Learn how to make tender and flavorful Chinese pork jerky bak kwa at home using an oven. All-natural ingredients with no preservatives. Perfect as a snack or for Chinese New Year gifting.
CHINESE PORK JERKY (ROU GAN)
Rou gan or Chinese pork jerky (bak kwa in Hokkien) is big deal in Singapore especially during Chinese New Year (CNY) where the sellers can jack up the price 2-3 times during this festive season. I remember trying to bring this bak kwa from Singapore to Minneapolis when I first moved here and they got thrown away at the airport! OUCH! Okay, I got it..no meat product! At least I tried LOL! Chinese pork jerky is unlike the beef jerky or pork jerky I’ve eaten here in the U.S. The beef jerky here is really extremely lean. So lean to the point that I couldn’t even chew them most of the time! Though, I understand that the beef jerky here is marketed as a healthy snack. I’ve come across some of my favorite beef jerky that is more at the tender side. Bak kwa on the other hand, is tender and usually at the sweet side and it is an indulgent, not as healthy snack 🙂 Ground pork is marinated in seasonings and some cases, spices, for different choices of flavors and taste and then roll flat and grilled on charcoal for that smoky flavor
EASY NO FUSS BAK KWA RECIPE
I used to think to make bak kwa must be extremely difficult because of how expensive it is during CNY. In reality, they are pretty simple to make and you can customize the flavor to your liking
Ingredients: Ground pork with some fat, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, five-spice powder, ground white pepper, honey
Traditionally, the bak kwa is grilled on charcoal. I find that baking the bak kwa in the oven also gives an amazing result. You don’t need any fancy equipment!
GROUND PORK OR SLICED PORK TO MAKE BAK KWA
A bak kwa enthusiast will say that sliced pork is a better one to use to make bak kwa because it still has that meat fiber and more flavor. I can tell you though, this ground pork version also produces a really good result and much more convenient because ground pork is widely available and easier to manage too. My husband told me the bak kwa tasted just like those you bought from the shop. The kids were all over them too.
TOP TIPS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO MAKE REALLY GOOD BAK KWA
1. DO NOT USE FROZEN MEAT
Once you thaw the frozen meat, it will have some moisture and this will affect the end result of the bak kwa
2. CHOOSE MEAT WITH SOME FAT
This is to ensure you get tender bak kwa
3. MEAT TO PAN RATIO
I use 500 gr of meat for 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan. It’s enough to cover the entire surface of the pan nicely with 3 mm thickness. If you plan to make less, you will need to use half the size of the pan I use. You want the bak kwa to have a perfect thickness, not too thin and not too thick
HOMEMADE BAK KWA IN THE OVEN STEP-BY-STEP COOKING GUIDE
STEP ONE: MARINATE THE MEAT
1. Place ground pork (or meat of your choice), sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, five-spice powder and ground white pepper in mixing bowl. Stir with a chopstick in one direction until the meat is sticky and more paste-like
2. Cover and marinate for at least 6-8 hours or overnight (but I recommend no longer than that) for maximum flavor
STEP TWO: SHAPING
Transfer the meat to jelly roll pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on top, slightly bigger than your pan. Roll the marinated meat out on the pan with small rolling pin to cover the entire surface of the pan and to about 3 mm thickness
STEP THREE: COOKING
1. Bake in the preheated oven at 250 F (121 C) for 10-15 minutes (or longer for ground turkey or ground chicken) and then gently flip to the other side and bake for another 10 minutes
2. Cut into the desired size with kitchen shears
3. Increase oven temperature to 400 F. Brush the jerky with honey mixture and then bake until you are happy with the color and then flip to the other side and brush with honey mixture again. Please DO NOT walk away during this process or you will char the meat badly.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR BAK KWA
FLAVOR: You can add chili powder to make it spicy or whatever flavor you fancy, you can add it when you marinate the meat
MEAT CHOICES: I’ve seen people use ground chicken, ground turkey and ground beef to make bak kwa. I have only tried them with ground pork and ground turkey. Ground turkey tends to be a bit more “watery” and so initial baking time took a bit longer.
BAK KWA SHELF LIFE
Freshly made bak kwa can be stored in air-tight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. They can be kept at the refrigerator for up to one month after that. I do not recommend freezing bak kwa. If you see some white spots appearing on your bak kwa, under normal circumstances, that’s not because of mold or fungi, it’s usually because of the sugar hasn’t been caramelized enough during the cooking process.
HOW TO REHEAT BAK KWA
You can wrap them with aluminum foil and reheat in the oven or toaster oven at 350 F for 5 minutes. You can use the microwave to reheat for about 30 seconds or so.
The recipe is updated to add some seasonings and instead of broiling, I prefer to raise oven temperature higher to “grill” the meat. Less mess and still good result.
For baking/ kueh making: I highly encourage to weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.GRAMS TO CUPS CONVERSION (UNSIFTED)
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp water
Marinade the pork:
- Make sure to choose ground pork with some fat marbling. This is to ensure you'll get tender pork jerky later
- Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with your clean hand for about 1 minute. The meat mixture will turn pasty, which is what we want
- Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate to let it marinade overnight, at least 6-8 hours is my suggestion for a great flavor
- Preheat oven to 250 F (121 C). Transfer the marinated pork to a jelly roll pan, lined with a parchment paper. Place a cling plastic wrap or parchment paper on top and use your palm to roughly spread the meat and then use a rolling pin to roll the meat out evenly to cover the entire pan and to about 3 mm thickness. I feel like this is a great thickness, not too thin, not too thick. Perfect for the bak kwa to be tender
- Place the jelly roll pan 3rd rack from the top and let it bake for 25-30 minutes. Pour off excess liquid if there's any accumulated during baking. If you use ground turkey or chicken, you may need to bake a little longer because more liquid is accumulated
- Remove from the oven and very gently, use a spatula or turner to loosen the meat from the pan to flip it over to the other side. You'll be surprised how easily this can be done
- Once the meat is turned, bake it again for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. The bak kwa is still looking pale and not even close to the finished product you imagine, but fret not, we are not done yet
- Cut the bak kwa with kitchen shears into the desired size. I cut into 4 x 4 inch pieces. You can cut into a large size like the one they sell, it's up to you. Change to a new parchment paper and place on a baking sheet again.
- If you want some with sesame seeds, you can brush the bak kwa pieces with honey and then sprinkle with some white sesame seeds, if not, just leave it as is
Increase oven temperature:
- Mix honey with water for brushing on the bak kwa later. Increase the oven temperature to 400 F. Arrange the bak kwa pieces back into the pan. Bake them for another 10-15 minutes or until the jerky turn slightly reddish in color and darker, but not burnt. When you are happy with the color, turn to the other side and brush with some honey mixture and bake again for another 10-15 minutes
Serving and storage:
- Let them cool down and then store in air-tight container. Bak kwa is best consumer after 24 hours as the flavors have really developed. They can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month