Hawaiian Pride Charsiu Sauce

If you’ve ever made your own Charsiu (Chinese sweet roast pork; also spelled Char-Siu or Char Siu), chances are you either have your own traditional family recipe (an Ancient Chinese Secret®), or, you’ve used one of several ready-to-use store-bought marinade/sauce brands on the market.

While shopping at Kaheka Don Quijote (a.k.a. Daiei, a.k.a. Holiday Mart) last weekend, I spotted this new (at least to me) line of marinade/sauces in the asian sauces aisle made by a brand called Hawaiian Pride. Flavor varieties they offer include Kim Chee Fried Rice (featuring Halm’s brand), Shoyu Chicken, Stir-Fry, Hawaiian BBQ Sauce (basically Halm’s Kal Bi sauce/marinade), and this one we have showcased here today in the form of Charsiu sauce/marinade.

Here’s the back of the packet…

These packets were on sale at Don Quijote for an AIG executive bonus incentive-busting 67 cents each. Nice.

What’s interesting about this brand of sauce/marinade is that, being packaged in a packet, you might assume just by looking at it on the store shelf that it’s in dehydrated (just add water) powdered form like the NOH brand. Yet upon feeling it, you immediately realize it’s in liquid form. Here’s how it appears after I emptied its contents into a bowl…

Wow, that’s bloody red, alright. “Carmine Red” to be exact. It’s quite thick in viscosity, too. Much more than the Mid Pac brand. I’d say about as thick as a good oyster sauce.

You might recall a few posts ago I showcased an oven-roasted Kalua Pig (and cabbage) demo. Well what I didn’t mention then is that the pork butt I used to make the Kalua Pig also served double-duty, where I cut off two approximately 1 pound cuts of pork steaks from it to make this Charsiu.

This is one MASSIVE Boston Butt pork shoulder…

That beast weighed in at a Jenny Craig-bustin’ 8.72 pounds. Whoah! So instead of committing the entire pork butt to Kalua Pig, I cut off two massive pork steaks to make this Hawaiian Pride Charsiu with.

I didn’t weigh them, but I’d guess each pork “steak” here is a little over a pound, cut about 1-1/8″ thick evenly across. Remove the fat? Hell no!

Making Charsiu using these ready-to-use marinades is so easy to do. Simply pour the marinade/sauce into a Ziploc® (or other brand) zip-seal plastic bag, add the pork, then squeeze around to evenly coat the meat. After doing that, it looks like this…

If you don’t have Ziploc® bags, or are too “Pake” to use one for doing this (like I know some of the readers of this blog are – you know who you are LOL!), just pour the Charsiu marinade/sauce directly on the pork on dish or in a pan, and use your hand or a basting brush to evenly coat it. Then you place it in the refrigerator and let it marinade at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results (as it says on the package).

After the 4 hours to overnight marinade time is up and you’re ready to go-a-roastin’, remove them from the Ziploc® (or pan for all you “Pake” folks) and place them on roasting pan with a rack on it, like this…

Notice I lined the pan underneath with aluminum foil, which will make clean-up so much easier. Especially with that concentrated red food coloring that can be stubborn to wash off.

Also notice the pork has thoroughly absorbed that carmine red coloring, which will give the finished Charsiu that signature look on the outside when it’s done. There’s also a lot of sugar (it’s listed as the first ingredient), which will create a tasty (<—yay!) caramelized crust after going under the heat.

Before we get more into the flavor profile, let’s see how Hawaiian Pride’s take on Charsiu pork turns out after it’s done roasting…

This was roasted (again) in my compact countertop toaster oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour, as directed by the package instructions, to which – in my opinion – came out perfect as can be. The sugar in the marinade caramelized evenly, with just a hint of crispy goodness (we call that “small ‘kine papa’a”) on the edges, without being burnt and bitter. After 1 hour of roasting was up, I turned off the oven and let it cool down for about a half hour.

Nothing else to do but cut a few slices and sample some, cuz!…

Lookin’ “Charsiu good” to me! Lookin’ juicy, too! Notice in the center, the pork is right around medium in doneness, not well-done. That’s just how I like my pork. I despise well-done meat, no matter what it is, whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or fish. Of course, if you prefer your charsiu well-done, you could put it back in the oven and roast it another half-hour or so. Up to you. Go ahead and kill it.

Here’s another angle…

Now let’s talk flavor. It’s certainly very “Charsiu-ee” in the true Hawaii local style way. It’s not “Hoisin-like”, which I’m very grateful for. Sorry, I’m not a big hoisin fan. That’s actually a testament to its ingredients, which in fact does not include Hoisin sauce per se, unlike two of its competing brands.

If there’s anything I think this Hawaiian Pride marinade needs is perhaps more sugar and/or shoyu and/or ginger and garlic. Or maybe just a longer time marinading. The Charsiu flavor on the outside is certainly there, yet it’s just a little more subdued than I prefer it. I think it needs to pack more Charsiu flavor “punch”. Perhaps I should have basted it with the leftover marinade while it roasted. The package didn’t instruct me to do that, though. Oh well.

Still, it’s delicious and worth every bit in using for what my intention of making Charsiu for to begin with is. What intention might that be, you ask?

To garnish SAIMIN, of course!…

See, in Japan – the great land of Ramen – they have what’s affectionately called “Chashumen“, which translates to “Pork Noodle”. My ichiban favorite of the genre. Well, in Hawaii we have what I’ll term as “Charsiu Min“. Well, OK, I don’t know if there’s any restaurants or other folks here that use that term, but I use it. That what you see right there is a perfect example of Charsiu Min. Five big slices of Charsiu covering the bowl. Oh yeah. Of course gotta’ throw in a few token slices of Kamaboko as a bonus. Don’t forget the negi (green onion) to finish it off.

How is my Charsiu Min? Winnah-winnah saimin dinnah, of course! As good as, if not better than most store-bought charsiu I’ve used for saimin in the past.

Or, instead of serving it that way, you can julienne the charsiu for your saimin as a garnish like many saimin shops do, this way…

Of course Charsiu isn’t limited to saimin. You can add charsiu into fried noodles, fried rice, chow funn noodles, (somen) salads and even manapua if you’re so inclined to make that.


Somen Salad, featuring red and green Kamaboko (fish cake), charsiu pork, julienned omelet, cucumbers, and green onion on a bed of fresh green lettuce

What other uses for Charsiu do you have or know about? Musubi? Casserole? Healing a wound? A good luck charm? Whatever that may be, leave a comment and let us know!

Best thing about making your own charsiu pork is how much money you save. Especially if you’re a “saimin freak” like me. Compare the current price of $6.59/pound of cooked and prepared charsiu at say in this instance, Don Quijote, to just $1.27/pound of raw pork butt. Add in the dollar-busting 67 cents (D.Q. sale price) for the packet of Hawaiian Pride Charsiu sauce, plus whatever electricity (please HECO be good to me) my small toaster oven consumed, and maybe (I’m just guessing) you can tack on another 50 cents per pound to that.

Do the math and you can see it’s a considerable savings going the Charsiu D-I-Y route. Not to mention fresh-made taste vs. a product that may have been under the heat lamps for hours in the store, risking tasting dried-out or worse yet, like “road kill”.

As for this Hawaiian Pride brand of Charsiu sauce/marinade, I can’t really distinguish it as being any different in flavor and intensity than Mid Pac Foods or NOH brand, which I’ve both of which tried already. They all taste one in the same to me and exactly how “local style” Charsiu should taste like. It does have a couple of benefits, with one being obviously the AIG bonus-busting price. The other being it’s ready to use straight out of the packet. No need add water or anything; well, unless you wanna’ doctor it up, like I might do next time. It also takes up very little room in your pantry if that’s something worth your consideration.

Speaking of doctoring Charsiu sauce up, my girlfriend’s friends on Maui recently made a batch of Charsiu for a party they threw, to which they used the Mid Pac brand (see following photo), simply adding (m0re) brown sugar to the mix. This is how theirs looked going in the oven…

She said it came out “killer” in her words.

I remember “HYN Pake” Nate mentioning his own Charsiu doctoring method using Chinese cooking wine? and some other ingrediments. Garlic and ginger I think it was. I forget, but guaranz’ da’ buggah must be winnahz.

The other exclusively made in Hawaii D-I-Y Charsiu sauce/marinade brands that’s been on the market for years now include the dehydrated (powdered) just-add-water type made by NOH…

Then there’s the Mid Pac brand, which comes bottled in rather thin liquid marinade form…

And also the Lum’s brand…

I’ll review Lum’s Char- Siu Sauce next time around, after I run out of this Hawaiian Pride charsiu I just made, which should last only about a month based on how frequently I’ve been craving saimin lately. Makes this cold, dreary weather we’ve been having lately seem, otherwise, oh-so-good!

What? Hawaiian Pride Charsiu Sauce
Where did you buy it and how much? Don Quijote Kaheka, 67 cents sale price/2.9 oz. packet
Big Shaka to: AIG executive bonus incentive-busting 67 cents price. Comparable in flavor to all other brands I’ve tried in the past. Doesn’t taste “Hoisin-ee”. Ready-to-use (in liquid form) out of the packet, no mixing with water necessary (you know, that’s always a tough job). Nice and thick viscosity. Great lookin’ packet label design and logo. Catchy brand name. As advertised on package, it is indeed “quick and easy to make”! Also as advertised, it’s “all natural” and “non preservatives” (great grammar skills there).
No Shaka to: Could use a bit more Charsiu flavor punch (which could be the cook’s fault; not sure). Manufacturer doesn’t have a website (that I know of, could find, or is indicated on the label).
The Tasty Island rating: 3 SPAM Musubi


Comments

Hawaiian Pride Charsiu Sauce — 17 Comments

  1. Just dropping in to say hello Pomai. I read your excellent reviews every now an then when I get a chance. I just wanted to comment that my father started the Mid Pac brand sauces way back in the 50s and sold it off when we moved to LA during the 60s. He also registered the “Chasu” brand as his original trademark. Sadly, the recipe had changed over the years drastically and is not the same as it was in it’s original conception. My father did not use hoisin or sugar but pure locally grown honey as his sweetner as I remember. He used nothing but the best he always said. Lucky Luck and the gang (including Genoa Keawe) could attest to that back in those live TV shows where he personally cooked and served his spareribs to them back in the 50s. BTW, love your blog.

  2. Yoro, I bought the Lum’s brand Char-Siu Sauce, as well as all the others you see here at Don Quijote (a.k.a. Daiei, a.k.a. Holiday Mart).

    One important thing to note: both the Kaheka and Waipahu locations only stock the Lum’s Char-Siu Sauce in the meat department; NOT where the other Chinese sauces are located in the grocery aisle. I think they thought about cross-merchandising, yet left out its original location. Oops.

    The Lum’s brand is the most expensive (albeit largest in quantity) of the bunch, at $4.79 per 11 oz. plastic bottle. The Mid Pac Foods Sauce for Char Siu is $3.19 per 7 oz. glass bottle, and the NOH Chinese Barbecue Char Siu seasoning mix (powdered packet) was 88 cents on sale (as of yesterday). These are all the made in Hawaii brands. Lee Kum Kee also makes a Charsiu sauce, but I didn’t get that one.

    Clinton, wow, that’s awesome. What a small rock we live on! Sad at the same time that they didn’t retain your pop’s original high quality honey-based recipe. The bottle of “Sauce for Char Siu” by Mid Pac Foods that I just bought does have Hoisin sauce listed as one of the ingredients. Yet, honestly, when I made charsiu the last time using this brand, it didn’t taste “Hoisin-like”, thank goodness. I do notice it’s very thin though. At least in comparison to the Hawaiian Pride brand. I can’t confirm the viscosity of the Lum’s brand, as I haven’t opened the bottle yet (and won’t open it until I’m ready to use it, as it requires refrigeration once doing so).

    May Robert “Lucky” Luck and Aunty Genoa live forever in our memories. They were two of so many icons of Hawaii that have now passed on. My mother knew Lucky personally.

    mahalo for the kind words. Really appreciate it!

  3. Pomai, When my friend and parents owned and ran Lee Kai Market on Manakea St., the recipe they used was honey in it and glaze outside of meat also. They so much money from that small food stall selling roast porks, char sui, jungs, fishcake rolls, ect.

  4. Pomai, char siu with rice is best food stall food in Asia. Hoisin sauce used in it and Chinese in Chinatown use honey it their secret ingredient. In San Francisco Chinatown they do not use red coloring in pork but soy sauce and hoisin sauce and honey also. The red coloring is a Jungsan Cantonese custom which most Cantonese in Hawaii are Jungsan desendants. Lum is a Jungsan Cantonese.

  5. My first impression was that the photo of your pork marinating in the Ziploc bag looks like a CSI autopsy prop. (Sorry, had to share that.) :-)

    My mom used to make her own homemade char siu and left out the red coloring, so I always have to make a mental adjustment when I see the red in the commercially prepared stuff.

    Another excellent post, Pomai!

  6. I make my own with sugar, I will have to try the honey, sounds like a good taste tip. Does the company that makes the Char siu in the packets all so make the coconut pudding and the Korean BBQ Pull Keg?

  7. Pomai,
    The reason my father used honey instead of sugar in his original formula he said was to keep it from burning (since sugar tend to blacken easily) and to give it that slight shiny glaze. Also, whenever he prepared for his live TV infomercials back in the 50s, he built and converted a 50 gallon drum into a crude smoker using keawe wood charcoal for that special “oomph”. That to me was one of the little secrets why Hawaii char siu tasted so different than all the other oven baked ones IMO. It never dawned on me until someone made char siu one day using a kamado (Japanese earthen BBQ) stoked with mesquite wood. THAT THERE was the taste I was missing when I was a kid tagging along with my father shopping on Maunakea and Kekaulike Streets.

  8. It is unfortunate that the present generation will never experience the food of Hawaii from yesteryear. Only people over the age of 40 would know the flavor of that charsiu sauce that Clinton was talking about. I know, because I am Clinton’s brother. Dad’s sauce was simple: honey, water, red coloring, sugar, shoyu, salt, 5-spice powder, MSG,a preservative, and citric acid (to neutralize the pH). It had an incredibly unique taste that cannot be experienced again commercially since the formula had been changed years ago by the present owner of the company. Only the best (and the most expensive) ingredients went into the sauce to give it that “special” taste.

  9. Glen, I just tried Charsiu yesterday (before heading to the Journey concert!), which was made using Lum’s Charsiu Sauce and it was so ONO! Ironically, Lum’s Charsiu Sauce has Hoisin Sauce in it, which by itself I have an aversion to, but WOW, the Lum’s brand is excellent. It came out so flavorful, and the pork was super tender, after being baked at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 hours. The person who made it also basted it a few times with extra sauce throughout the roasting process, which I think is what really set it apart.

    Clinton, interesting you elaborate on the honey, as that’s what I used in making my latest batch of smoke meat (see the Kiawe-smoked Pastrami post). And you know what? The honey really does glaze BEAUTIFULLY. As you said, it doesn’t burn like sugar, but caramelizes evenly to a golden finish. As for smoking Charsiu, I’ve never known Charsiu to taste like it’s smoked, but I’ll EASILY take you up on cooking it that way if you say that’s how it should be. You know how I feel about smoking meats. Of course I’d be really light on the smoke, just to add a hint of it, as too much and I know it’s probably make the Charsiu taste bitter or funny-kine. Next time you guys fly back to Hawaii, pick up the Lum’s Charsiu Sauce. Most supermarkets should have it. It’s about $4.50 per bottle. I swear that’s the best Charsiu sauce I tasted yet.

  10. howzit!, i’m looking for an company that bottles “sauces”, could you help me out here?…know of any good ones ?…….. thanks

  11. I made this once with another brand, and it turned out very good. I unfortunately do not remember the name of it. Next I will be making some chicken with the NOH brand. Have you ever tried to use the leftover marinade and make a dipping sauce?? I really liked the flavor of the last batch but i found I wanted more.

    • JB,

      Well, there’s also Mid Pac Foods and Lum’s bottled Charsiu sauce, shown in the post, which I think Lum’s is the best.

      A great way to enhance the flavor of these store-bought Charsiu sauces is to add Honey to it, which helps the pork caramelize even more, while also deepening that “Charsiu” flavor profile without making it too sweet (as compared to adding sugar).

      I recently smoked some Tako (Octopus) using the Hawaiian Pride sauce, and it turned AWESOME!

      Never thought of making a Charsiu dipping sauce. Sounds like a good idea! I wonder how it would taste mixed with some mayonnaise for added creaminess. Perhaps use that to drizzle over some “Dynamite” Sushi that has Charsiu pork filled in the center of it. Oooooh! :lamp:

  12. I find that NOH’s mix is best. because it is thinner in consistancy, it soaks in better, 30 minutes and the flavor has bleeded inside the meat. I ad a little star of anise (sp?) to the mix. As for a cut of meat I find the best is country style boneless ribs from sam’s club. but that is an individual preference.

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