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Wafer thin Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky) is a must-have for the Chinese New Year. Make your own using just a few simple ingredients and at a fraction of the cost.
Bak Kwa is the Hokkien (Fujianese) word for dried meat. It is actually more like wafer thin slices of barbecued pork jerky. Unlike beef jerky which is usually dehydrated to remove the moisture in the meat, Malaysian Chinese style pork jerky is moist and grilled to perfection over charcoal fire.
Bak Kwa for Chinese New Year
Back when I was a kid, Bak Kwa was only available during the period leading up to the Chinese New Year. The delicious aroma of barbecued meat permeating the air adds to the excitement and anticipation of the festivities to follow. Like all special foods available only once a year, it was a pricey treat. Even so, people seldom made Bak Kwa at home.
A Homemade Treat for the Overseas Chinese
Today, Bak Kwa is available year round in Kuala Lumpur and prices have soared. During the Chinese New Year, prices are even more steep. It makes a whole lot of sense to prepare it at home at a fraction of the cost. For us here in the American Midwest, the homemade version is the only option. Meat products are not allowed into the country via the airports and I have not seen any being sold at the Asian markets.
Two Versions of Bak Kwa
There are two versions of Bak Kwa. The first one is chewier in texture with visible bits of thinly sliced pork in it. The other is more tender because it is made totally with minced (ground) pork. I personally prefer the first version but for the home cook, the minced (ground) pork version is easier to achieve.
Use Ground Pork with Sufficient Fat
From past experience, it is better to use minced (ground) pork with about 20% fat content to get that slightly translucent texture when held to the light. I tried using very lean pork once and was disappointed with the results. The texture was a little too hard and dense. Also, spreading a thin even layer of meat on the parchment paper helps. Mine were on the thin side. 3mm to 4mm is probably ideal.
Similar Tools Used in Making This Bak Kwa (Chinese Pork Jerky)
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- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with a sturdy serving spoon for about 2 minutes. Mixture will turn gooey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Prepare 5 to 6 sheets of parchment paper the size of a jelly roll pan (15.5in x 10.5in).
- Spread a thin layer of meat mixture with a butter knife onto parchment paper. The meat layer should be about 2mm to 2.5mm thick. Leave an inch around the perimeter of paper clear of meat for easy handling.
- Place a large piece of shrink wrap over the meat. Using a rolling pin, roll over meat to smoothen and even out the spread meat. Remove shrink wrap. Repeat until all meat is used up.
- Transfer sheets of meat to jelly roll pans and bake in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 15 minutes.
- The partially cooked meat should be nice and dry*. When it is cool enough to handle, cut each sheet of meat into 6 pieces.
- Increase oven temperature to 425°F (220°C). Transfer meat and parchment paper to a broiler pan this time and grill for approximately 5 minutes. Meat burns easily at this stage. Adjust time accordingly.
- Remove from oven. Flip slices of meat over with a pair of tongs. Return pan to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.