Bak Kwa (Chinese Barbecued Pork Jerky): We like our Bak Kwa very tender with a nice substantial bite. To get that extra glossy finishing, simply brush on an extra coat of maltose during the last 1-2 minutes of grilling at hot heat. This allows the sugars to caramelise and form a rich reddish colour and slightly charred bits around the edges.
My former neighbor who has now migrated to Australia gave me this recipe for Bak Kwa, one of my favourite Chinese New Year goodies. She feels that the Bak Kwa in Singapore is highly overpriced especially during the Chinese Lunar New Year Season and the queue for it is crazy. So she is adamant in telling all her friends to make their own. You can also making the next Chinese New Year a more meaningful one by giving your loved ones a gift that is made with love from the heart.
This Bak Kwa recipe is actually very simple to do. The few trickier things you need to watch out for are:
- The Cut of Meat: Make sure you get a cut of meat with about 20% fat, such as Pork Neck or Wu Hua Rou (五花肉), so that the Bak Kwa will be succulent and juicy after it is cooked, but not overly fatty / oily.
- Mincing of the Meat: Mince the meat finely, but be careful not to over mince it until it becomes powdery. This will give the Bak Kwa a nice substance when you bite into it
- Brand of Dark Soy Sauce: Some brands of dark soy sauce are very black and salty, and it will make your Bak Kwa very dark coloured. In general, my preferred brand of dark soy sauce is Elephant brand Cooking Caramel, which has a nice flavour, not too salty and gives a nice caramelised colour to your dishes – whether you are making Bak Kwa, Char Siew or Chinese Sticky Ribs.
- Grilling of the meat: In the final grilling step at high heat, especially after adding maltose as a glaze, please be careful to watch over the Bak Kwa constantly. The sugars in the marinade and the maltose caramelise very quickly under high heat, and it can go from slightly charred to burnt within minutes. Do also bear in mind that all ovens temperature settings differ, so the timings I provide are only a rough guide based on my own oven. If you are unsure about your oven settings, please open up the oven and check on the Bak Kwa slightly ahead of the timings I provide.
More Chinese New Recipes:
- Highly Addictive Homemade Pineapple Tarts (凤梨挞 ／ 黄梨挞)
- Ngoh Hiang (五香 / Lor Bak)
- Chinese Braised Shiitake Mushrooms (Men Dong Gu)
- Spiced Pineapple Jam (Pineapple Tart Filling)
See all Chinese New Year Recipes
I recently made 2 batches of Bak Kwa to film our upcoming recipe video. The next day, my daughter’s church friends came over and wiped out the entire 2 batches apart from the 2 ‘paiseh’ pieces leftover – business was very good indeed! They even asked if they could place orders for my Bak Kwa and Pineapple Tarts, which to me is the biggest compliment. However I’m afraid we simply don’t have the resources to do large scale festive baking right now, but maybe we can consider it next year if we get a lot of such requests.
In the meantime, do feel free to try out this recipe for yourself as it is not difficult, and the taste definitely comparable to the store bought versions
Bak Kwa (Chinese Barbecue Pork Jerky)
We like our Bak Kwa to be very tender with a nice substantial bite (achieved by not overmincing the meat). To get that extra glossy finishing, simply brush on an extra coat of maltose during the last 1-2 minutes of grilling at hot heat. This allows the sugars to caramelise and form a rich reddish colour and slightly charred bits around the edges.
- 500 g Pork Neck (Wu Hua Rou) Or pork cut with 20% fat
- 2 tbsp Maltose
PREPARATION METHOD FOR BAK KWA (30 min)
Wash the pork and cut into chunks before mincing it with cleaver. Be careful not to over-mince it until it becomes too powdery. Best is to use a cleaver to chop the meat.
COOKING METHOD FOR BAK KWA (1 hour, start the day before)
Place the minced meat into a big bowl, then add in the salt, sugar and maltose and mix it well with a pair of chopsticks.
Add the rest of the marinade ingredients to the meat and stir with the chopsticks, preferably in one direction until the meat is sticky (about 5 minutes).
Wrap the bowl with a cling film and leave it in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven at 160°C, and line a rectangular tray (35cm x 18cm x 2cm) with baking paper / wax paper.
Take the meat out from the refrigerate and give it another stir before placing it on the tray.
Rub your hand with some oil and flatten the meat on the tray evenly with your hand.
Cover the meat with another sheet of baking paper, then use the rolling pin to spread the meat out in the tray evenly. Then gently remove the top layer of baking paper. The meat should be around 2mm thickness
Place the tray in the centre of the oven to bake for 15mins.
Cut the Bak Kwa into squares using a pizza cutter or kitchen scissors
Turn the oven to 240°C using only the top fire. Then place the tray of meat slices on the top rack and grill for 5 mins on each side until caramelized.
(Optional) For bak kwa with an extra glossy finish, remove the tray from the oven after 3 minutes (instead of 5 minutes). Glaze the meat with warmed maltose (microwave for 10 sec). Then continue to grill the meat for another 2 minutes. Do the same for the other side.
- If you buy ready minced meat, tell the butcher to mince it only once. Or else the meat will not hold and it will not have substance when eaten.
- You can use honey instead of maltose. However in generally I prefer to use maltose because it has a milder flavour that blends better with Chinese food. It also makes for a nice thick glaze that's not too sweet because it is more viscous but less sweet than honey.
- When grilling the meat, do not go away otherwise the meat will get burnt and all your effort will go down the drain. Alternatively you can either BBQ it or grill it over a small toaster with top fire.
- I prefer my Bak Kwa to be slightly thicker (around 2mm thickness) so there is more substance when you bite into it. However you can roll out the Bak Kwa slightly thinner if you wish.
Hope you enjoy this recipe, and please leave me a comment below if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback for me!
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: Use gluten free versions of the sauces
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.
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