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Friday, January 12, 2018

Bak Kwa @ Yoke Gon @ Chinese Pork Jerky 猪肉干

I have been making these since I was a teen. For each Chinese New Year, my mom will order 4kg of minced pork from the butcher, get it sent to our home and I will be doing the marinating and sun drying. When mom comes back from work, she would start the charcoal grill and it's grilling time.

I haven't been making these for many many years, until a blogger's gathering 7 years ago. I tried to recall the ratio and the outcome was a bit too salty, maybe I got it wrong. Then, two years back, I tried to make it again. The taste was just right, but the colour was too dark due to the addition of just 1/2 Tbsp of dark caramel sauce. This time, I made it again and it was just nice. Sweet, sticky, not too salty and the colour was what I wanted.

My pork is store minced. A mixture of lean and fat. I buy them fresh and freeze before use.
I prefer to use frozen pork.

It was because, there was one time in my teens, after seasoning the fresh pork, the fresh pork developed resistance due to all the mixing action,  and I had trouble spreading it thinly. I resorted to using a rolling pin, rolling it with pressure to get it flat. And the outcome was horrendous. The pork jerky became so tough! It was like tree bark. Never again shall I use a rolling pin.

Nowadays, I buy fresh minced pork,  freeze it, and thaw it before use. Or you can just buy frozen pork straight away. Frozen pork spreads easily, doesn't develop resistance after seasoning, and any thawed meat juices can be poured away before seasoning, and that speeds up the drying. Please use the meat's weight before the thawed juices are poured away

Bak Kwa @ Yoke Gon @ Chinese Pork Jerky 猪肉干

Recipe by WendyinKK
Makes around 1.2kg of end product

2kg minced pork (with some fat), frozen and thawed
350gm sugar
2 Tbsp red yeast powder (optional, only for colour***)
1/2 tsp 5 spice powder
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
80ml Chinese rose wine 玫瑰露*
20ml fish sauce
20ml premium oyster sauce
100ml light soy sauce
80gm maltose, melted in 2 Tbsp boiling water

1. One or two days before, place frozen minced pork into the fridge to slowly thaw. Discard thawed meat juice.
2. Mix sugar, red yeast powder and 5spice powder together.
3. Mix wet marinade ingredients together.
4. Place minced pork into a large mixing bowl, pour the dry marinade and wet marinade into the minced pork. Mix well.

For further instructions, please scroll down and refer to either 'Sun Dry Method' or 'Oven Method', whichever that suits you

*If you can't get rose wine, I suggest you use sake or any white Chinese wine with 1 tsp of rose water (it's clear, not coloured, available at Middle Eastern shops). The mild rose flavour is crucial for any sweet pork dishes
I'm not sure if one can infuse a few buds of dried rose with boiling water and use it to melt the maltose, maybe it might work.
It is also alright to use half Shaoxing wine and half rose wine. You can also reduce the wine amount if you like. But I find mine to smell really good.
**1 Chinese soup spoon = 20ml
***In the olden days, nitrate salt is used to cure the meat, and it makes the meat look reddish. To achieve the same visual effect without the use of nitrate salt, I add in red yeast powder, of which is a natural food colouring.

Sun dry method:

5. Line 4 to 5 large baking pans with plastic (reuse rice plastic bags and trim to size) or Silpat, non stick baking paper will work too, but not greaseproof, Plastic is the best. Spread the pork mix onto the lined pans, gently press and spread the pork at 4mm thickness.
6. Cover with netting and sun dry until the pork can be peeled off easily. It will take 2-3 hours under direct strong sunlight.
7. Peel the dried pork and cut into preferred size.
8. Preheat oven at 170C (fan). Prepare one large tray, place it almost at the base of oven to catch drippings as the pork jerky grills.
9. Place pork onto wire rack, base side up, sunned side down. Arrange the corner pieces to face in at the middle.
10. Bake until the pork pieces bubble all over, especially the center, and the sides start to char a bit. Mine took 7 minutes.
11. Remove from oven, cool down totally before packing.

On the day I remade the recipe, halfway through sunning, it started to rain, and I dried it in the oven.Just line all the trays in the oven and set it the temperature at 80C (Fan on) and let it air dry, switching positions every 45 minutes or so. If not, just bake them through. :-)

Left: covered with baby mosquito net, Right: Dried sufficiently and easily peeled 

Oven Method

12. Cover pork and put into the fridge for a few hours. (for the marinade to be properly absorbed)
13. Line pan with non stick baking paper or Silpat.
14. Place some pork onto the pan and gently press and spread the pork mix onto the lined pans, gently press and spread the pork at 4mm thickness.
15. Bake in a 160(fan)/180C preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until it can be lifted easily.
16. Repeat the baking process until all the pork is used up.
17. Let the baked pork cool down, discarding any juices the seeped out.
18. Cut the pork into preferred size.
19. Preheat oven at 200C (fan).
20. Place pork onto wire rack, base side up, top side down. Arrange the corner pieces to face in, at the middle. Prepare one large tray, place it almost at the base of oven to catch drippings as the pork jerky grills.
21. Bake until the pork pieces bubble all over, especially the center, and the sides start to char a bit. Mine took 10 minutes.
22. Remove from oven, cool down totally before packing

1. Sundried ones grill better, with more even tone, and less prone to blackened sides. Shorter grilling time and lower temperature. No meat marination time.
2. Fully Oven baked tends to char on the ends, but slightly moister outcome. I tried baking at the same temperature with sun dried ones, it doesn't end up fragrant, so I did it at 200C and it came out just as fragrant.

Both ways work, but sundried ones look nicer when done. I also tried keeping both at room temperature to test how well they last, both got mouldy at about the same time.

He loves it!
My family super loves Pork Jerky, especially my son and FIL. My FIL uses my son as an excuse to buy a lot of it, although he can't consume much due to health reasons. Now, he has no reason to buy because I make it at home. Hahahaha!


  1. your model is so cute....hahahaha u pay him by giving him the pork jerky

    1. Pei San,
      Mana ada, all natural posing one, hahaha

  2. Looks so good ������

  3. Hi Wendy. Looks so yummy. Can I use beetroot powder instead of red yeast powder since I can't get hold of red yeast powder. Thanks. Chloe

    1. Chloe,
      Beetroot powder will turn brown upon exposure to oxygen, moisture, and heat. Even if you use the oven method, it will not stay red for more than a day. It will turn brown later. Just omit it.

  4. Hi Wendy,

    How long can the BK last in room temperature?
    pls adv


  5. Lynn,
    It was fine for a week on the counter, and then before I went away for a short trip, I kept it in the fridge, BUT left one sun dried and one baked piece in a container as experiment. Came back from my trip, it was mouldy. I guess, max 1 week.

  6. Thanks Wendy..

  7. Hi Wendy. May I know what is the size of your baking pan.
    Thanks, Amn

  8. Amn,
    My baking trays come in a few sizes.
    I used a 15X15, two 12X16 (built in oven trays), and some silpats of which come at about the size of my built in oven trays. The amount of trays are not fixed, up to your preference and the type you have. It's the height of the spread out meat that is important, not the amount of trays. You can use a table if you like.

  9. Can I substitute with red food coloring perhaps a few drops? Where do u find red yeast powder? Please reply asap going to try it put for CNY.

  10. Lilian,
    since I do not know where you are from, I can only give you a rough guide on where to get red yeast powder. You can try to look for it from baking ingredient shops, and health food shops that is catering for the Chinese community. You can definitely add red food colouring as red yeast powder is just a healthier natural option to mimic the visual effects of nitrate salt.

  11. Wendy,

    If I use 1kg meat does it mean I half all ingredients?
    I used chicken and sun dried for 2.5 hours today, found that the meat was kind of dry and sticky at the same time. It stick to the baking sheet. When i tried to peel it off the baking sheet was torn too. Did i over/under sundried it?


  12. Joan,
    First, yes, half of everything if you half the meat.
    Second, chicken meat doesn't have the fat that pork has, hence it's definitely going to be much drier. I'm not sure which type of baking sheet you used, but if you used greaseproof, it's not a good choice. Go with plastic sheets if you don't have non stick baking paper. And since your chicken is so much leaner, I suggest you add in 50gm of oil into the marinade for 1 kg of chicken.

  13. Wendy,

    First of all thank you for your advice on adding oil to the chicken meat. Can't wait to try it again this weekend, my last chance before CNY, huhuhu...
    I was using greaseproof baking paper. If I only have aluminium foil and greaseproof baking paper, which one should I use. Can I use the matte side of greaseproof paper instead? Just trying to do less work so that I can transfer the meat directly to oven on same baking sheet.

    Desperate Joan

  14. Joan,
    I'm not sure if you read my post completely, the final grilling is on the rack. There is no need for baking paper. If you place it on the paper, how is the underside going to exposed to heat, cook and dry up? Unless you plan to turn it halfway through. Plus, you're supposed to cut them smaller, you are going to lift it up anyway from the drying sheet.
    Recycled rice bags is the best way, peels off super easy and doesn't cost a cent.

  15. Wendy, my wire rack rusted long ago, can't find replacement at same size so basically your guess is right, i need to bake with tray and turn half way...

    Rice bag is a good idea, will try it.

    Regards, Joan

  16. Hi Wendy,
    Can I place it back to the fridge overnight after marinating. Thank you.

  17. Sue,
    sure, if you're going to do the oven method, you can marinate it overnight in the fridge and proceed to the baking steps the next day.

  18. Thanks for your fast reply. Bake the bak kwa yesterday and it turn out very delicious. May I know which part of the pork you are using.
    Thanks, Sue

  19. Thank you for your reply. I have bake mine yesterday, everyone said it is delicious. Need to check with you why it is not so juicy as compared to yesterday when it first came out from the oven. Is this normal.

  20. Sue,
    My pork came minced and I have no idea what part they are.
    I think it's normal for the bak kwa to dry up a bit the next day. Just like overnight chicken or any other meat, they will not be as juicy as freshly cooked.

  21. Next attempt I will definitely try yours! I have all the seasoning at home! I saw my friend's helper sun her meat too, now I know the reason why. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Thanks Wendy for your prompt reply. Will keep that in mind. Would like to wish you an early Happy Chinese New year to you and your family.

    Would like to thank you again for your guidance. Hope to learn more from you in the future.


  23. Hi Wendy. Wishing you and your family Happy Chinese New Year. May the new year brings good health and prosperity.

  24. Hi Wendy,
    Have you tried to make it in dehydrator? Do you think it would work?

  25. Thank you so much for posting this detailed recipe. It took me a few attempts to get the technique right but I just got the seal of approval from my discerning Saiyingpoon mum!
    It's probably the meat but my first attempts didn't have enough 'bite' but I discovered that after cooking if I leave them out overnight, it develops a bit more 'bite' before putting in the fridge/freezer.

  26. Akerbeltz,
    Actually they can be kept at room temperature for a few days.
    3-5 days and it's still fine. The wine and sugar helps preserve it.

  27. Yes, depending on the weather, they keep quite well, I tested with one piece and it lasted nearly 2 weeks in the open but then this is Scotland :)

    Question for you (just in case you know the answer). There's currently a debate in my social circles about whether some jue yuk gon uses thin slices of meat (梅頭肉) rather than mince whereas other agree on the use of 梅頭肉 but would slice AND mince the meat. Do you know if there is a variant using just slices (without mincing the meat at all) and how you'd have to modify the recipe? I tried with bacon rashers just as an experiment but that came out like wood and the marinade did not penetratrate the meat fully, so when I cut it afterwards, the was a "white" unmarinaded centre.


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