10 Facts About Bak Kwa Before You Binge-Eat Them During CNY


Last Updated on 2023-01-25 , 1:26 pm

Love letters, tapioca chips, jelly sweets.

But for many of us, the greatest of them all is bak kwa.

Yet how many of us actually know useful things regarding bak kwa?

(Except for how to eat it, of course.)

Well, even if you don’t, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten (possibly random) facts about bak kwa that you should probably know, whether it’s to impress your relatives during gatherings or just for fun!

It Originated From Fujian

Hokkiens, rejoice.

The much-beloved snack originated from Fujian, a province in China. It’s also the hometown of people belonging to the Hokkien dialect.

Meat was a luxury reserved only for festive seasons like Chinese New Year, and that’s where and how bak kwa started to be made.

It Symbolises Good Luck

It’s no surprise that most Chinese favour the colour red, and bak kwa is no different.

Red often represents prosperity and good luck (and it wards off evil spirits as well!), and the colour of tantalising bak kwa is said to align with this belief.

Bak kwa is also called “long yoke” in Cantonese, which means “good fortune”.

And hey, it’s not like we need more reasons to eat bak kwa, but don’t forget to eat more of it if you want an auspicious year ahead!

You Can Make Your Own DIY Bak Kwa

In a world where we have people making their own bubble tea and coconut shakes, bak kwa is no exception.

Although it may seem daunting to replicate the sights of hot charcoal grills and constantly flipping barbequed meat that we’ve seen in bak kwa shops, one simple Google search will show you that it’s not that hard after all!

Easy-to-follow recipes like this one will ensure that you’ll be whipping up these delectable treats in no time, all while making sure that you (hopefully) don’t burn the house down in the process.


There Have Been Instances of Touting

Yes, just like branded goods.

In the early 2000s, when bak kwa sales were at their absolute peak, there were cases of hawkers along Chinatown selling “fake” bak kwa.

According to a study, those vendors “used the same packaging as the original brand but sell the meat at much lower prices, causing much confusion among customers, who were also worried that contaminated pork might have been used.”

Additionally, the study added that “the public was advised not to purchase bak kwa from unlicensed street vendors”.

Thankfully, the chances of being scammed by bak kwa now is probably much lower, but do remember to double-check your bak kwa and only buy them from the actual stores instead of third-party vendors!


It Might Increase Your Chances of Cancer

Well, there’s always a downside to the good things in life, eh?

Unfortunately, overconsumption of bak kwa is not going to do your body any good in the long run.

In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that 50g of processed meat a day may increase one’s risk of cancer by up to 18%.

That’s a slice of bak kwa.

WHO also mentioned that “about 34 000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat”.

So definitely don’t go too overboard with the bak kwa over an extended period of time, and remember to balance your diet out with healthy foods like fruits and vegetables as well.


There Are Healthier Versions in the Market

If you’re still mulling over the health impacts that bak kwa may have on your life, here’s something to cheer you up a little.

In recent years, there have been some companies that have come up with healthier bak kwa, such as Golden Gourmet’s Organic Chicken Bak Kwa.

According to their website, the chicken used “contains less fat and cholesterol, whilst packing a greater flavour”.

Though it’s important to still eat healthier versions of bak kwa in moderation, they’re definitely worth a shot if you’re looking for something new and more guilt-free to try!

Bak Kwa Is the Most Commonly Smuggled Snack in USA

Clearly, bak kwa‘s irresistible to everyone.


According to US bak kwa store Fragrant Jerky USA’s website, “bak kwa is known to be the most smuggled snack food by travellers entering the US from Asia Pacific countries”.

However, strict USDA meat import regulations in the US bans travellers from importing bak kwa, even for personal consumption.

“They are subject to confiscation by US customs. Some travellers even get blacklisted by US customs causing further inconvenience on future travels,” the store mentioned.

So don’t get caught bringing a bag of Bee Cheng Hiang over when you visit the US!

Someone Once Ordered 30kg of Bak Kwa

You read that right.

According to AsiaOne‘s article back in 2017, “the largest purchase made through LaborMe tallied up to almost $2,000 for the bak kwa alone – that’s a whopping 30kg.”

That’s probably heavier than your little nieces or nephews.

As expected, it was for a corporate client. Although if anyone here wants to be the first person to buy 30kg of bak kwa for your own consumption… why not?


There’s Halal Bak Kwa

Although bak kwa is most commonly made with pork, there’s also a version that our Muslim friends can enjoy too!

If you’ve frequented pasar malams in the past, the brand Dendeng House might ring a bell.

They sell halal bak kwa made with beef and chicken, and even sell other products such as chicken and beef floss! Check out their menu here.

Bak Kwa is Getting More Creative

From bak kwa made with crocodile meat to bak kwa with pineapples, people are coming out with unique bak kwa flavours, because we’re feeding both our stomach and our Instagram feed.

You can read this article on the unique bak kwa flavours being sold in Singapore!

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Featured Image: nickichen / Shutterstock.com