Meat jerky is a popular snack in the U.S. While many find it tasty, it can be quite tough to chew. This is where Bak Kwa comes in.
Bak Kwa is a Chinese snack very similar to meat jerky, only this version is super tasty and tender.
So, If you’re a fan of meat jerky, Bak Kwa is definitely for you. Keep reading to find out how to make your own.
What is Bak Kwa?
Bak Kwa is a Chinese specialty similar to meat jerky in the U.S. It is traditionally made with pork, beef or mutton which is prepared with various spices, sauces, sugar and salt and dried on a rack.
Where it really differs from meat jerky consumed in the U.S. is the nutritional values. Meat jerky in the U.S. is marketed as a healthy snack and is usually made from very lean meat. This gives it a very tough texture, making it hard to chew.
Bak Kwa is made as a much more indulgent snack and consists of very fatty meats and high sugar levels, making it much sweeter and tender.
While Bak Kwa is traditionally a Chinese dish (you might want to give our delicious Chinese Steamed Chicken Recipe a trial), it is particularly popular in Malaysia and Singapore, especially during Chinese New Year.
How do you make Bak Kwa?
Bak Kwa combines salty, fatty meat such as pork, beef and mutton with sweet, caramelized honey water and various seasonings such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce and five spice powder. The result: a chewy, sweet and salty snack to indulge in.
Traditionally this dish is made by air-drying the meat but, as the method of cooking has developed through the generations, alternative methods have come about such as grilling the meat over charcoal for a smokier flavor.
To really get a taste for traditional Chinese Bak Kwa, you’ll need to visit China or Singapore during Chinese New Year.
But, the next best thing is making it yourself, and fortunately it can also be made easily at home in the oven. So, if you’re tempted to try this sweet and salty snack, here’s the recipe:
You will need:
- Meat of choice – pork, beef or mutton (500 g)
- Fish sauce (1 tbsp)
- Sweet soy sauce (1 tbsp)
- Oyster sauce (½ tbsp)
- Rose wine (1 tbsp)
- Five spice powder (½ tsp)
- Sugar (100 g)
- Sesame oil (1 tsp)
- Ground pepper (½ tsp)
- Honey water (mix 1 tbsp honey and 1 tsp water)
Step 1: Place the minced meat into a large bowl and the following:
- soy sauce (check out our special dark soy sauce recipes)
- fish sauce
- oyster sauce
- sweet soy sauce
- rose wine
- five spice powder
- salt & pepper
Mix it all together until the mixture is a sticky texture, then cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight
Step 2: Transfer the mixture to a piece of parchment paper and spread it out using a spatula or the back of a spoon. Then, place another piece of parchment paper on top and flatten it using a rolling pin. Make sure the meat is rolled out as evenly as possible
Step 3: Place the meat onto a jelly roll pan and peel off the top piece of parchment paper. Heat the oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 15 minutes
Step 4: After 15 minutes, flip the meat over and bake for a further 15 minutes. Once cooked, drain the meat juices
Step 5: Cut the meat into four pieces and place them onto a wire rack. Brush the honey syrup all over each piece, flipping to coat the underneath as well
Step 6: Turn the oven up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit and place the wire rack back into the oven on the top rung. Bake again for five minutes until the honey water is caramelized and the Bak Kwa is brown
Step 7: Remove from the oven and flip to caramelize the other side. Bake for another three to five minutes
Step 8: Cut the Bak Kwa into however many pieces you like and allow to cool a little before serving
Step 9: If you don’t plan to eat the Bak Kwa straight away or if you have some leftover, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days and re-heated until piping hot before being eaten
For best results when making Bak Kwa from scratch, use fatty meat such as pork shoulder. This is because the Bak Kwa will be much more tender and indulgent. Leaner meat will be tougher to bite into, which is less desirable.
Using ground or minced meat is easier in terms of preparation, but using sliced meat will have much more meat fiver and flavor. That being said, the ground meat version still tastes great, and the difference isn’t huge.
Ground meat is much easier to source and far easier to work with.
Avoid using frozen meat at all costs because this will affect the over texture of the Bak Kwa due to the added moisture once thawed.
If you want to swap out some of the spices or seasonings you can, Bak Kwa is pretty easy to adapt, so you can add things like red chili paste or other spices to add some heat.
When it comes to cooking, this recipe is for oven cooking but, as mentioned earlier, traditionally it is cooked over a charcoal grill to give it a nice smoky flavor.
So, if you do have access to a charcoal grill, you can still replicate this recipe but instead of baking it in the oven, simply place the wire rack over the charcoal grill instead.
While the smoky flavor is desirable, it does not have a huge impact on the overall deliciousness of this tender meaty snack.
Bak Kwa is a hugely popular snack and something everyone needs to try! If you aren’t able to experience it in China or Singapore during Chinese New Year, we highly recommend you make your own.