La Rentrée is the month when the whole of France returns from their summer away. Parisians return bronzed by the summer sun spent in far flung countries or simply on the beach in the Mediterranean. Paris is brimming with glee, the tension that had set in before the long summer break has been eased with plenty of R and R and les Parisennes are quite contented to be back in the City of Light. The first week of September begins with a frenzy of getting school supplies, reminding the children that the vacation is over and that school will start again this week and most of all, getting the little ones off to bed earlier. They’ve had 2 months of late nights, tons of ice creams, lots of days spent building sand castles and running bare foot in the sand. Well, it’s reality check time. School starts now.
This is also the month when most stay at home mothers like myself heave a sigh of relieve. After 2 months of kiddie activities and other child related things on a trot with no respite, I am glad to be sending my off-springs (one big and one small) back to ecole. Aren’t you? 🙂
The first morning that the kids went back to school, I had a coffee at my favourite café in Paris – Yamazaki. I was pleasantly surprised upon entering the café to see that it had been given a face lift…. big time! The entire café had been ripped apart during les vacances ( some people were working!), new tables and chairs replace the dated ones that had been there since the 80s and the new glass display counter for their gâteaux and delightful pastries make them look even better than before.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of shops have replaced old furniture with new ones or have been given a lick of paint. Ah!! so this is what happens during the month of August when literally the entire Parisian population leave town: other resourceful Parisians take the opportunity to revamp themselves in the tranquility of the month. Delightful! I love changes. To me, a change when positive, is a symbol of growth, of the ability to move forward, to modernise.
I found inspiration in this for my cooking this September, having also not cooked very much during the vacation. I vacation with my family on both sides and the mother and MIL do most of the cooking or we tend to eat out, especially in S E Asia where hawker food is so readily available, economical and yummy!
Inspired that I was, I decided to make a change too. I will be more adventurous, not worry about cleaning up the kitchen too much post cooking and simply go with the flow, let my fancy guide me. And kawan kawan, I fancied myself some Char Siu during the weekend, a week into the start of the academic year. And guess what? I made myself some!
Char Siu is Cantonese char grilled pork that has been seasoned in dark soya sauce, honey and a little garlic. This is eaten over a bed of steaming white rice in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand for lunch or dinner.
We all love Char Siu in the family. What’s there not to love? Succulent pieces of grilled pork charred to perfection that leave a sweet/savoury taste in your mouth; white rice drizzled with the syrupy Char Siu marinade that has been used to bast the pork loin as it grills in the oven.
Here’s the recipe:
1. 5 kg filet mignon de porc or pork loin (cut into 4 or 5 pieces)
1 clove garlic (finely chopped or minced with a garlic press)
1 1/2 tablesp sesame oil
Char Siu Sauce:
1 1/2 tablesp honey
2 tablesp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablesp hoisin sauce (optional)
1 1/2 tablesp dark soy sauce (add 3 if not using hoisin sauce)
1 tablesp Chinese Cooking wine (I used Shoa shing but if you can get Chinese Rose wine, even better)
2 dashes white pepper powder
3-4 whole star anise or 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
Add all ingredients in the Char Siu sauce in a pan, heat whilst stirring well until liquid becomes slightly thickened and sticky. (This should yield 1/2 cup char siu sauce.) Set aside to cool.
Marinate the pork pieces with 2/3 of the Char Siu sauce and the chopped garlic overnight for maximum results. If not at least 2 hours before cooking.
Heat the oven to 220 degrees C and roast the char siu for 30 minutes. With a pastry brush, bast the remaining char siu sauce every 10 minutes or so whilst roasting until the meat is cooked or slightly charred at the sides. Depending on how thick your meat is, it is vital to check if your meat is cooked thoroughly and adjust cooking time to suit. I used a fork to check, as I don’t have metal skewers. When the fork goes through the meat with no tension, I know then that it is done. When the meat is cooked, turn the grill on in your oven and grill the meat until it chars a bit more. This step is optional if you prefer not to char the meat too much. Remove from oven and slice the Char Siu into bite-size pieces, drizzle the remaining char siu sauce over and serve immediately with steamed white rice.
This marinated cut of meat is perfect for BBQs. In effect, Char Siu is BBQed meat as the original method of cooking it requires the meat to be skewered with a S-shaped hook, and grilled hung over a charcoal fire. The meat is basted several times until cooked since the umami comes from the Char Siu marinade and the meat gets charred from the sugar in the it.
Kawan kawan, I really recommend that you try making Char Siu. It is really not difficult, if I can, so can you. Then, if you live in Paris, like me and miss good Chinese grub, you can always make it yourself. My good ole pa always says: Self sufficiency is the best policy! So there, I am passing on to you a very golden nugget of advice, brought to you all the way from Singapore, where else? 😉