Literally meaning ‘roast-flavored’, siu mei (燒味) is the rotisserie style in the Cantonese cuisine.
In this style, meat is broiled in a rotisserie oven after being coated with a special sauce according to each kind of meat. Because preparing and cooking siu mei means a lot of work (requires special rotating roasting equipment and long waiting hours), almost all of it is made to take-out at siu laap shops., where it is usually sold as a complete meal in a box, with half meat and half plain white rice or meat alone, never vegetables.
The classification ‘siu mei‘ includes the following dishes:
Char siu (叉烧)
It is a recipe to prepare and flavour long strips of barbecued boneless pork parts: loin, belly, and so on.
The coating sauce is made of a mixture of honey, five-spice powder, fermented red tofu, dark soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sherry or rice wine (talking about secret sauces!). After this coating, each piece is skewered and placed in a covered oven or over a fire.
In the first picture of this article, char siu stripes are between the roasted goose and the chicken. In the picture above, hanging on the far right.
Siu yuk (烧肉)
Roasted pork. After being seasoned, the entire pig is roasted in a furnace at high temperature, which leaves a crispy skin and a juicy, tender meat. On the picture below, the siu yuk pieces are hanging on the metal rod.
Siu ngo (烧鹅) and siu ngaap (烧鸭)
Roasted goose and roasted duck (also called Pekin duck) respectively. The whole bird is roasted in a charcoal furnace with seasoning, after coating. When cooked properly, the skin is slightly crispy, while the meat remains tender. It is usually served with plum sauce.
Beside meats, there are some dishes which are not roasted, but just prepared and sold along with siu mei meat at siu laap shops, and because of this, they are classified as siu mei dishes as well:
Orange squid (卤水墨鱼)
As seen in the picture below. The colour is given by food-colouring dye.
Steamed white chicken (白切鸡)
Also known as ‘white cut chicken’ because of the traditional presentation. In the picture below, steamed white chicken hangs from the far left side, with roast goose and stripes of char siu.
Ordering siu mei is an art itself! Don’t think it is like get-in, get-out quick… you must know the tricks. Here you can learn how to do it properly.
And as always, Hong Kong has its own rules on how to sell anything, so here’s their flowchart on how to prepare and serve siu mei, brought to you by the Centre for Food Safety of the fragrant harbour:
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See also the Flickr gallery on Cantonese food.