The words bak kwa is synonymous with Chinese New Year, much like the way mince pies and mulled wine are to Christmas. If you're not from Malaysia, Singapore or Hong Kong, you've probably never ever heard of it. It's ridiculously expensive (approximately £20 per kilo) yet there's almost always a long queue outside the more popular stores. I've been in a bak kwa (otherwise known as rou gan 肉干) drought for the past few years so when my brother visited me a month ago, I begged him to dash half way across the terminals within Changi airport to get me some. Alas, they were all confiscated.
Cravings must be satisfied before they become a full blown obsession. I pounded away on my keyboard googling every possible key word combination to see if I can locate some in the U.K. I found an online store charging eye watering prices for a couple of pieces. Sod it!! I'm obsessed, not insane. You've got to love Google. There's an answer to nearly all of universe's questions. I stumbled upon a recipe from Just as Delish which I'd modified to suit my taste. The result was the most authentic home made bak kwa I've ever tasted. No preservatives. No colors. No nasty crap that you wouldn't feed your dog. And you wouldn't believe how easy AND cheap it is to make your own bak kwa.
**Here are some tips before you begin which I'd found to be very helpful.
- use parchment paper to line the trays so that the meat is easy to remove without bits sticking to the bottom.
- use a pizza cutter to cut the meat into squares. It literally takes seconds and will make your life far easier than battling with a knife or a pair of scissors.
- I prefer a thin layer than fat slabs but it depends on individual taste. Do allow for shrinkage during the drying process in the oven.
- I've reduced the amount of five spice powder significantly as the smell is overpowering.
- I don't have a barbecue set but I've found that a cast iron pan with a ribbed base works perfectly.
- it's really important that you do NOT use lean mince or your bak kwa will be tough and dry.
(modified recipe from Just as Delish)
- 1kg fatty pork mince (Fattier mince makes more tender, juicy bak kwa)
- 120g Caster Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
- 3 tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 4 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
- 3 tablespoon Rice Wine (Shao Tsing / Chinese rice wine)
- 3 tablespoon Honey
- 15ml Vegetable Oil
- ½ tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
- A few drops of Sesame Oil
- Thorughly combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl or container. Cover and marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Preheat oven to 100°C. Wash and dry flat baking trays (cookie trays work too). If you don’t have any, simply turn over your baking trays to use the flat bottom. Line with parchment paper so that the meat doesn't stick to the base.
- Place mince onto the tray then spread and press down to form a thin sheet over the surface of the tray to a thickness of 2-3 mm. You can either use wet fingers/spoon to manually press it or you could lay a sheet of cling wrap or baking paper over it and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Try to keep the edges as straight as you can so you can cut into neat squares.
- Place the trays in the oven for about 20 - 30 minutes or until the meat has dried out – the surface is dry to the touch, most of the liquid has evaporated and is holding together without breaking (It’s fine to be a little moist underneath the sheet). Continue pressing and drying out the remainder of pork with the rest of your trays.
- Cut the dried meat sheet into squares with a pizza cutter/knife/scissors.
- Heat up your charcoal bbq, grill or broiler and grill each square until darkened and caramelised. It’s totally ok to have the tiniest hint of charring but keep your eyes on them because they burn quickly and easily.
- When needed, reheat Bak Kwa in grill or microwave.