Bak Kwa (Chinese Barbecued Pork Jerky) & Feng He Garden Sauces

Thanks to The Burning Kitchen for this recipe!

They are Bee Leng & Melissa, the mother-daughter team behind The Burning Kitchen. Their mission is simple: “To make authentic Chinese cooking accessible to all, anytime, anywhere. We believe in teaching you the secret sauce behind each recipe”.

Please visit their website at https://www.theburningkitchen.com/ for more fabulous recipes!

Home made bak kwa and Feng He Garden sauces

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Make Chinese New Year even more meaningful by serving your guests with home-made Bak Kwa, the Chinese version of barbecued pork jerky. Our recipe is very tender, highly glossy and has a nice substantial bite. Try making it yourself!


STORY BEHIND THE RECIPE

I learnt this bak kwa recipe from one of my ex-neighbour, who has kindly given me permission to publish this recipe. She has always felt that Bak Kwa in Singapore is highly overpriced (especially during Chinese New Year) and the queue for it is crazy, so she is an advocate for making your own bak kwa at home. As Chinese New Year is just around the corner, why not try making this as a snack to serve to your visitors! It is always nice to be able to offer your guests some home-made goodies during Chinese New Year, and I’m sure they will love it too!

Home made bak kwa and Feng He Garden sauces

TRICKS OF THE TRADE

  1. Make sure you get a cut of meat with about 20% fat, such as Pork Shoulder Butt (Wu Hua Rou 五花肉), so that the Bak Kwa will be succulent and juicy when cooked, but not overly fatty/oily.
  2. Be careful to watch over the Bak Kwa constantly when grilling at high heat. The sugars in the marinade and the maltose caramelise very quickly under high heat and can be burnt within minutes.
  3. Use good quality sauces and make sure that the dark soy sauce is not too dark coloured, otherwise, the bak kwa will turn out too dark coloured and not as appetising. See sections on ‘Secret Sauce #1’ and ‘Secret Sauce #2’.
Home made bak kwa and Feng He Garden sauces

SECRET SAUCE #1: FENG HE GARDEN SOY SAUCE 

If you are a regular home cook living in Singapore, you have probably come across Feng He Garden soy sauce at some point in time. Unlike other brands, its soy sauce comes packaged in thick glass bottles and can only be found in wet market dry grocers, provision shops and small neighbourhood supermarkets.

Feng He Garden Products

Prior to Feng He Garden contacting us for this collaboration, you may remember that I had previously recommended Feng He Garden’s Dark Soy Sauce for making our Soy Sauce Chicken (Si Yau Gai) recipe. Yes,  I paid $10.90 from my own pocket to buy the large 750ml bottle of Fenghe Garden Dark Soy Sauce for that recipe, because the sauce is very ideal for braising – it is flavourful, slightly thicker than usual and not too dark coloured. Why is this important? Because I have previously tried other brands where the sauce was so dark that the dishes we cooked looked burnt even though they were not!

Whole chopped soy sauce chicken ready to serve, with chilli sauce, spring onions and noodles

Soy Sauce Chicken

Feng He Garden Dark Soy Sauce being added to the meat

Best of all, Feng He Garden dark soy sauce has this rich and well-developed umami flavour although it contains no MSG (most supermarket brands contain MSG, also known as E621) and is less salty than other supermarket brands we tested. I was told that the complexity of flavour is achieved through one-year fermentation under the sun. To fully appreciate this fact, you need to understand a little about how soy sauce is made.

SOY SAUCE PRODUCTION: FERMENTATION VS HYDROLYSIS

Traditionally, soy sauce is made through fermenting a mixture of soybeans, wheat flour and aspergillus mold spores (known in Japanese as Koji) over several months under the hot sun. Nowadays, mass-produced soy sauce can be produced in a matter of days through a short-cut process known as hydrolysis. In this process, the soybean mixture is boiled in hydrochloric acid for several hours in a pressure cooker to break down the proteins into amino acids. An alkali such as sodium hydroxide is then added to the mixture to neutralise the acid. If I remember my chemistry correctly, the by-product of that chemical reaction is sodium chloride, otherwise known as common salt. That may explain why some cheap brands of soya sauce are extremely salty yet not very flavourful.

I’m not sure about you, but I prefer my soy sauce to be made in the traditional, time-honoured way. So I was glad to hear that each batch of Feng He Garden soya sauce takes over a year to produce, including a whole year of fermentation in huge earthen vats under the sun.

Feng He Garden Soy Sauce Production (7)

Mixture of soybean, wheat and Aspergillus mold spores

Feng He Garden Soy Sauce Production (7)

One year fermentation under the sun

Feng He Garden Soy Sauce Production (7)

Hygienic bottling of sauces

Feng He Garden Soy Sauce Production (7)

Packed and ready to ship

Images courtesy of Feng He Garden

The halal-certified factory in Ipoh that produces Feng He Garden soy sauce has been making soy sauce in this way for the last 80 years, while adopting modern technology such as automatic packing and hygienic bottling systems. The production of great soy sauce cannot be rushed, and this is apparently the secret to why Feng He Garden soy sauce has such a rich complexity of flavours compared to its hydrolysed counterparts.

FIRST EXTRACT VS STANDARD SOY SAUCE

Feng He Garden’s first extract light soy sauce is also quite exceptional. It has a really delicious, rich umami flavour that immediately distinguishes itself from other standard supermarket soy sauce. It is not too salty and contains no MSG (which sometimes hides in the ingredient list as E621 Flavour Enhancer). We are told that in addition to being fermented under the sun for 1 year, its light soy sauce is made from the first extraction of the fermented soybean mixture – similar to how extra virgin olive oil is prepared through the first press of the olives.

In the production of light soy sauce, the first extract is the best quality and is usually labelled as tóu chōu 头. After the first extract, more salt and water are added to the fermenting vat to ferment again, followed by the second extract (typically labelled “Gold Label” 金标). A third extract is sometimes sold as “Silver Label” (银标).  According to Wikipedia, “tóu chōu is sold at a premium because, like extra virgin olive oil, the flavour of the first pressing is considered superior. Due to its delicate flavour, it is used primarily for seasoning light dishes and for dipping.”

Home made bak kwa and Feng He Garden sauces

GLASS VS PLASTIC BOTTLES

Feng He Garden is one of the few soy sauce sauces that is still packaged in glass bottles. Most other soy sauce brands are packaged in plastic bottles which are cheaper to produce and transport. However, as soy sauce is a fermented product, there could be some concerns about harmful chemicals leaching out of the plastic packaging into the sauce (see the article in The Guardian about the debate on the dangers of BPA exposure through plastic food packaging). That’s why Feng He Garden remains committed to using glass rather than plastic bottles despite the significantly higher costs. However, due to the use of glass packaging, the product is heavier and needs to be handled with care.

You can find Feng He Garden sauces at wet market dry grocers, provisions shops and smaller supermarkets such as Ang Mo, Prime Supermarket, U-Stars (see full list of retail outlets here). Sadly, you won’t be able to find them at the larger supermarket chains if that’s where you usually shop. But never fear, you can also purchase Feng He Garden sauces online via Purely Fresh, Qoo10, Redmart, Honestbee and Song Fish.

Feng He Garden dark soy sauce retails for $6.80 for a 350ml bottle. Its first extract light soy sauce retails for $5.80 for a 350ml bottle. 

SECRET SAUCE #2: GHEE HIANG BABY BRAND SESAME OIL

Ghee Hiang famous sesame oil (also known as Baby Brand) is an open secret among home cook enthusiasts. Google ‘Ghee Hiang Tripadvisor’ and you will see tons of reviewers telling you that getting a bottle of Ghee Hiang’s famed fragrant sesame oil is a ‘must-do’ tourist attraction when visiting Penang! Hong Kong celebrity chef So Sze Wong once whipped out a bottle of Ghee Hiang sesame oil on her TVB cooking show proclaiming it to be the best sesame oil in the world. And in case you are wondering, no, it was not a paid advertisement. She had been visiting Penang and happened to pick up a bottle at Ghee Hiang’s shop after being attracted by the huge bottle of sesame oil on display there.

For the longest of times, it was impossible to lay your hands on a bottle unless you made a trip up to Penang, Malaysia where the 163-year-old brand originated. But thanks to Feng He Garden who brought the brand into Singapore a few years ago, all it now takes is a short walk to your nearby provision store, wet market, or neighbourhood supermarkets to pick up a bottle of this ‘liquid gold’.

So does Ghee Hiang’s famous sesame oil actually live up to its hype? Yes, indeed! We did a comparison of Ghee Hiang sesame oil against other sesame oil brands found in the supermarkets. The verdict: Ghee Hiang sesame oil is truly fragrant compared to the other brands we tested.

Bak kwa ingredients and Feng He Garden sauces

So what is the secret to making Ghee Hiang’s world famous sesame oil? Firstly, it is made of 100% pure non-GMO sesame seeds with no preservatives, additives or chemical bleaching agents. In an interview with The Edge, Ghee Hiang MD Datuk Ooi said that “low quality sesame oil is high in stearic acid and is bad for the heart and even worse for mothers on confinement as it would also be bad for the babies who are nursed. [Ghee Hiang’s] sesame oil is 100% pure with nothing else added. The sesame seed is gently roasted and then mechanically pressed to extract pure oil,” We were told by Feng He Garden that some hospitals wards in Singapore use Ghee Hiang sesame oil for their meal preparation and even give out free sachet samples to patients – which is a great testimonial for the brand!

Ghee Hiang sesame oil retails at $6.80 for a 330ml bottle.

HOW TO MAKE BAK KWA? 

Wash the pork and cut into chunks before mincing it with cleaver or a food processor.

Chopping the wu hua rou into chunks
Chopping wu hua rou
Stirring in the salt, sugar and maltose into the meat mixture

Place the minced meat into a big bowl, then add in salt, sugar and maltose and mix it well with a pair of chopsticks.

Stirring in the marinade ingredients into the meat mixture

Add the rest of the marinade ingredients to the meat and stir, preferably in one direction until the meat is sticky.

Placing clingwrap over the meat mixture

Wrap the bowl with cling film and leave it in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven at 160°C, and line a rectangular tray (35cm x 18cm x 2cm) with baking paper.

Lining the baking tray with baking paper
The meat mixture should achieve a sticky texture after refrigeration

Take the meat out from the refrigerator and give it another stir. The meat should achieve a sticky texture like the photo below.

Spreading out the meat mixture on the baking tray

Place half the meat on the baking tray. Lightly grease your hand with some cooking oil and flatten the meat on the tray evenly with your hand.

Cover the meat with another sheet of baking paper, then use the rolling pin to spread the meat out in the tray evenly to around 2mm thickness.

Placing a second baking sheet over the meat mixture
Rolling out the meat mixture to 3 mm thickness
Removing the top layer of baking paper

Gently remove the top layer of baking paper.

Place the tray on the middle rack of the oven to bake for 15 mins at 160°C.

Placing the meat mixture in the oven to bake

Remove the bak kwa and cut into squares using a pizza cutter or kitchen scissors. Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 240°C using only the top fire.

Cutting the bak kwa into squares


For the glazing liquid, melt the maltose in the hot water and mix well. Then brush the maltose syrup over the bak kwa.

Melting the maltose in hot water
Glazing the bak kwa with maltose
Placing the glazed bak kwa squares on a rack

Arrange the bak kwa squares on a metal rack. Place on the top rack of the oven and grill for 3-5 minutes at 240°C using only the top fire until the bak kwa is caramelized and lightly charred. Make sure you place a drip tray at the bottom.

Turn the bak kwa over and repeat the glazing and grilling steps on the other side.

MARKETING TIPS

  • Make sure you get a cut of meat with about 20% fat, such as Pork Neck or Wu Hua Rou (五花肉), so that the Bak Kwa will be succulent and juicy when cooked, but not overly fatty/oily.
  • Tell the butcher to mince it only once if you buy ready minced meat. Or else the meat will not hold and it will not have substance when eaten.
  • You can use honey instead of maltose. However, I prefer to use maltose because it has a milder flavour that blends better with Chinese food. It also makes for a nice thick glaze that’s not too sweet because it is more viscous but less sweet than honey.
  • Brand of Dark Soy Sauce: Some brands of dark soy sauce are very black and salty, and it will make your Bak Kwa very dark coloured. For this recipe, I used the Feng He garden dark soy sauce. It has a nice flavour, not too salty and gives a nice caramelised colour to your dishes  – whether you are making Bak Kwa, Char Siew or Chinese Sticky Ribs.

COOKING TIPS

  • Don’t over mince the meat. Mince the meat finely, but don’t overdo it until it becomes powdery. This will give the Bak Kwa a nice substance when you bite into it.
  • Be careful to watch over the Bak Kwa constantly in the final grilling step at high heat, especially after adding maltose as a glaze. The sugars in the marinade and the maltose caramelise very quickly under high heat, and it can go from slightly charred to burnt within minutes. Alternatively, you can either BBQ it or grill it over a small toaster with top fire.
  • Know your own oven. Do also bear in mind that all oven temperature settings differ, so the timings I provide are only a rough guide. If you are unsure, please open up the oven and check on the Bak Kwa slightly ahead of the timings I have provided.
  • (Optional) Brush on an extra coat of maltose during the last 1-2 minutes to get an extra glossy finishing. This allows the sugars to caramelise and form a rich reddish colour and slightly charred bits around the edges.

DIETARY MODIFICATIONS

WATCH OUR VIDEO FOR HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE!

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g Pork Neck (Wu Hua Rou) Or pork cut with 20% fat

MARINADE

GLAZE

INSTRUCTIONS

PREPARATION METHOD

  1. Wash the pork and cut into chunks before mincing it with cleaver or a food processor.

COOKING METHOD (START THE DAY BEFORE)

  1. Place the minced meat into a big bowl, then add in salt, sugar and maltose and mix it well with a pair of chopsticks.
  2. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients to the meat and stir, preferably in one direction until the meat is sticky.
  3. Wrap the bowl with cling film and leave it in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven at 160°C, and line a rectangular tray (35cm x 18cm x 2cm) with baking paper.
  5. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and give it another stir. Place half the meat on the baking tray. 
  6. Lightly grease your hand with some cooking oil and flatten the meat on the tray evenly with your hand.
  7. Cover the meat with another sheet of baking paper, then use the rolling pin to spread the meat out in the tray evenly to around 2mm thickness. Then gently remove the top layer of baking paper.
  8. Place the tray on the middle rack of the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the bak kwa and cut into squares using a pizza cutter or kitchen scissors. Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 240°C using only the top fire.
  10. For the glazing liquid, melt the maltose in the hot water and mix well. Then brush the maltose syrup over the bak kwa.
  11. Arrange the bak kwa squares on a metal rack. Place on the top shelf of the oven and grill for 4-5 minutes at 240°C using only the top fire until the bak kwa is caramelized and lightly charred. Make sure you place a drip tray at the bottom. 
  12. Turn the bak kwa over and repeat on the glazing and grilling steps on the other side.
  13. Store at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. To serve, warm up the bak kwa in a small oven for a few minutes until it turns glossy.

TOP TIPS

MARKETING TIPS

  1. Make sure you get a cut of meat with about 20% fat, such as Pork Neck or Wu Hua Rou (五花肉), so that the Bak Kwa will be succulent and juicy when cooked, but not overly fatty / oily.
  2. Tell the butcher to mince it only once if you buy ready minced meat. Or else the meat will not hold and it will not have substance when eaten.
  3. You can use honey instead of maltose. However, I prefer to use maltose because it has a milder flavour that blends better with Chinese food. It also makes for a nice thick glaze that’s not too sweet because it is more viscous but less sweet than honey.
  4. Brand of Dark Soy Sauce: Some brands of dark soy sauce are very black and salty, and it will make your Bak Kwa very dark coloured. In general, my preferred brand is Elephant brand Cooking Caramel. It has a nice flavour, not too salty and gives a nice caramelised colour to your dishes  – whether you are making Bak Kwa, Char Siew or Chinese Sticky Ribs.

COOKING TIPS

  1. Don’t over mince the meat. Mince the meat finely, but don’t overdo it until it becomes powdery. This will give the Bak Kwa a nice substance when you bite into it
  2. Be careful to watch over the Bak Kwa constantly in the final grilling step at high heat, especially after adding maltose as a glaze. The sugars in the marinade and the maltose caramelise very quickly under high heat, and it can go from slightly charred to burnt within minutes. Alternatively, you can either BBQ it or grill it over a small toaster with top fire.
  3. Know your own oven. Do also bear in mind that all oven temperature settings differ, so the timings I provide are only a rough guide. If you are unsure, please open up the oven and check on the Bak Kwa slightly ahead of the timings I have provided.
  4. Brush on an extra coat of maltose during the last 1-2 minutes to get that extra glossy finishing. This allows the sugars to caramelise and form a rich reddish colour and slightly charred bits around the edges.


Soy Garlic Vinegar Cucumber Salad by Angeline Goh

Soy Garlic Vinegar Cucumber Salad by Angeline Goh

Soy Garlic Vinegar Cucumber Salad by Angeline Goh Feng He Garden Black Vinegar best

Ingredients
-1 Japanese cucumber
-3-4 minced garlic
-1 tablespoon sesame oil
-1 tablespoon FengHe soy sauce
-1 tablespoon black rice vinegar
-1/2 tablespoon sugar
-Moderate chilli oil flakes

Method
1. Japanese cucumber washed and scrub with baking soda and cut into slices
2. Heat sesame oil in pan and add in minced garlic to fry in low flame
3. Off flame then add in FengHe soy sauce,rice vinegar ,sugar and chilli oil flakes to mix well
4. When sauce is cooled add in cucumber slices to toss well
5. Chill for a nice cold side dish

Pig Trotter & Ginger Vinegar stew by TAGlicious

Pig Trotter & Ginger Vinegar stew by TAGlicious

Pig trotter & Ginger vinegar stew is one of traditional confinement dishes for new mothers. It helps to keep the mother’s body warm & expel wind after labor. It is one of my favourite dish during my confinement days too. The pig’s trotter are so tender and succulent after many hours of cooking in the tasty sweet black vinegar. There are many different ways of preparing this dish, I am going to use my mother’s way today. The steps are not complicated. Anyway, you don’t need to be a new mother to enjoy this nostalgic Pig trotter & ginger vinegar stew. 🙂

t1
t2

(Serving for 6-8pax)
Recipe by Taglicious’s mum

  • 1.8kg pig trotters (2 pcs of pig’s front feet)
  • 750ml sweetened black vinegar (I used Feng He Garden’s black vinegar)
  • 3-4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 400g old ginger
  • 350ml water
  • 8 hard boiled eggs
  • Salt to taste (optional)
t3


Steps

  1. Blanch the pig trotters with hot boiling water and wash it clean with tap water. Set aside.
  2. Use a large casserole or claypot to sauteed the gingers with sesame oil for 5 mins or till frangrance.
  3. Add in 750 ml sweetened black vinegar & 300 ml water and bring it to boil.
  4. Add in the pig trotters and simmer under low fire for 2 hrs.
  5. Add in hard boiled eggs and simmer under low fire for another 30 mins and it it ready to serve.
t4

Note/tips:

  1. Request the butcher for pig’s front legs as it is more meaty.
  2. For confinement, you can cook the black vinegar with ginger & sesame oil 1-2 weeks before for stronger flavor.

Source: Taglicious’s Pig Trotter & Ginger Vinegar stew

The above pictures and recipe is from one of our friend TAGlicious!

Fish In Black Bean Sauce by Janice Looi

Fish In Black Bean Sauce by Janice Looi

Fish In Black Bean Sauce by Janice Looi Feng He Garden best

Ingredients
-Fish with middle bone ( chop to small chunks) 400g
-Feng He Garden Black Bean paste 2tsp
-Ginger/garlic/chilli padi (minced)
-Feng He Harden Dark Sauce 2 to 3tsp
-Ghee Hiang Sesame Oil 2tsp
-Feng He Garden Light Soy Sauce (Drizzle)
-Hua Tiao Chiew (Drizzle)
-Scallions & Chilli for garnish

Method:
1. Marinade fish w salt n pepper n wine. Shallow fry the fish n set aside.
2. Fry black bean paste/ garlic/chilli padi/ ginger till fragrant, add in fish, drizzle soya sauce n wine around the side of the pan, gv a few stir, add in Feng He Garden Dark sauce and water, bring to a simmer over low med heat.
3. Add sugar and pepper, taste test the flavour to ur liking. Lastly, add in cornflour solution n stir. Drizzle in sesame oil before serving.
4. Serve n enjoy!

Stew Chicken with Bitter Gourd by Stephy Tam

Stew Chicken with Bitter Gourd by Stephy Tam

Thank you Stephy for the recipe!

Stew Chicken with Bitter Gourd by Stephy Tam Feng He Garden Black Bean Paste best

Ingredients:
– Bitter gourd
– 2 Chicken thighs and drumsticks
– 4 Cloves of chopped garlic
Seasoning:
– 3 tbsp Ghee Hiang Pure Sesame Oil (Red Label)
– 1 tbsp Feng He Garden Black Bean
– Mykuali Salted Fish Paste (Optional)
Method:
1. Cut chicken and bitter gourd into pieces.
2. Marinate the chicken with 3 tbsp Ghee Hiang Pure Sesame Oil (Red Label) and 1 tbsp Feng He Garden Black Bean for 30 minutes before cooking.
3. Heat wok with Ghee Hiang Pure Sesame Oil (you may use other oil, I prefer to eat and cook healthily for my family so I will use Ghee Hiang Pure Sesame Oil), saute garlic until golden brown.
4. Add in meat, continue cooking for 5 min, add in bitter gourd, cover with lid and boil in low heat until dry up.
5. Continue to cook in low heat with a little water if the bitter gourd is not ready to serve.
6. Add in Salted Fish Paste before it serves to enhance the flavor.

Stew Chicken with Bitter Gourd by Stephy Tam Feng He Garden Black Bean Paste best