The Bak Kwa In S’pore Today is Actually From China & Localised

Chinese New Year is just around the corner and you know what that means…

Image: Tenor

If you’ve been living on Mars and have somehow never ever tried Bak Kwa in your life before, please exit the building immediately.

Kidding.

Or maybe you have some deathly allergy to Bak Kwa and just a smol taste will make your body go into shock. Who knows? I ain’t here to judge.

But I am here to give you a low down of what this beloved piece of meat is, where it originated from and the differences between the ancient Bak Kwa and the Singapore Bak Kwa:

The Bak Kwa In S’pore Today Was Brought Over From China & Localised

Bak Kwa is also known as rougan (肉干), a dried savoury yet sweet meat that looks like thin square slices.

It is also usually made from pork, more specifically barbecued pork or pork jerky. Bak Kwa and rougan means “dried meat” in Hokkien and Mandarin respectively.

It’s really popular here in Singapore and is one of our favourite local snacks, especially during Chinese New Year.

I mean just take a look at the super super long queues at Bak Kwa stores during this period.

But where exactly is it from and how was it localised?

Bak Kwa is actually a product derived from a meat preservation and preparation technique that was used in ancient China.

It is considered a Hokkien delicacy originating from the Fujian province, back when eating meat was a luxury that would only take place during Chinese New Year.

In China, pork is preserved by slicing the meat into thin sheets and marinating them with sugar and spices. It is then air-dried and cooked over a hot plate.

However, when Bak Kwa was brought to Singapore, it became localised:

  1. After the meat is air-dried it is grilled over charcoal to bring out a smokier flavour instead of being cooked over a hot plate.
  2. Our Bak Kwa is also sweeter than the Bak Kwa originating from China.

Main Types Of Bak Kwa in Singapore

The two types of Bak Kwa that you see in Singapore are minced pork and sliced pork.

The minced pork version has a higher fat content and is cooked by shaping minced meat into slices before it is grilled.

The sliced pork version is leaner and tougher as it’s made from pork slices that have been cut from solid blocks of meat.

As the years pass, other types of interesting meat and ingredients have been incorporated, such as chilli pork Bak Kwa for spicy food lovers, and chicken and beef Bak Kwa for those who do not consume pork.

Other weirder inventions have been made such as with the incorporation of strange meat like duck, prawn and lobster meat.

Some Bak Kwas even contain ingredients like ginseng, cheese, garlic and pineapple.

In fact, this meat is so well-loved that now you can find Bak Kwa in so many other types of foods like cookies, bread, doughnuts, pizzas and even mooncakes.

Now that’s something to chew on while you queue two hours for your Bak Kwa this Chinese New Year. Huat ah!

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