When I first came to the UK, the only food stuff I brought over was a box of instant noodles - Maggi and Indomie mi goreng to be specific - good stuff! After half a year of minty rice and oodles of potatoes at the boarding school, I brought over a rice cooker, lots of instant curry packets, herbal soup mixes, Chinese sausages, dried mushrooms, dried scallops, dried shrimps...well you get the idea. We used to go home 2-3 times a year and come back with lots of goodies. After Summer, we'd come back with mooncakes, and jars of cookies for Chinese New Year after Christmas holidays. Our parents would send us parcels of food...yea...I know, we were a bunch of spoilt, hungry, homesick students...the good old days. Now, any meat, dairy and other animal products are banned from being brought into the UK - no more Chinese sausages, pork floss and most importantly, bye bye bak kwa (the wild boar was devastated when he learnt about this new regulation - he loves his bak kwa).
I call this 'yoke gon' (肉干), which is Cantonese for 'dried meat'. The wild boar calls this 'bak kwa', which is 'dried meat' in Hokkien dialect and he also refer to this as 'long yoke' (WHY??!! What does it mean?). It took me awhile to figure out what he was referring to. Bak kwa is traditionally made with marinated minced meat, flattened, sun-dried and then grilled over charcoal fire. It is deliciously sweet and is a common Chinese New Year snack. When you walk along Petaling Street (Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown), you'd be swamped by smoke from all the open-air grilling. Not sure if they still do that openly now as I haven't been there in ages - ever since they refurbished the area in 2003. Cleaner, tidier, more civilised yes, but it has lost a little of its charm for me. Nowadays, you can find shops selling this everywhere in Malaysia, the famous ones are Wo Lai Ye Kiew Brothers (a nice write-up here and check out how they grill it in KL's Chinatown here) and Bee Cheng Hiang from Singapore.
When we were home for Chinese New Year 2 years ago, we found this awesome product at one of the Kiew Brothers' outlets:
Picture taken from Bernama Mandarin News
Look at all that gorgeous crispy fats! Yes, it's BACON bak kwa! It's more expensive as compared to the regular ones, but it's well worth the price. The fats are oh-so-good! Do remember to ask for the fatty ones, the fats are the best bits! The meaty part is slightly chewier and tougher than normal ones, so if you are not into fats, you are better off with the regular ones. Go for the FATS!
I googled around for bak kwa recipes and found out that it's pretty easy to prepare. I gave it a go and it turned out really good - got a thumbs up from the wild boar =) I would suggest that you grill it if you have a grill for the smokey flavour.
Ingredients:Adapted from Tazz in the kitchen
- 500g minced pork
- 1 1/2 tbs fish sauce
- 1 tbs Cheong Chan Thick Dark Soy Sauce (Thick Caramel Sauce)
- 1 tbs light soy sauce
- 1 tbs kecap manis
- 1 tbs Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp 5 spice powder
- 1 tsp oil
- Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl, use a pair of chopsticks or a fork and stir vigorously in one direction until a gluey paste is formed.
- Cover and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
The next day:
- Pre-heat oven to 125°C.
- Place meat on a large piece of parchment paper.
- Cover with clingfilm so the meat won't stick the rolling pin.
- Roll into a thin sheet (about 2mm thick).
- Remove the clingfilm and bake at 125°C for about 20 mins.
- Increase temperature to 180°C and bake for aout 20-30 mins or until the sides are charred. Keep a close watch, as it burns easily at this stage.
- Cool and cut into pieces.