If it’s your good fortune to have relatives in Hawaii, there’s no question where the family picnic will happen each summer. What’s also assured is that one of the meals offered there will be the Sweet and Sticky Roast Pork with Sesame Noodles featured this week and as described in the June 2018 issue of Saveur.
Much as in Hawaii itself, the Chinese influence on this dish is pronounced. The pork is marinated overnight in a mixture of honey, five-spice powder, soy and hoisin sauces. This allows the sweet, spicy mixture to absorb deeply into the meat, giving it a flavor strongly resembling the char siu pork found in fried rice and elsewhere. In fact, this is the Hawaiian version.
The pork is sliced thinly, then is stir-fried, in a wok of course, with generous amounts of bean sprouts, scallions and an extra dash of soy sauce. The scallions’ assertive herbal notes fortify the pork, adding an additional layer of complexity to the flavor. The bean sprouts contribute a crisp texture all their own, contrasting nicely with the soft pork.
All of this is nestled among Chinese egg noodles tossed with sesame oil, bringing a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It’s ramen noodles amplified. So much better and more flavorful than what sustained us through college, though, and suitable to serve at a family picnic.
Until your relatives invite you to spend some time in the Islands, you can prepare this dish and picture yourself making the journey. Imagine how impressed your family will be when you perfect this dish and you, a mainlander, bring the highlight of the reunion.
Sweet and Sticky Roast Pork with Sesame Noodles
- 1 and 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup hoisin
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons, plus one teaspoon, soy sauce
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon rice wine
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 4 drops red food coloring (*1)
- 1 pound of dried Chinese egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (*2)
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts
- 3 scallions, green parts only, julienned, plus one scallion, sliced thinly for garnish
In a large zip-top bag, combine the pork, hoisin, honey, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the rice wine, the five-spice powder and the food coloring. Toss to mix all the ingredients well, then store in the refrigerator for at least six hours, to overnight.
After the pork marinates, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pork and marinade in a square baking dish and cover with foil and bake for about 90 minutes. Uncover the pork and remove the meat to a cutting board, while reserving the marinade. Slice the pork thinly.
Pour the marinade into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the marinade, stirring constantly, until it’s reduced in volume by three-quarters. Remove from the heat and stir in the pork.
Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain in a strainer and rinse them with cold water. Place the noodles in a large bowl and toss them with the sesame oil.
In a large wok set over high heat, pour in the oil. Add the scallions and the bean sprouts, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. Stir in the pork and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the noodles and remaining soy sauce. Garnish wit scallion slices and serve.
1 – Not in the original recipe, though food coloring gives char siu its recognizable pinkish tinge. Absolutely no difference in flavor, but the goal is to entice more than just the taste buds, right?
2 – No big deal, but I used peanut oil, as it does seem to go better with Asian (or Asian-inspired) dishes.