It’s my first Chinese New Year in Singapore and there’s so much information to take in about the uses and traditions of this special day. To avoid any faux pas, I kept it simple and decided to make at home one of the best known delicacies in Singapore and Malaysia. Bak Kwa (Chinese barbecued pork jerky) is often given as a present for CNY, and it is usually bought at one of the various stores that are famous for having a long tradition or an old family recipe for it. But as we all know, the best present to give is time, and I love spending time in cooking or baking something special for friends, so I followed this recipe from The Burning Kitchen and it was absolutely spot on! As a typical European, I didn’t have most of the ingredients in my kitchen, so I only had to do a big shop in preparation. Apart from that, the recipe was super easy to follow and gave me the results I was looking for: crispy enough, yet meaty and flavourful sheets of bak kwa. And now I have all the ingredients for my next challenge as an Italian entering the world of Chinese cooking!
500g pork neck (if you buy it minced, ask your butcher to mince it only once)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp maltose (I used gula melaka syrup instead)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese wine (Hua Tiao Chiew / Shaoxing Wine)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/8 tsp 5-Chinese-spices powder
A dash ground white pepper
2 tbsp maltose (or gula melaka syrup) for the glazing
Step 1 – If you decided to mince the meat yourself, start by doing that. If, like me, you bought it minced, place it in a bowl and add the salt, sugar and maltose. I couldn’t find maltose, so I used some gula melaka syrup I had, but you can use golden syrup, maple syrup or honey. Mix thoroughly with chopsticks…or a fork.
Step 2 – Add the rest of the ingredients, and keep stirring until you have a nice and sticky mixture. Wrap the bowl in cling film and let it rest overnight so the meat gets soaked in all the flavours.
Step 3 – The next day, preheat the oven at 160°C and line an oven dish with oven paper. Place the meat on the oven dish, pushing it with your hands, or a spatula if you prefer, to spread it as homogeneously as you can. Cover with more oven paper and with the help of a rolling pin, stretch the meat so you turn it into a thin sheet.
Step 4 – Uncover and place the meat in the middle of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Take it out and with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, create some square or rectangular shapes. Turn the oven up to 240°C keeping only the top fire. Place the tray back in the oven, on the top rack and keep it there for three minutes on each side until caramelized. After this, take it out to brush it with a glaze of syrup (or maltose or whatever you decided to use) and place it in the oven for an additional two minutes. Timing should work for most ovens, but feel free to change them slightly if you see that your meat is burning. Every oven is different, and charred meat can easily become burnt if you don’t keep an attentive eye on it.
Did you know bak kwa? Have you ever made it at home? Let us know in the comments if you try this recipe.