Singapore Jerky

Photograph of cooked sheet of jerky, sliced into individual serving pieces.
Photograph of raw jerky, ready for cooking as individual pieces.

Bakkwa, or ròu gān (肉干), is a Hokkien delicacy popular in Singapore and South East Asia.

It takes some time to prepare, but in terms of the cost of the ingredients, it's far cheaper than commercial products, and the recipe can be adjusted to one's personal taste.

Two recipes are given here. One is very simple, giving you the idea of what the basic product is. Make this one first, before trying anything more complicated. The second is much more complex, giving you an idea of how the basic recipe can be modified to produce a large variety of tastes. Experiment and develop your own recipe by adding ingredients that the basic recipe tastes like it is missing.

Marinate

  1. In a large bowl thoroughly mix:
    • 200g — Sugar.
    • 50g — Molasses.
    • 60g — Fish Sauce (fermented anchovy liquid).
    • 5g — SiChuan Pepper (crushed in a mortar).
  2. Add and mix into a paste, leaving no identifiable meat lumps:
    • 1kg — Raw Ground Beef (fresh, not frozen).
  3. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 8 to 16 hours.

Bake

  1. Remix, and divide into 4 portions.
  2. For each portion:
    1. Cut parchment paper large enough to cover a baking tray.
    2. With paper on counter, spread paste into 8" by 12" rectangle.
    3. Transfer paper and meat onto upside-down baking tray.
    4. Leave in 150-175°F oven for an hour.

Store

Serve

Suggestions

The spreading of the paste could be done with a rolling pin and another parchment paper, or by hand with a fork or spoon. Making it uniformly thin and with straight edges is the goal (but don't be a perfectionist).

Rather than preparing as one large sheet to be sliced after drying, the raw mixture can be divided into individual pieces before cooking as shown in photo.

The sugar and molasses could be replaced by brown sugar (which itself is simply a mixture of sugar and molasses).

Complex Example of Marination Step

  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly crush and grind into a paste:
    • 1 fillet — Anchovy.
    • ½ tsp — Salt.
    • 1 Tbs — Sugar.
  2. Add and mix:
    • 1 cup (less the 1 Tbs) — Sugar
    • ½ tsp — 5-Spice
    • 1 tsp — Sesame Oil
    • 2 Tbs — Rice Wine
    • 2 Tbs — Soy Sauce
    • 2 Tbs — Molasses
  3. The thorough crushing of the anchovie and mixing of the beef is important: meat lumps will not cook uniformly, and the anchovie is intended to add a subtle flavour, not to be an identifiable surprise when eaten.