Homemade Chinese Pork Jerky Bakkwa 自制猪肉干
By Ellen L.Published: 2015-02-22
Kung Hei Fat Choy!! 恭喜發財!! Welcome to the Year of the Sheep!! I don't know about y'all but it's been a busy few days of cooking for us. Lots of delicioso type of traditional Chinese New Years dishes that we make once a year to celebrate the coming of the New Lunar Year! Yummilicious things like Chinese Sweet New Year Cake 年糕, Steamed Radish Cake 蘿蔔糕, and the Braised Dried Oyster with Black Sea Moss 髮菜蠔豉燜燒肉. One of the things we made for the first time this year is Homemade Chinese Pork Jerky, also know as Bakkwa, or 自制猪肉干. The reason we attempted to make our own jerky is because we received a most beautifully illustrated cookbook to review, Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook, by S.C. Moey, and we were delighted to discover what looked like a pretty easy recipe for making this delicious treat at home. I mean I love chinese jerky and never realized you could make it yourself at home!
The illustration above is one of the many absolutely gorgeous illustrations in the Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook. I am an illustrator myself and so was doubly delighted to see all the amazing drawings (by the cookbook author, no less!) of all kinds of comforting traditional Chinese foods and the warm family scenes or traditional scenery that might usually accompany them. Just gorgeous, full stop!! If you have children whom you are interested in getting acquainted with traditional Chinese culture this is a great book for them on a visual level as the illustrations could work just as well for a children's book. My little girl has burrowed her way through the whole cookbook, just looking and exclaiming at the colorful illustrations! The recipes themselves are selected for feast type of Chinese dinners, with special sections on Chinese festival foods for Dragon Boat Festival, Hungry Ghost Festival, Mid Autumn Festival, Winter Solstice Festival and the Chinese New Year.
Recipes for most of the "greats" among the traditional Chinese foods were represented, like Zong Zi, Mooncakes, Roasted Pork, Tea Smoked Duck, etc. Can't wait to try some of these recipes! The only thing that I wished for was that the Chinese names were included and that clearer illustrations of the dish itself were included. Sometimes I had to read through the whole recipe before I realized what the dish actually was! But other than that small detail, I would have to say that this cookbook is a work from the heart (rare these days!) a must for anyone who is interested in traditional Chinese cooking. And just really gorgeous to look at! (Repeating myself here, but can't help it!)
Plus we have a special treat for our dear readers, a giveaway of two copies of the Chinese Feasts & Festival: A Cookbook. See the end of this post for details on how to enter.
As part of the cookbook review, we decided to try the recipe for the Homemade Chinese Pork Jerky. I absolutely love this stuff, the Chinese style sweet, slightly sticky, smoky, caramelized and bursting with flavor meat jerky! When I was a little girl growing up in the California my grandmother who lived in Taiwan at the time used to sneak in this stuff for us every time she came to visit. It was a dangerous stint for an old lady to pull off, sneaking meat products past international customs, but she pulled it off with aplomb, triumphantly pulling out bagfuls of Chinese jerky neatly wrapped in her underwear from every corner of her suitcase! Yes, it was dangerous, but heck, she knew how much we loved it!
You can buy Chinese Pork Jerky in Hong Kong, I know, but it's pretty expensive. So I was really excited to see if we could make jerky at home. To be honest it seemed pretty iffy at first! The traditional method involved sun drying of the meat, but as we had neither sun nor space in Hong Kong, we went for the oven method. And as the drying time was probably going to be very long, I decided to cut the recipe way down, ending up with one sheet of jerky. (According to the recipe the sized down portion would make around eight sheets of jerky but I only got one sheet out of it.) Also the recipe called for rolling out of the spiced meat inside of plastic baggies into smooth sheets of meat (hey that rhymes!) which did not work at all for me as the meat was really wet! So I decided to just smooth out the meat mixture on a piece of baking paper.
Next came the drying of the meat in the oven. We had recently successfully dried our Chinese Candied Kumquats 糖漬金橘 in the oven and I was eager try out drying more stuff in the same manner. The key to remember is that you don't want to cook, you want to dry. There is a difference here! Keep your oven at 140F or 60C and leave the oven door a bit open. If you've got kids, you'll want to restrict the oven area for the drying time. (My oven's high up on top of my little fridge so it's out of my little girl's way.)
To be honest when I spread out the meat on the baking sheet it just looked so wet and goopey that I thought, shoot, this mess of meat is never gonna dry into anything close to hard sheet of jerky, ever. But waste not, want not, I threw it in the oven anyways and waited out a good 12 hours of low heat drying time during which the goopey meat slowly, slowly transformed into gorgeous, shining, sticky but hard sheets of, believe it or not, jerky!! The final step, a bit of a grill to caramelize the meat sheet and then cut to size and, oh my gosh, just really yummilicious Homemade Chinese Pork Jerky, good as (or better than as my 老公 insists) the stuff you spend a pretty penny to buy! Hum...I think Grandma would be proud (or not, she'd probably yell at me for wasting electricity...12 hours!..girl are you crazy!)
|Illustration by S.C. Moey, from Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook|
Homemade Chinese Pork Jerky Bakkwa Recipe 自制猪肉干
(This recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Chinese Feasts and Festivals: A Cookbook, by S.C. Moey)
(Makes one 12" by 14" sheet of jerky. If you have a big normal oven where you can fit a couple of levels, I would increase this recipe by 4 times to make four big sheets within the same drying time.)
500 g ground pork, dark lean meat, approx. 10% fat
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp fish sauce
Preheat oven to 140 F/60 C.
Put the meat and all other ingredients into mixing bowl and mix in one direction only for 2 minutes. Line your largest baking tray with baking paper. Pour meat out on baking paper and use spatula to spread out and smooth over into an even approx 2-3 mm thickness. Place baking tray in 140 F/60 C oven, leaving the oven door open around 2". Around the 8 hour mark of drying you should test the meat sheet and when you can lift it without breaking it to pieces (try rolling it up gently), flip over to other side. Let dry for a total of 12 hours or so until the meat is dry throughout and can easily be lifted up in one piece without any sticking to the paper.
Cut meat sheet to a size that will fit into your grilling pan and grill each piece over medium low heat for a few minutes until caramelized with black spots here and there. Turn over and repeat on other side. Let cool completely and cut into 2" by 1" rectangles.
Store in air tight container and eat within a week, if it can last that long. (Tip: If you don't want it all eaten in one day, I would suggest hiding the container!)
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: We've got two copies of the beautiful cookbook Chinese Feasts and Festivals: A Cookbook, by S.C. Moey, to give away! To win a copy for yourself submit your most interesting, fascinating, funny, touching, etc. chinese home cooking story to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Mar 8 2015. We'll decide the two most interesting, entertaining stories and these lucky readers will each get a copy of this fabulous cookbook! (Or if you just want to get it right now just click on the link above!)
(Disclosure: We received 3 free copies of this cookbook from Tuttle Publishing for review and giveaway, however all opinions given in this review are our own.)
More Yummilicious Chinese New Year Recipes:
Potsticker Pork Dumplings 鍋貼
Stir Fried Nian Gao Rice Cakes 炒年糕
Chinese New Year Celebrations 香港新春節慶