Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Kim Hock Seng Bak Kwa. Artisanal BBQ Pork Slices 金福成肉乾

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Bak Kwa 肉乾 or BBQ pork slices is extremely well loved in Singapore, and is the most popular food gift of visitors to the sunny island. Many Singaporeans also take along bak kwa as gifts when they visit friends and family overseas. During Chinese New Year, Singaporeans queue for hours to buy bak kwa for the holidays.

Kim-Hock-Seng-Bak-Kwa-Artisanal-BBQ-Pork-Slices-金福成肉乾

Bak kwa in Singapore is dominated by 5 or 6 big names that mass produce the BBQ pork with modern machinery and an army of workers. But, there are still a rare few shops that hand make bak kwa the traditional way. I was fortunate to visit Kim Hock Seng at 570, Geylang Road - one of the last old school bak kwa makers left in Singapore. (Actually, I know of no other. If you know of any others, please share it with me as I would love to visit them too.)

Kim Hock Seng's owner Mr Ong Geok Hoo has been making bak kwa for 50 years. Mr Ong, a butcher's son, started work after leaving school at Primary 3. He started as an ice cream seller before making bak kwa.

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Mr. Ong, a friendly, jovial man was an avid bodybuilder during his younger days. "That's me" Mr. Ong said as he pointed to the bronzed man with the ripped, V-shaped body. "I was once on the same stage as Tan Howe Liang (Singapore's pioneer Olympian)" Mr. Ong declared proudly.

In his 70s now, Mr. Ong makes bak kwa at his shop all by himself, using the same old methods from years ago. None of his three children are interested to join the trade - it's the same familiar story, I heard many times before.

Kim-Hock-Seng-Bak-Kwa-Artisanal-BBQ-Pork-Slices-金福成肉乾

Mr. Ong starts the process by marinating streaky pork in large tubs. Every bak kwa maker have their own secret recipe.

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Mr. Ong carefully lays the thin strips of marinated streaky pork onto flat bamboo trays.

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The strips of pork spread on the tray. Mr. Ong never uses minced pork - only streaky strips and bacon cut.

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The trays of pork are next put into a smoking chamber.

This part of the process is unique to Singapore and Malaysia as the original process in China where the dish originated involves air drying.

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The trays of pork are left in the smoking chamber with smothering charcoal embers overnight.



(On the other hand, mass produced bak kwa are often steamed or baked in electric or gas ovens.)

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The smoked pork are pulled off the bamboo trays and cut into squares.

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The final step is to grill the smoked pork over charcoal giving it a slight crisp and a bit of smokey char.

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I like the texture of Kim Hock Seng bak kwa - they are firm but not hard due to the presence of fat in the streaky pork and also bacon. (Bak kwa is often referred to as pork jerky but they are never as hard or stiff as jerky.)

The colour is dull brownish outside without any sheen so it does not look very appealing - but looks deceive, in this case. It's really quite addictive. 

In the mouth, the first flavour I encounter is a kind of honey sweetness. Chewing the firm BBQ pork quickly tenderises it and releases the layered savouriness and subtle smokiness from deep in the fibres and fat. It becomes a ball of delicious, addictive savoury sweetness which we experience every Chinese New Year 😄

There was no grease collected at the bottom of the waxed paper on the next day 👍

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👉 Mr. Ong Geok Hoo is the last few artisanal bakkwa masters left in Singapore (actually, he is the only one I know). Don't wait till Chinese New Year to eat bakkwa - you can have it any day for your beer, whisky or when watching football, Korean drama etc 😄 Besides the usual big brand name generic bak kwa, give the artisanal masters like Kim Hock Seng 金福成肉乾 a try. Help keep our heritage food culture alive and thrive into the next generation.

Kim Hock Seng just moved to Geylang Road after decades at Keong Siak Street. Mr. Ong is offering an opening promotion (for a limited period) to celebrate his move. Do check his bak kwa out.

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Restaurant name: Kim Hock Seng Bakkwa 金福成肉乾

Kim-Hock-Seng-Bak-Kwa-Artisanal-BBQ-Pork-Slices-金福成肉乾

Address: 570 Geylang Road Singapore 389515 (between Lorong 32 & Lorong 34)
GPS: 1°18'50.5"N 103°53'14.1"E | 1.314034, 103.887252
Tel: 6221 4882
Hours: 11:00am to 9:00pm

Non Halal

Date: 10 Oct 2017

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2 comments:

  1. Hi Tony, what are the prices like?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. S$48 per kilo for sliced pork. Price vary according to market rate of pork.

      Delete

I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints as it makes this blog better :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is unethical in the same way as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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