Babi Pangang is one of the favorites in Chinese take-outs in the Netherlands. Of course, the recipe has been adjusted for Dutch taste buds.
By the way: not only the recipe was modified, but so was the spelling. In Indonesian, it would be written as babi panggang. Babi means pork, panggang translates as roasted. So there you have the essence of the recipe in the name itself!
The first choice is regarding the cut of meat. Do you want to use lean meat such as pork fillets, or would you prefer cuts with streaks of fat in them? The Chinese version of Babi Pangang is called Char Siew and is made with pork belly. Feel free to experiment, but whichever choice you make, be sure the roasted meat is tender enough to fall apart when handled with chop sticks.
To marinate or not to marinate
That is indeed the question, and it depends on the amount of time available. Generally, marinating for at least 4 hours (or overnight) will help tenderize the meat. Combine crushed garlic, sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis), some sambal and some finely chopped fresh ginger.
Slice the meat (always cutting perpendicular to the 'grain' of the meat for maximum tenderness), and cover with the marinade mixture.
Chemical and physical processes, including marinating, depend on temperature. Chemical processes double in speed with a 10 centigrade temperature rise. Practically: if you only have a short time for marinating, do not put the mixture back in the refrigerator. For food safety reasons, if you plan to marinate for more than say two hours, keep the mixture in the fridge.
Pork, marinated this way, will cook fast. Stir-fry in sunflower or peanut oil. Add some some sesame oil if you have any. Put the cooked pork aside and start with the sauce.
Babi pangang sauce is sweet, sticky and has a low hum of heat in it.
Combine sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis), sweet chili sauce, sambal, tomato puree (or passata), lemon juice, finely ground garlic and ginger (using a grater), sugar to taste, a little salt. When the taste balance is there, add some water to get the right volume, and thicken the sauce with corn starch.
Serve with fried rice, scallions, bean sprouts and some pickled cucumber. Enjoy!