Chashu is Japanese braised pork belly. It is not cha shao (or “char siu”), which is a Chinese version of barbecue.
For our braising liquid we used garlic, ginger, onion, a few whole black peppercorns, several large spoonfuls of sugar, a splash of vinegar, 1/2 a cup of soy sauce, and 2 parts apple juice to 1 part water (how much braising liquid you need depends on how big your pork belly is.)
Get some pork belly
Pork belly is the same cut that bacon is made from. We encourage people who buy half hogs from us to get uncured pork belly and buy bacon from us separately. Yes, the bacon is a bit more expensive this way, but you know exactly how much bacon you are getting. (The size of a pig’s belly varies, of course, so some pigs make more bacon than others.) We would love to sell pork belly on its own, but because bacon is so popular we would have to put quite a high price on the pork belly to justify not making bacon out of it.
Roll it up
The goal is to cook this low and slow so that it braises and stays juicy and delicious. We set the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit but a pork belly is a relatively thin slab which will still cook quickly and dry out. If you roll it up tight and tie it with kitchen twine, this decreases the surface:mass ratio, which helps the pork belly retain moisture while cooking longer. It needs around 5 hours to cook properly but the longer it goes the better it is going to taste.
It might be even better the next day
Boil the braising liquid before using it so that the sugar dissolves and the flavors mix together. Braise the pork belly in a sturdy pot in the oven and turn it every hour so that all sides of the roll get to cook in the braising liquid. When it is finished slice off rounds. This is normally a main addition to tonkotsu ramen (made with pork bone broth). However…if you keep it in the braising liquid after cooking marinate the cooked chashu pork belly overnight in the refrigerator, you may find that it is even better the next day. It’s especially good if you pan-fry slices over high heat, as if cooking bacon, as the edges will get brown and crispy but the middle will remain soft and juicy.