Monday, 6 February 2017

Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) 自制猪肉干

Recipe inspired by and adapted from Miki Food Archives.

Making Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) 自制猪肉干 is a husband-wife weekend bonding project in our home. I do not consume much of this local delicacy. Few small pieces are more than that. I am a cancer survivor. This kind of indulgence has to be moderated. On the other hand, my husband loves them! 

What exactly is Bak Kwa? 
"Bak Kwa, also known as rougan (肉干), is a dried savoury sweetmeat that traditionally takes the form of thin square slices and is usually made from pork. Bak kwa and rougan, meaning “dried meat” in Hokkien and Mandarin respectively, also refer to barbecued pork or pork jerky. Originating from China, bak kwa has become a favourite local snack in Singapore, with its popularity peaking during Chinese New Year, as evidenced by the long queues at the branches of famous Bak Kwa chains during the festive period."

We had been spending hundreds of dollars buying Bak Kwa from famous chains for many years. Yes! We did crazy things like queueing for hours just to buy few kgs. We even drove to far end of Singapore in hope to buy directly from the food factories. You know they are popular when the stores have to limit buying quotas for each customer. In Singapore, we often buy Bak Kwa for gifting to family elders and for business associates before Chinese New Year (CNY). That explains why everybody buys in larger volume. They are not cheap. A kg of Bak Kwa is usually above SGD$50 during the peak festive seasons. And the prices have been increasing over the years.

As our parents age, we were told not to buy Bak Kwa for them this CNY. We gladly acceded to their requests as that would save us a good amount of money. I did not forget that I had to satisfy my man's appetite for the pork jerky. It was delightful to know that he was keen to embark on this Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) 自制猪肉干 journey together.

There are many versions of Bak Kwa recipes available on the internet. It took us 2 days, 4 rounds of trial & error before we derived with our favourite formulae. As much as we enjoyed the making process, the hours of bonding through troubleshooting and the yummy end products, Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) 自制猪肉干surely would not be something that we would make often. Once or twice a year....maybe?

Seasonings/Ingredients for Marinating  :

  • 2 kg minced fresh pork (Need to have about 10% fat, cannot yield good result if pork is too lean. We tried using frozen minced pork too, the result was not as good as the meat were still too moist for grill after defrosting unless we drain the pork relatively dry with a drainer.)
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar (Bak kwa colour would be darker if you use brown sugar. Use white sugar if you prefer a lighter colour)
  • 1/2 tsp grounded white pepper
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tbsp honey (blend with another 5 tbsp water)

Ingredients for Grilling :

  • 2 tbsp honey (blend with 1/3 cup water)

(tsp = teaspoon; tbsp = tablespoon)    

Method : 
  1. Mix all marinating seasonings in a bowl. Use chopsticks to blend them well. Ensure sugar is not clumpy.
  2. Add mixture to minced pork. Use chopsticks or hand to stir till all seasonings blend evenly and pork becomes sticky. We used our hands. 
  3. Cover bowl with cling wrap. 
  4. Chill in refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.
  5. When time's up, preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius or 320 degrees fahrenheit (Upper & lower heat. Do not use fan mode. We had one side totally burnt when we tried on fan mode).
  6. Prep your baking trays with one layer of aluminium foil and top with one sheet of baking paper. My baking paper was sticking madly to the baking tray when I did it without the aluminium foil. Or you may simply go without any baking paper or foil. 
  7. Remove bowl from chiller, spread marinated minced pork thinly and evenly onto rectangular baking trays. We managed to yield 3 trays with the 2 kg pork. 
  8. Cover a layer of cling wrap over the minced pork when done. Use a roller pin to lightly roll over to ensure the minced meat's all flat, even and stays together. 
  9. Remove cling wrap when you are satisfied with the result.
  10. Send one tray into middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. 
  11. For the remaining tray(s), remember to cover with cling wrap and chill before you send them into the oven. Do not leave them in the open to wait for oven's availability.
  12. Meanwhile, blend 2 tbsp honey in 1/3 cup water. Standby a brush too. 
  13. Remove tray from oven after 20 minutes.
  14. Adjust oven heat to 220 degrees celsius or 428 degrees fahrenheit.
  15. By now, the pork would have shrunk at least 20% to 30% in size.
  16. Use a tong to hold and a pair of scissors to cut the pork into your desired slice size.
  17. Brush honey mixture onto surface of the pork.
  18. Use tong to flip slice by slice in the tray.
  19. Brush honey mixture on this side of the pork slices too.
  20. Send tray back to oven. This time, one rack higher, instead of the middle rack.
  21. Bake for 5 minutes.
  22. Remove tray from oven again.
  23. If you are happy with what you see, you may send the tray of bak kwa for cooling. Otherwise, repeat Step 17 to 20. Bake for 2 minutes and assess again. Repeat processes until you are happy with the end product. 
  24. Do the same with other trays.
  25. Ensure bak kwa slices are aired adequately and fully cooled down with no moisture before storing in air tight containers. If not, the bak kwa would turn mouldy pretty fast. 

(scroll to bottom of page, click on "Print" or "PDF" icon for printer friendly recipe)

All in all, we were happy with our Homemade Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) 自制猪肉干. Our bakes lasted us throughout the CNY. We did not buy any Bak Kwa from the chain stores for the first time. Besides, my husband and I spent 2 days of quality time together. No doubt, it could be rather tiring with all the anticipations and anxieties in the bak kwa making process!


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