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Bak Kwa – barbecue meat jerky

Bak Kwa - barbecue meat jerky


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For some reason, if you asked any Singaporean expat what he or she wants back from Singapore, there’s a pretty good chance they would ask for bak kwa. In Singapore, for all your convenient snacking needs, they even sell it individually vacuum-sealed in tiny bite-sized packs, looking, as the astute observational skills of an English colleague of mine noted, uncannily like packets of meat condoms (I tsk tsk’ed him and his gutter mind but . . . he does have a point).

You can eat it on its own, grilled, heated up in the microwave, between slices of toast, with scoops of rice, whatever. Incredibly moreish and probably not the best thing to have within reaching distance if you are on a diet. And definitely not the best thing to confuse with your regular contraceptive. Well, unless you are kinky like that.

[Bonus shameless plug! Look out for our cookbook “A Singaporean Supperclub Cookbook (or how to subvert Singaporean culinary misconceptions, avert stir-fry calamities, make your Nyonya grandmother weep with joy and other badass kitchen skills)” With a title like that, you know it will be better than all your other cookbooks. And you will get a free hug too!]


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Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, mix well. Once it has been mixed well and looks like a firm dough, punch and whip it viciously and pick it up with both hands and slam it back into the mixing bowl repeatedly (if it helps, imagine your boss, ex-girlfriend, mother-in-law, that bully at school – whatever it takes) until it turns into a gooey / gluey paste. It may take anywhere between 5 or 15 minutes depending on the level of brute force berserk-ness exerted on the meat clump
Now spread the meat paste thinly (about 3mm) onto a greased baking sheet or large flat baking tin. I use the back of a spoon to flatten it. And leave it uncovered in the fridge to dry out and also marinate overnight
The next day, you need to dry out the meat. If you are lucky enough to be in a hot country with constant sun, you can leave it out in the sun to dry out, hiring a local gap year student to fan any flies. If however, you are stuck in some forsaken part of the world which never sees the sun, invert the meat paste sheet onto a wire tray and put into a preheated oven at 100˚C for 20 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar
When it is relatively dry, remove from the oven and cut into required shape – strips, squares, circles, oblongs, pig... (You can now store these in the freezer for at least 3 months)
If you are lucky enough to have access to a barbecue, grill the strips over a hot charcoal to give them a good smokey flavour and good char marks. Alternatively, if you don’t, fear not. Grill them in the oven grill at 200˚C or the highest setting you have for 10 minutes, until they are slightly charred
Grill them for 10 minutes
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