I have a distinct memory of bakwa from too many years ago. As I crossed a busy road in Singapore, I eyed a bakwa peddler squatting on the city pavement. In front of him was a makeshift charcoal grill made out of a biscuit tin topped with chicken wire to warm his bakwa on. I couldn't resist having a slice. As he waved at the embers with a woven palm leaf fan and deftly turned the pork slice, it turned a glossy beetroot red as it warmed up. I didn't mind the waft of hot air that made the already blistering heat worse. As long as I had my pork treat, I was happy.
Part of the experience of eating in the street is the aroma. In the streets where smells are free to roam, one can really appreciate dining "al fresco". The scent of burning charcoal as it meets the bakwa is heavenly. It made my mouth water in anticipation. Needless to say, that one slice of bakwa was the best I have ever tasted just because of the full experience it connects with.
Whenever I go to Asia, I am always in search of bakwa. My daughter has inherited my love for it and has to have her fix once she lands. Luckily some airports do have bakwa shops. These are sanitized air-conditioned shops with electric grills. Same bakwa but a totally different experience.
I stumbled upon food blogger friend Mel's bakwa recipe. Just one try and I was thoroughly delighted. It is so doable at home! The process was so easy and the result so tasty. I would never have guessed the flavour mix. All I know is that bakwa is bursting in umami.
Have a stash in your freezer and heat up when you feel like the munchies. It is so satisfying to chew on porky treats.
Recipe adapted from Through The Kitchen Door's Pork Jerky (Bakwa) recipe.
750 gms. of minced pork (at least 10% fat)
1/2 c. light brown sugar
2 T dark brown sugar
2 T light soy sauce
2 T Shaoxing wine or sherry
1 T oyster sauce
1 T fish sauce
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
red food colouring, I used gel (just enough to make the meat pink)
Use fatty minced pork for a better texture. I used 20% fat mince for this recipe.
Put all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Mix very well until the mixture is pasty. I used an electric mixer with a paddle attachment for 2 minutes at medium speed.
Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 150° C.
Spread the mixture thinly on lined baking sheets with no lip or the underside of a baking tray. Cover the mixture with greaseproof paper and use rolling pin to gently flatten. This mixture makes 2-12" x 14" sheets of bakwa.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the surface of the jerky is dry to the touch.
Take the tray out of the oven.
Switch the oven to grill setting, 240° C.
Cut the jerky into squares or rectangles. Grill for about 10 minutes then turn over and grill again for about 7 minutes. The surface of the jerky should be glossy and caramelised with charred spots.
Cut into serving pieces. The bakwa may be frozen and reheated on medium heat. It is prone to burning because of the high sugar content so take care not to overheat.
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