Beef jerky? Boring. Try bak kwa instead. This sweet and savoury snack typically made by combining preserved pork and spice gets particular popular around Chinese New Year because of its flaming red colour. Among pineapple tarts and other classic CNY snacks, bak kwa is probably one of the most coveted treats at the table so make sure you choose the best so you don't disappoint. Plus, 2019 is the Year of the Pig so what better way than to celebrate with sweet and salty porky goodness?
The bak kwa at Bee Cheng Hiang has become almost synonymous with bak kwa from Singapore. It's been selling its version of caramelised meat from a modest hawker cart since 1933. The slice from here's an almost perfect square with an inviting char on the sweet and salty marinade. The texture was a tad bit dry, but we nevertheless appreciate the absence of an overwhelming gamey aftertaste from this pork piece.
Fragrance is an eye-catching store with its orange signage and sale posters. The meat offering here is stamped with grill marks, and the sweet marinade stood out from the others – in a good way. It would have been better if the pork was juicier and less tough to chew.
This supplier-turned-seller of roasted pork uses a spice mix based on an old family recipe from Fujian, China. Kim Choo Guan prides itself on using Australian grain-fed fresh pork, and while we savoured the chewy texture of its pork slice, the over-burnt surface and extremely oily coating left a cloying note on our palate.
Family run stall Bee Kim Heng – manned by an elder tucked away to the corner of People’s Park Food Centre – grills pork slices that come off as a tad too red, giving it an almost artificial exterior. The ruby and translucent look isn't helped by the absence of a sear. In addition to being sticky to the touch, its hard texture and taste reminded us of lup cheong Chinese sausages.
Just a stone’s throw from Bee Kim Heng is this outfit operated by a cheerful bunch. Sadly, the roast pork didn’t leave us feeling as jolly. Its queer, dyed colour resembled a briyani shade of orange. The slice looked like it had been plastered together from individual strips of pork and its inconsistent flavour left some of us with a mouthful of bland meat.
Sadly, despite its high level of patronage, Lim Chee Guan disappoints. Its erratic cut makes the slices unsuitable for gift giving – holey middles surrounded by pale dots in the meat made it look unappetising. The flavour complied with appearance – the oil tasted like it was used two times too many, and one of us managed to escape swallowing a pig’s hair. With one of the longest lines and most expensive prices, we feel that the bak kwa from here may not be the most worth it.
Unfortunately, the oily and overly sweet quality of Hock Wong's bak kwa puts it at the bottom of our list. Comparable to maple-candied bacon – with its hard, almost crystal-like texture and a sweetness that overpowers the taste of pork – than your typical bak kwa. Definitely more recommended for those with a huge sweet tooth. Packaging comes in individually vacuumed sealed packets.
Orders are available at its website.