Discover the best local (and affordable!) spots for char siu in Hong Kong…
Char siu: one of Hong Kong’s most iconic dishes. The name may appear a little strange to some of us, but it comes from the way it’s made. The traditional cooking method uses a large fork (叉, “char”) to roast (燒, “siu”) the pork over charcoal. Today, char siu can be found all over the city, from high-end Michelin restaurants to rustic hole-in-the-wall stalls. It can be a little overwhelming to know where to start, which is why we’re making like the locals. Ahead, here are the best local (and affordable) spots for char siu in Hong Kong.
Sassy Tip: Usually the store will give you a better cut of the char siu if you ask for it as a standalone dish (as opposed to a lunch set with rice). Remember to always remember to ask for “半肥瘦” (buun fei sou), which is essentially “half fat, half lean” (see below).
How To Judge Your Char Siu
First thing’s first, what makes for good char siu? Look out for these key things to help you make your final judgement.
- Colour: the iconic red glaze needs to be evenly distributed and also diffused slightly into the meat itself.
- Texture: it should be tender (but never soft!), and easy to bite through.
- Meat: you may have heard of “half fat, half lean”; this is basically the meat at the back of the neck of the pig and is meant to be the best cut for char siu.
- Flavour: many people love char siu for the sauce, but locals insist that the sauce should not be over-powering. Rather, it should complement and balance the fresh taste of the pork.
- Skin: the skin should be perfectly coated with the iconic red sauce, complete with a slight hint of charcoal burn.
- Marinade: the marinade needs to be perfectly balanced (not too sweet, but still fragrant). The process also needs to be perfectly timed; long enough for the meat to have flavour, but not too long so that the texture of the meat isn’t compromised.
The Best Char Siu In Hong Kong
This is probably our favourite on the list. It’s not just our personal opinion though, because no matter what day of the week you go, there’s always a crowd outside waiting to get a bite of this Sun Kwai Heung’s char siu. Perfectly glazed and coloured, each bite makes you long for more. The skin is slightly crunchy and the meat is tender – we haven’t tasted a better piece of char siu in Hong Kong yet. The sauce is also incredible and goes amazingly well with rice. A must try!
Opening hours: 11am to 7pm
Sun Kwai Heung BBQ Food (新桂香燒臘), G/F, N. 17, Kam Tam Yun House, 345 Chai Wan Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong, 2556 1183
This place calls its char siu the “No. 1 Char Siu”, and rightly so. A quaint Cantonese restaurant that serves dim sum during the day and traditional dishes at night, this place serves great food overall, but the char siu should not be missed. Served in thick, chunky slices, each bite is tender, sufficiently fatty and mouth-drooling tasty. We are currently craving those crunchy charcoal burnt bits. Warning: you will very likely have to queue, so try and get there early!
Opening hours: 10:30am to 3:30pm and 6pm to 10:30pm
Taiwai Dining Room (大圍小館), G/F, 92 Chik Fuk Street, Tai Wai, Hong Kong, 2339 0189
Next up, a hidden gem in Yuen Long. Yes, it’s a little far away from the Island, but good things usually take time. You can pair it with a nice, scenic cycling trip in the neighbourhood for a relaxing weekend. The char siu here is fragrant, tender and extremely satisfying. You’ll find that the sauce is a little different to other stalls, with a heavier soy base that makes it perfect for pairing with rice. FYI, we much prefer its char siu over the restaurant’s signature Soy Goose!
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm (closed on Thursdays)
鹵家, Shop 10 & 14, G/F, Siu Fung Building, 68 Kau Yuk Road, Yuen Long, Hong Kong, 2363 0355
Read more: The Best Coffee Shops In Yuen Long
Being a Sichuan restaurant, this is not an obvious pick for great char siu. Yet we were pleasantly surprised! Full disclosure: while the char siu here was meant to be “Sichuan style”, we unfortunately couldn’t taste the hints of spices. Nevertheless, it was still a very tasty piece of char siu – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. It paired very well with the signature Dan Dan noodles. As the name suggests, Jing Alley is tucked away by an unassuming entrance, so make sure to look out for it.
Opening hours: 11:30am to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm
A restaurant dedicated to all types of HK-style roast meats? Yes please! This place offers two types of char siu: one is the typical honey glazed version you can find in most other stalls, while the other is pork belly char siu, which is less easy to find across Hong Kong. Both are great, but if you feel extra naughty, definitely give the pork belly option a try. The fatty meat almost melts in your mouth, and the honey glaze makes each bite extra juicy. We love the burnt charcoal sides too, giving it that perfect crunch.
Opening hours: 8am to 9:30pm (closed on Sundays)
Golden BBQ (黃金燒味), Shop B, G/F, Sun Hey Mansion, 68 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2702 1388
We must admit, the first time we came here we did not enjoy it all that much. But by popular demand (there is ALWAYS a crowd outside this restaurant), we were encouraged to give it a second chance – and thank goodness we did! This time, instead of ordering the char siu as part of a lunch set, we got it as a separate dish and our experience was much better. The skin was crispy, the meat was fresh and tender, and it had a nice sweet glaze to it. For those who like their char siu slightly sweeter, this is definitely the place for you.
Opening hours: 10am to 11pm
Dragon State Kitchen Restaurant (龍邦燒味小廚荼餐廳), Shop 38B, G/F, Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, 2342 3189
Located within the hustle and bustle of Wan Chai Market, this place is massively popular amongst locals. Serving a variety of traditional Cantonese dishes, the char siu is undoubtedly one of its best sellers. It hits most of the criteria listed above: the colour, glaze, meat and texture were all spot on. Our only gripe? It could do with more of that crunchy charcoal burn that we love. Nevertheless, this pick is a solid choice for a pretty damn good piece of char siu.
Opening hours: 9:30am to 8:30pm
All image courtesy of Cynthia Lok.