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What Is Siu Mei?

By Liz Thomas
Updated May 16, 2024
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Siu mei refers to a dish that involves roasting meat over an open fire on a spit. There are many different types of siu mei, depending on the meat being cooked, which may include pork, duck, goose, or chicken. Each meat is marinated in a different flavorful sauce containing spices and soy sauce. This dish is typically made only in restaurants, and families will purchase it as a full meal or use it as an ingredient in other dishes. Modern methods typically prepare the meat in a rotisserie oven rather than over an open fire.

This style of cooking originates in Cantonese cuisine from southern China, specifically the Guangdong province. Of all regional styles of Chinese cuisines, Cantonese is one of the most well known around the world. There are variations of siu mei found in American-Chinese cuisine and Chinatowns in cities around the globe.

The sauce added to the cooking meat is usually very flavorful, and depends on the type of meat being cooked. The sauce varies depending on the cook as well, though most traditionally contain soy sauce and five spice powder. Certain sauces are linked to specific regions of China, and may be served only in these locations.

There are several different varieties of sui mei, and the name varies depending on the meat. Barbecued pork is known as cha siu, while siu yuk is crispy, roasted pig. White cut chicken is steamed, marinated chicken, siu ngo is roasted goose, and siu ngaap is roasted duck. The one fish that is cooked in this manner is orange cuttlefish. This fish, along with the marinated chicken, are not cooked in a rotisserie but sold alongside sui mei and considered a style of this dish.

Siu mei is typically found in restaurants and fast food establishments. The tools required to cook meat in this fashion are large and expensive, and preparation takes a long time. Most modern versions are cooked in a large oven, with the meat threaded on long skewers, which are turned so that it rotates and cooks evenly on all sides. It is common for families in China to purchase the cooked meat from restaurants rather than make it at home.

When sui mei is the main dish in a meal, it is traditionally served with rice, soup noodles, or fried noodles. This dish is one of the few in Chinese cuisine that does not include vegetables in the ingredients. Meat can also be used as an ingredient in other dishes. Many times, the meat is served as a side dish with dim sum.

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