 
 do not pan fry chashu
However, from my personal experience and learning from my mother, I find that not frying the surface actually yields a better outcome. After frying, the piece of meat has a stronger pork smell and the texture of the meat becomes harder than the chashu that was not initially pan-fried. One theory for this result is that the white foam skim that floats onto the top of the boiling chashu mixture cannot come out if the pork has been previously fried as the surface is blocked. I find that chashu that has not been previously treated by pan-frying, comes out softer and juicier. 
 
Curious as to what the result for each one is? Why not try both ways and see which one you like better. 
 
Why is vinegar used in the initial boiling process and not other common ingredients like mirin or soy sauce, even though they are more commonly used than vinegar? 
vinegar
The acidic nature of vinegar helps break down meat fibres making it soft and porous. Adding mirin hardens the meat and adding soy sauce dries out the meat. Inconsistent to what we are trying to achieve - tender and moist chashu.   
 

(C) Make the sauce 

  1. Combine the shoyu, sake and sugar in a shallow sauce pan and heat up in medium heat.  Sugar in chashu marinadeSake in chashu marinadeSoy sauce in chashu marinade
  2. Put boiled chashu into the mixture to give it a nice dark colourBoiled chashu in marinade to darken
  3. Move the chashu around to ensure that colour and flavour is evenly distributedChashu soaking in marinade
  4. After it boils, turn off the heat but do not remove the chashu just yet
  5. Allow the sauce to cool down, which will take about 30 minutes. (The savoury flavour is most effectively transferred over to the meat when the sauce is cooled)
 

(D) Refrigerate 

Leave the sauce-soaked chashu in a leak-proof plastic bag in the fridge overnight. While refrigerated, chashu is good for approximately 7 days.Chashu in marinade for refrigeration
 

(E) Cut up chashu

Finally, get rid of the thread and carefully slice into thin slices while the meat is still cold. It is easier to slice up cold meat than hot. 
Put chashu on top of a bed of piping hot ramen noodles and serve! Cutting up chashu for chashu recipe
 

(F) Use Cooking Torch (optional)

Want to bring out the flavour and aroma even more? Use a cooking torch to add a smoky depth to your chashu!
 
Now that you’ve completed this tedious but rewarding recipe, give yourselves a pat on the back for mastering a new culinary skill! This tender and savoury chashu is simply the cherry on top of a nice bowl of ramen. 
 
What about a nice succulent half-boiled ajitama ramen egg to go with your chashu? Check out our ajitama ramen egg recipe!
 
Here are some of our favourite ramen bowls to help you bring your ramen game to the next restaurant-quality level!  

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