If you’ve had Chinese dim sum before, chances are you’ve broken into a couple of char siu bao. These fluffy, steamed white buns are filled with a sweet and savory BBQ pork called char siu, which is used widely across Cantonese cooking.
In the San Gabriel Valley, just outside of Los Angeles, however, one pizzeria is adding their own spin to the legendary red pork, creating a Char Siu Pizza that makes for a fusion of cuisines true to the owner’s roots.
The Char Siu Pizza can be found at Rose City Pizza, a spot known for other viral creations like their Birria Pizza and Elote Pizza. While owner Brian Nittayo is already making waves with these fusion creations, the pie shop’s newest item can actually be attributed to his sister, Catherine.
Both Nittayo siblings took a pizza class together in their hometown of San Francisco prior to Rose City’s opening. Since they lived right outside of Chinatown growing up, char siu was a huge part of their lives. Catherine, as a result, was inspired to put char siu on one of her pizzas as a class project, an idea that was a huge hit amongst her peers.
Rose City’s current version of the pizza keeps the char siu, but surrounds it with the flavors of guabao, which is pork in folded steamed bao from China’s Fuzhuo province that are also common in the greater Los Angeles area. The char siu, which Nittayo makes in house, is added to a base of hoisin and cheese, then gets topped off with pickled red onions, spicy mustard, and cilantro.
An unconventional aspect of Rose City’s char siu is that it is sometimes cooked on a spit. While not the typical method used today, it does hail to the fact that char siu literally translates to “fork roasted.” Granted, it’s usually not cooked on the same spit as al pastor, but it does give a unique visual appeal to the pork.
The unctuous char siu makes for an intriguing and delectable topping to this creative pizza option, which looks as artistic as it tastes. As a half Chinese who grew up eating massive amounts of char siu, the pizza was both nostalgic yet innovative to me at the same time.
Creations like these are becoming more common in Los Angeles, especially the San Gabriel Valley. Restaurateurs are fusing the Chinese favorites they grew up on alongside their American school lunch staples, whether it be as a mapo tofu lasagna or putting salsa into their scallion pancake wraps. The Char Siu Pizza is another iteration of this growing pattern, and a worthy contribution to the evolving scene of fusion creations in Los Angeles.