Color of Chinese Roast Pork
re: Jim Leff
Did you ever notice that I never talk while Gourmet
Guy drinks water?
You've just gone way out of my league on the redness
issue. Sodium Nitrite can certainly turn things red,
so I suppose it's possible that it's involved in
Chinese meat cookery, but it's not likely a
traditional ingredient. I tend to think that most of
these meats started fresh, without preservatives or
coloring, and are just heavily brushed with this red
soyu stuff. All I know is that I was walking in
Chinatown once with a Chinese friend who knows his
stuff and I asked about the red color and he said it's
from soyu, a traditional Chinese ingredient that is
some kind of soy extract.
I personally believe that most of the improbably-red
looking color-particularly in cheap renditions-of char
siu is red food coloring. A lot of the recipes found
in a web search specifically include this as an
ingredient in the sauce/marinade. There are other
traditional ingredients, like soy (shoyu etc), hoisin
or maybe honey or caramel which would give a brown or
mahagony color, as well as reddish spices, five-spice
and red fermented bean curd which would also give a
reddish color if included. But the garish bright red
or pink color one often must be the product of added
Re nitrites, they are used in curing and do give a
pink color in cured pork products, like sausages, but
char siu is a fresh, not cured, product, as PastryChef
notes. There may be naturally occurring nitrites in
this product (I dont know)but I doubt it would be
added by the cook.
Tee-hee! PastryChef, you do realize that I drink a LOT
of water! Glad you're back, too.
Yeah, I've busy all summer with various projects, lots
of food writing thither and yon, and now I'm diving
gleefully back into the Chowhound waters.
Oh, Maestro Leff, I just plugged your book to that poor
soul who forgot to make dinner reservations for his
girlfriend's birthday. Personally, I'd be very happy at
any number of "your" restaurants on my birthday.
You are correct in your theory that my assumption was
that the red was food coloring. This isn't a hard and
fast rule, but there does seem to be an inverse
correlation between the brightness of the pork and the
seriousness of the restaurant (although I have to
admit that I'm a sucker for bad roast pork, as long as
it isn't overcooked).
So we have Jen on the food coloring side, and you on
the soyu side. Anybody else care to break the tie?