Bak Kwa Madness for coming Chinese New Year??

Chinese New Year is just around the corner tomorrow and I have been experimenting to make Bak Kwa
with my friend since the start of January.

I came across an article on New Paper – ‘Behind the scenes in a bak kwa shop’ which featured Lim Chee
Guan. There was even a video to give public a peek at its HQ at Pandan Loop. Obviously the secret recipe
was not included in this article.

My eyes almost popped out of my socket when I saw that 1kg of Bak Kwa was going for $50.00 at the
shop! Gosh! Those people have been queuing for hours too and they mentioned that it was worth the wait.
Is it a tradition that Chinese New Year means Bak Kwa time?

The link of the article can be found here.

Another article which I came across last Monday with the heading

HED CHEF EXTRA: How to make your own bak kwa
  

sparked my interest.
The recipe given was:

-1kg minced pork (shoulder butt)
-220g fine sugar
-1½ tsp salt
-1 tsp light soya sauce
-1 tbsp oyster sauce
-½ tsp five spice powder
-1½ tbsp Chinese rice wine
-Pinch of red food colouring powder

I guessed many people who tried making it would be greatly disappointed as it would never turn out the
same as those commercialized outlets like Lim Chee Guan, Bee Cheng Hiang or Fragrance Bak Kwa.

The reason of me writing this post was because I was a bit pissed off. I have already tried making Bak Kwa
even before this article’s recipe was published, using the oven, even with barbecuing, and the results was so off! It could be found on my previous post here. Not to mention the texture was not right too…

Notice the article’s recipe above contained sugar as the main sweetening agent? My friend and I did a batch
with only sugar and no honey (the recipe I used have), the taste turned out really flat! Honey not only
sweetened the Bak Kwa but also provides flavor. (Different brand, different flower, different flavor also.)
Be careful as honey is sweeter than sugar too.

Another thing that would happen when you place the marinated meat into the oven would be the oozing out
of marination which I experienced many times before. To prevent that from happening, I suggested using the
dehydrator which I did not expect my friend to actually buy it  

The same dehydrator that could be used to make fruit and vegetable chips! It cost my friend about $250.
Basically he dehydrated the marinated meat for about an hour, about 65 degrees (high). (Also have low
and medium heat options.)  

After that, the marinated meat is smoked with his own-made smoker, made from a 3 tier Ikea rack,
covered by some board used for artwork. (Sushi bamboo racks to place the marinated meat on.)

(Top view) An opening for smoke to escape and and thermometer to determine the temperature
of the smoking.   

Just a tin with hickory wood/charcoal to produce the smoke.

Final outcome of the Bak Kwa! Do not use hickory wood but stick to charcoal instead as the smokey
flavor was overwhelming. It made the Bak Kwa taste like Lap Cheong (Chinese sausages) instead.
The Bak Kwa was also like a sponge, absorbing all the moisture from my mouth, making it dry.
Almost there!!!!
(Everything stated is based on personal opinion ; open to suggestions and advice)

Homemade meat jerky! Bak Kwa experiment for Chinese New Year!

My very 1st post for the year 2014 and I will be blogging about my homemade meat jerky process! I still
have a couple of 2013 posts which I have yet to update but this post was the priority since Chinese New
Year is approaching! My 3rd time experimenting with the seasoning quantity before finally settling with the
one below. (Note: Adjusted based on my personal preference!)

The recipe I modified into:

Pork                    300g       (A bit fattier would be better)
Sugar                     3 tbs
Honey                    3 tbs     (I think malt syrup would be better, more caramelised flavor.)
Fish Sauce           1.5 tbs
Sweet Wine            2 tbs    (I used a dessert wine)
Dark Soy Sauce   1/2 tbs
Char Siew Sauce     1 tbs   (Removed after 3rd batch)
Five Spice            1/2 tbs
Sesame Oil           1/2 tbs   (Removed after 3rd batch)
If anyone knows of any better tried-and-tested-before recipe, care to share with me so I could try?
I knew it would not be so easy to get close to the exact taste of Bak Kwa, if not everyone would be making
their own already. 

The recipe would be for 300g of meat and I did X2 the recipe for 600g of marinated minced pork, beef
and chicken. Best if you could add more fats into your minced meat as mine were all too lean! After
marinating the meat overnight in the chiller, the minced chicken was a bit watery while minced beef
was still rather firm. Pork was always in-between.  

I started off by portioning the meat into 100g – 110g so that all the jerky would be about the same size.
(Too large piece would be difficult to flip over and would easily break apart.) I spread the minced meat
onto an aluminium sheet, place a cling wrap over and using a rolling pin, flatten the meat evenly. About
2mm thickness for mine.

After spreading evenly on the aluminium, either you could directly bbq the meat or place it into the oven to
bake fully. I did half-half. About 200 degrees in the oven for 10-15 mins to firm up the meat before
transferring to the BBQ pit to barbecue! I guessed that it was normal for the marination to leak out of the
marinated meat during the baking process? Any ideas?  

Picture of myself barbecuing the meat jerky!

Another selfie shot with my friend’s barbecue pit! Thanks Glenn for letting me use his house to barbecue!   

The texture was way too smooth to be Bak Kwa and it looked more like ham instead.

My friend did the baking to firm up the minced meat before I barbecued them. Kept flipping and
barbecuing piece by piece as his oven could only bake a piece at a time. 

Glazed with honey when the meat was about to be done with a bit of charred parts appearing. Make sure
the honey dries slightly or it would end up sticky.

Done! Pork or beef ??

Another shot with only 2 pieces…

Some of the minced chicken ended up like this, all broken apart because it was too soft to flip with tongs.

Done with all the 1.2kg of beef and pork which took about 5 hours…?

Final conclusion:
Beef – Jerky have quite a strong beefy taste and smell which could be quite unpleasant.
          The meat was rather firm but soft and tender.
          Easy to handle while baking and barbecuing.
          Easiest to dry up and discolour after a few days in the fridge  
Chicken – Became watery/mushy after marination and broke apart easily.
                Tasted a bit like satay / chicken steak. 
Pork – Texture a bit rubbery after a few days in the fridge.
           More suitable due to having more fats (although mine still not enough)
           
All – Unusual smell and taste, something like hoisin sauce detected.
        The texture too smooth to be Bak Kwa.
        Overall taste still negative to me.

Experiment : Choux with Salted Yolk Custard

Just a quick post of my choux pastry I did quite some time ago! I decided to experiment with salted egg
yolk to incorporate into my custard cream to mimic the all-time popular ‘liu sa bao’ found in Chinese
restaurants serving Dim Sum. Baked some really nice looking oblong shaped choux pastry to hold the
custard cream. 

The standard custard cream recipe with salted egg yolk! I actually bought 4 salted eggs but ended up using
only 2. You know why? 2 were bad, I dam ‘sway’ right? Visible bits of salted egg yolk in there. I should
have boiled the eggs before using the food processor to blend them into paste, prior to adding into my
custard cream. My bad.

My yummy looking eclairs with salted yolk custard cream! I may want to experiment and modify the recipe
next time when I have the time…

Baking with friends!

This post was actually more than a month back and it was still under my draft session! It was quite a
random thing as 3 other of my poly friends wanted to bake a rainbow muffin. All the ‘mise en place’ we
had placed on the table for a little photo.

Our rainbow muffin consisted of 5 colours and look at those lovely pastels. Luckily I told them to control
from adding too much colours as it would look too artificial, unless natural coloring were used. 

We also made green tea cubcakes with green tea kit kats stuck into them. Our whipped cream actually
failed, making our cupcakes looking under dressed. However, the green tea taste was still so awesome!

Our mini plain vanilla cupcakes with a coffee chocolate bean. Our alcohol had evaporated in the oven….
Opps!!! 

Our rainbow cupcake! Too bad the 1st batch was too overflowing and the batter flooded out while in the
oven, resulting in a rainbow smudging mess. This was the 2nd batch and I could only detect 3 colors??
Anyway, we had a really fun but tiring time and the pictures we took turned out quite unglam (so not

posting them!).  

My 1st Bread Showpiece ‘Crash Site’

My very first bread showpiece I did in school 2 days ago! The decoration bread
dough, also known as dead dough is definitely not edible. I came out with this
concept of ‘Crash Site’ only on the spot without prior planning, and the crafting
space was about palm size.

I felt like I was back during my primary school days modelling clay into miniature figurines for art lessons. I
really enjoy art and sculpturing, making the best out of the 2 hours and less given time to complete my
masterpiece. Roof meshing, fallen pillar, collapsed brick wall, debris and a un-detonated missile (I know it
doesn’t looked like one).   

Another view of the meshing! It was really tricky to do those netting design due to the crumbly bread
dough and interloping dough of about 4 mm in diameter. 

The recipe that I used:
Baking temperature about 170 degrees, Time about 1/2 hour.

400g Plain Flour
70g   Rye Flour
30g   Potato Starch
30g   Salt
100g Soften Butter
Sugar Syrup:
80g    Water
120g  Sugar
Steps:
1) Mix all the ingredients together
2) Add soften butter
3) Add sugar syrup (not too hot)
4) Mix to form a smooth, firm dough (add more syrup if needed)
5) Let dough rest overnight in chiller
The next day, add some sugar syrup to soften dough, blend well and enjoy making your bread showpiece!