18 January 2016

Homemade Authentic Bak Kwa or Barbecued Dried Meat

Three more weeks to Chinese New Year to welcome the year of the Monkey.

Continuing with my many firsts (baking bread, roasting turkey, making soap), I attempted to make Bak Kwa, also called Ro Gan or Long Yook, depending on your dialect. In English it is just called Barbequed (Dried) Meat, hopefully not to be confused with Char Siu.

I don't know why I decided to take the plunge to make Ro Gan this year. Guess I am becoming more adventurous. 

So with just one day's online research I picked a recipe that sounded authentic and homemade. I used the Bak Kwa recipe from Shanon who posts through her blog Just as Delish .

I liked Shanon's recipe because she tried it twice, once without grilling and once with. She preferred the one that she grilled. Also, Shanon's recipe does not use any hoi sin sauce, or char siu sauce, which in my opinion are flavourings made for the Western/ Caucasian market. I find food flavoured with hoi sin sauce or char siu sauce artificially sweet, with a distinct telltale taste of the sauce.

Even my homemade Char Siu never incorporates Char Siu sauce.

I did tweak Shanon's recipe just the tiniest bit, so here it is:
  • 1kg fatty Meat Mince - either Chicken, Beef or Pork (Fattier mince makes more tender, juicy bak kwa)
  • 120g Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder (Shanon used 1 tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce (I used Squid Sauce)
  •  3 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon Rice Wine (Shao Tsing) which I omitted
  • 3 tablespoons honey (I increased it to 4 tbsp but brought it back to 3)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons Sesame oil 
  • Red food colouring - optional
  1. Thorughly combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and marinate 8 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 150°C (Shanon used 100 degrees, which I found too low and did not dry out my pork enough). Wash and dry flat baking trays. Line with aluminium foil.
  3. Place mince onto the tray then spread and press down to form a thin sheet over the surface of the tray to a thickness of 3-5mm. You can either use wet fingers/ wooden ladle to manually press it or you could lay a sheet of plastic or baking paper over it and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Try to keep the edges as straight as you can so you can cut into neat squares.
  4. Place the trays in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the meat has dried out - the surface is dry to the touch, most of the liquid has evaporated and is holding together without breaking (It's fine to be a little moist underneath the sheet). 
  5. Cut the dried meat sheet into squares with a kitchen scissors.
  6. Heat up your charcoal bbq or grill and grill each square until darkened and caramelised. It’s totally ok to have the tiniest hint of charring but keep your eyes on them because they burn quickly and easily.
  7. These Bak Kwa do not have preservatives, so it's better to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge with sheets of greaseproof baking paper between each slice of Bak Kwa. When needed, reheat Bak Kwa in grill or microwave.
Grilling over charcoal imparts smoky aroma to the meat

I made 2 batches of Bak Kwa. The first batch tasted good,  but I did not press the mince thin enough. For the second batch, my maid pressed the mince with her hands, making it a much thinner layer than mine. The second batch looked much more like the Ro Gan or Bak Kwa that you buy from the shops.

Many elderly people now say not to eat too much Bak Kwa due to concerns about the quality of meat, chemical colouring and preservatives used in making them.

As my family loves Bak Kwa, I can now serve them my homemade Bak Kwa with peace of mind.

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