Chinese barbecue is not to be missed. A case could be made that the Chinese brought sweetly sauced BBQ to the States. Thousands of Chinese workers were building the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1860s.
We were in Chinatown, Toronto, when this bright neon sign hit us in the face: “Chinese Barbecue.”
I don’t know. I expected perhaps a Chinese chef in a cowboy hat roasting ribs to the words “happy trails are here again.”
Not quite, but true Chinese barbecue is not to be missed. A case could be made that the Chinese brought sweetly sauced BBQ to the States. Thousands of Chinese workers were building the Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1860s. It was hard work, laying up to 10 miles of track a day. Their meals often consisted of bison barbecued over coal fires, tenderized by a night in barbecue sauce.
Modern Chinese BBQ starts the right way, with baby-back ribs, the finest on the hog. Then comes a marinade process that turns them to just this side of candy.
The most important ingredients are both sweet: Mirin wine and rice-wine vinegar. Mirin is known as sweet sake and available in better wine shops. It is 40 to 50 percent sugar with an alcoholic content of about 14 percent.
Rice wine vinegar is made from fermented rice and is less acidic than Western vinegars. It’s quite wonderful on its own as a light salad dressing.
Ribs marinated with hoisin sauce, garlic and sesame oil are called "char siew" on menus. It produces that black glaze craved by Chinese-restaurant fans and often coats pork tenderloin.
The meat may be grilled or stir fried, called red cooking, usually with Sichuan peppercorns.
Jim Hillibish is a food writer for the Canton (Ohio) Repository. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.