My quest for the ultimate charsiu rice has brought me to Kim Heng Roasted in Serangoon. Foodies living around the area would be familiar about this place which has been around for three decades.
The stall owner, Mr Lim Chee Meng is quite proud of the fact that he is still using charcoal to roast the meats. I have spoken with a few restaurateurs in Hong Kong who tell me that most roasters in Hong Kong have already switched over to gas ovens due to restrictions from the authorities. At least here in Singapore, hawkers like Mr Lim are still allowed to use charcoal to roast their meats, although many have switched over to gas due to convenience.
Charcoal smoke is one of those things that make charsiu really taste like charsiu. Sure, many stalls and even restaurants get away with using a gas or a combi oven to roast charsiu. You will still get a nice char but if you ever get a chance to eat charcoal roasted charsiu vis-a-vis one roasted in a gas oven, the difference is quite noticeable!
That is why if you are trying to make charsiu at home, you might want to use my trick of basting the charsiu with charcoal oil as a finishing touch. This little hack really turns your roasted pork into something that your friends will go, “Ay! This really tastes like charsiu!”
Having said that, I’d have to admit that charsiu that is made by an expert in a charcoal oven is still much better than what you can make at home! It really is a function of the smoke, the heat and the fact that the strips of pork are roasted vertically so that the meat is basted in its own juices while it roasts!
The charsiu at Kim Heng is very good. They use the bu jian tian cut which has nice layers of fats which makes the charsiu really tender and juicy after roasting. The sauce is not overly sweet and very well balanced. You can ask for the leaner cuts, but if you want to experience that moment of sublime bliss, then you have to ask for the fattier cuts. 4.5/5
I have heard others raving about their duck and sio bak. During my visit there, I didn’t think they were that outstanding. The duck was a tad dry. The rind of the siobak is nice and crisp but still can’t beat the one at 88 Hong Kong Roast. 4/5
The charsiu here is excellent and worth a trip to try! Just make sure you ask for the 半肥瘦 (half fat half lean) cut!