Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Homemade bak kwa (rougan 肉干)

I amazed myself by making bak kwa at home over the weekend. Bak kwa (or rougan 肉干) is a kind of Chinese dried pork, rather like jerky. It has a sweet and salty flavour and is a very popular snack item in Singapore and Malaysia during Chinese new year. I did try looking for somewhere that sell bak kwa starting from when we first arrived in Vancouver. While Chinese food is plentiful here, it is much easier to find Taiwanese, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese food items compared to those that are specifically Southeast Asian-Chinese. We did find one store (at the ground floor market area of Aberdeen Centre in Richmond), but the bak kwa just did not taste good - not in taste and not in texture.

Then I got this recipe from a Singaporean friend here (thank you, Michelle!), which looked surprisingly simple. I gave it a shot over the weekend and was thoroughly impressed with how closely the recipe replicated the taste of Singapore store-bought bak kwa. It looks good, has the right texture and good flavour. The seasoning is kind of strong for our taste though, so I have tweaked the proportions somewhat. As there are no preservatives in this (other than the natural preserving functions of soy sauce, sugar, salt etc.), this will need to be kept in a sealed container in the fridge and reheated prior to consumption. This is also why I don't recommend making a huge batch at one time, unless you are giving them away to friends or forsee them being eaten up very quickly (which is entirely possible!). If so, just double or increase the recipe portions accordingly. Give the recipe a go and then feel free to adjust the seasoning depending on how sweet or salty you like it.

Slices of bak kwa are traditionally cooked over a charcoal grill. At home, you can either use a toaster oven or place them under a medium grill/broiler. Just make sure to watch them closely so that they do not become charred.

I can't believe I made my own bak kwa!

Homemade bak kwa (肉干/Chinese dried barbaqued pork)


500g minced pork
100g or 1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1/4 tsp five-spice powder
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
A few drops of red food colouring

1. Mix all the ingredients except for the pork in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the minced pork and marinate for at least 2 hours (or overnight if you wish).
2. Preheat the oven to 100C/210F. Grease two baking trays.
3. Spread the marinated minced pork thinly onto the baking trays, approximately 0.5cm or thinner. I use the back of two spoons to do this or you can also use your fingers.
4. Place the baking trays in the oven, either on the same shelf if your oven is big enough or on two different levels. Dry the mixture for 50-60 minutes with the oven door ajar. Switch the baking trays halfway through if they are on different levels.
5. When done, the mixture will be semi-dry (some liquid from the marinade may appear around the pork) and the pork will shrink slightly away from the edges of the baking trays. Remove carefully from the trays and cut into smaller squares or rectangles as you wish (I used scissors). Place in a sealed container and store in the fridge until required.
6. Cook the bak kwa in a toaster oven or under a medium grill/broiler, about 3-4 minutes on each side. It should sizzle and caramelise nicely; make sure the edges do not become charred.

Tip: If you wish, you can grill the bak kwa before storing in the fridge. Then they only have to be reheated very briefly (either in a toaster oven or grill/broiler) before eating.


Mrs Ergül said...

Wow Nilmandra! You have amazed me too! I never knew this could be home made!

noobcook said...

I am amazed too! You make it sound possible to make bak kwa at home. During this time of the year, the prices of bak kwa is really crazy, maybe I'll try your recipe hehe

Su-Lin said...

This is amazing! I think I'll give it a shot when my brother is down as he adores it too!

Little Corner of Mine said...

Well done, looks like store-bought!

Jessica604 said...

Thank you (and your friend!) for sharing the recipe! I will probably make a batch and share with family over the Chinese New Year. They'll (especially the S'porean aunt!) will love this!

tigerfish said...

Your bak kwa looks very professional :) ....I will surely try it if I get a chance.

MrsHK said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I made it for Chinese New Year and it turned out AMAZING!!! It brought back such happy memories for all of us. Having Bak Kwa and soft white bread was a beautiful childhood nostalgic moment for me.

Nilmandra said...

Thanks for the comments, and I am really happy if the recipe did work for you. There is nothing quite like recreating the taste of home especially if you cannot buy that easily :)

Noobcook: It is true that bak kwa is crazy expensive during CNY and making your own is much cheaper. But there is already so much to do for CNY; if I could just go out and buy some (probably send my husband to queue haha) I might not make any!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Saw this recipe and thought it might be a great idea to share it with Singaporeans in Belgium. Can i have your permission to copy it please?
Thank you.

Best regards,

Nilmandra said...

Jai: Certainly no problem with sharing the recipe! That's what all the recipes on this site is for, to share my love of food and cooking, particularly food from home with other Singaporeans/Malaysians in other parts of the world :)

Anonymous said...

HI I tried your method of making bakkwa and they taste really good! However after left them on the table for about an hour the fat start to form and settle on the surface of the bakkwa. It still taste the same but just didn't look nice.

Have you seen this problem before and do you have any solution for it?


Anonymous said...

awesome... will try this when i am free...
sEaN, Aberdeen, Scotland

Nilmandra said...

I've not had that problem myself, with fat forming and settling on the bak kwa. I usually store them in the fridge and only grill or reheat just enough to be eaten immediately. I think it has to do with the room temperature you are in. It doesn't happen in places like Singapore or Malaysia because our room temperature is usually above 28 degrees! Fat will tend to congeal when it is cool, and that will happens more often in cooler climates.

CHK said...

I just tried this recipe. Wow, wow, wow from me, the bak kua is very tasty! Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe, you've brought back lots of my home memories for me!

Anonymous said...

hi, you can buy this in Vancouver, on Fraser Street and East 26th Avenue.
I like the pork the best.

BKH Jerky
4194 Fraser St
Vancouver , BC , V5V4E8
Phone - (604) 875-8688

Review at chowtime

Anonymous said...

Hello there, thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe! I will give it a try.

I just wanted to confirm this: You mentioned
"Dry the mixture for 50-60 minutes with the oven door ajar".
Does this mean that I should keep the door ajar throughout the 50 to 60 minutes baking time?



Anonymous said...

Hi, I am living in Indochina now and fish sauce may mean something else. Wonder if there is more information with regards to fish sauce. Thanks.

Linda said...

Thanks so much for this recipe. I sent it to my sis in NZ with great results. It's now in her repertoire for homemade snacks.

Anonymous said...

When you put the bah kua in the oven, is the oven preheated to a certain temperature? If yes, what temperature isit?

Thanks! It looks awesome!

Anonymous said...

Can I substitute the wine with orange/apple juice or perhaps, apple cider vinegar? Would that work? I'm a Muslim & wine is considered non-halal.

Bette said...

There is only one thing better than shopping in Hong Kong, and that's eating. From small noodle joints to upscale French restaurant, you will locate all sorts of restaurant, eating hall and snack stall on earth in Hong Kong. Here I found small amount of Hong-Kong-styled snacks online ( This is definitely a good choice before I have $ for another trip.

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