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Battle of the bak kwa


Loong Kee

Packaging: Keeping things traditional, Loong (which means ‘dragon‘ in Mandarin) Kee lives up to its name with a giant fiery dragon on the packet. We get it.
Appearance: For this taste test, we bought the sliced meat bak kwa, but Loong Kee’s bright orange slices have a flattened appearance.
Texture: Loong Kee’s thickness was just right, but it was strangely stringy and hard on the teeth. This is one bak kwa aspiring to be a beef jerky.
Flavour: Perhaps due to it being compressed, Loong Kee was less oily, which led to it tasting like healthy bak kwa. Not much of a barbecue factor here.
Verdict: Not the best, but old favourite Loong Kee is a good bak kwa for beginners.

Oloiya

Packaging: Oloiya’s updated simple and bold packaging is bright yellow with its mascot (a buff fowl sporting boxing gloves and a pageant sash) printed on the corner.
Appearance: There are two types of bak kwa: the charred brown ones, and the orange ones. Oloiya’s dried meat belongs to the latter group
Texture: Texture-wise, we noted that Oloiya is nicely pliable. However, after chewing on the matter, some tasters noted a chalky texture.
Flavour: The bak kwa at Oloiya had equal distribution of meat and fat, but there was a sugary note to it. A taster commented that it felt like taking a mouthful of sugar.
Verdict: Good on first bite, but the chalky aftertaste of Oloiya’s sliced dried meat got rather off-putting.

Wing Heong

Packaging: The dried meat at Wing Heong is wrapped in paper then slipped in to a clear plastic package with mildly festive prints of swirling waves and Chinese peonies.
Appearance: Wing Heong has visible streaks of fat and meat, and more importantly, nicely charred edges.
Texture: Sliced thinner than usual, this was one easy-to-chew bak kwa. We finished a few slices without realising it. Highly addictive.
Flavour: We liked Wing Heong for its smokiness and caramelised surface. One taster pointed out that it was a tad saltier compared to the rest.
Verdict: It’s a close battle, but Wing Heong is a deserving silver medallist.

Bee Cheng Hiang

Packaging: On two different occasions, one came in a (not quite greaseproof) paper bag, while the other was slipped in to a classy resealable packet. Inconsistent packaging issues.
Appearance: The uneven slices at Bee Cheng Hiang are less aesthetically pleasing. But that being said, the meat has excellent char and colour.
Texture: The bak kwa at Bee Cheng Hiang (since 1933) was thicker (yet juicier) than the rest, giving it a nice heft and chew. Tasters commented that it melted on the tongue.
Flavour: Sweet, smoky and full-bodied, Bee Cheng Hiang was a cut above the rest. This may have something to do with the bak kwa being freshly grilled at their respective outlets every day.
Verdict: The judgement was unanimous (and unprecedented) – sitting high on the bak kwa throne is meaty, juicy and smoky Bee Cheng Hiang.

And the winner is... Bee Cheng Hiang! Despite packaging issues, this bak kwa wins on flavour and texture. 

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