Look at my pork booty! My beautiful babies! Bak Kwa
They look a little weird but these gorgeous meaty salty-sweet slabs, aka Bak Kwa or Long Yok is hands down, my favourite snack of all time. Every time I go back to Kuala Lumpur, I go nuts and buy loads of the stuff from my favourite store along Jalan Alor. In Sydney, Friday night Chinatown Markets are never the same unless I pop into my fave greasy stall and buy a sheet of Chinese ‘honey pork’ as a pre-dinner snack.
My earliest memory of it was when I lived in Perth. I remember greedily stuffing a buttered hot dog bun with slices of bak kwa and tucking in while watching the Australian Open tennis or Hopman Cup. Then give or take, a couple of days later, I was always severely punished for stealing too many slices and leaving barely any for the rest of the family (hey you snooze, you lose ya’ll!).
Mother Superior was brilliant at making it and this was adapted from her long standing family recipe (adapted as in, she never gave me the exact measurements for the ingredients!). I was always her faithful kitchenhand because the pay off at the end was worth it. Traditionally the pork was dried out the natural (and tediously long) way; outside under the hot sun, which in summer, was a hellish job if you were on ‘insect duty’. I had to risk heatstroke under the brutal Perth sun just to defend the precious porky slabs against menacing flies with my fly swatter. It’s a brutal job but a rite of passage in our Malaysian family. Even The Captain has been officially inducted into the Bak Kwa Fly Swatter Hall of Fame.
The first time I made it by myself was about 8 months ago when I threw a spring bbq for my nearest and dearest pals. I decided to whip up some bak kwa with leftover pork mince the night before just for giggles but sadly, Mother Superior was off cruising the high seas so I was well on my own. Coming up with the marinade through flashbacks (and a round of hypnosis) took a while and I tweaked it for gawd knows how long (add a little and taste. Add a little more and taste again aaargh). Thankfully it went down well but I knew I wanted to play with the recipe a bit. You should’ve seen one unfortunate batch where I accidentally used violet food colouring instead of red. Woohoo trippy unappetising pork jerky!
This stuff is usually expensive to buy because apparently it takes a lot of work but I’m here to tell you that it’s way easier than you think. Forget the archaic solar-assisted drying techniques! Do it in no time at all and minus the sunburn with an oven. Roll out the mince into sheets in a few seconds with clingwrap or baking paper and a rolling pin. Then just bake, cut and grill. And voila! You’ll soon be richly rewarded with sticky slabs of juicy grilled pork ‘jerky’ to gorge at your heart’s content. Best of all because you made it, you can have as much as you want and no one can scold you for it hah!