Happy Chinese New Years/ Flavor Spotlight 1

Happy Chinese New Years/ Flavor Spotlight 1

1. The History

Bak Kwa or Rou Gan is traditionally made with pork and air dried. It’s usually minced, rolled and cut into thin squares. Because meat was considered such a delicacy it was usually reserved for special occasions such as Chinese New Years. It’s fitting then that Bak Kwa is the first Flavor Spotlight!


It is thought to have originated in the Fujian Province where it was air dried. Combining sweet, savory and spiced aspects; it was a delicacy. I will be straight up and honest, I’ve not heard about this particular dish living in Hawaii till an online friend told me I should consider making this as a flavor for beef jerky! Took a chance, and did what any self respecting amateur flavor scientist (lol) would do and googled a recipe. They’re Singaporean and this is where it got interesting. When Bak Kwa made its way to Singapore, the preparation method changed slightly. They started to grill it over a charcoal flame. Thus imparting a delicious smoky note.


2. The Creation

I altered the recipe slightly, and made the first batch. The hard part about developing flavors for beef jerky, is that you don't get the immediate gratification like you would with a quicker food preparation method. After an agonizing 9 hour cook, it was time to taste. It was delicious! It was salty, sweet, savory and delicious. But it was missing something. SMOKE! Questions arose like “how do I smoke in a commercial kitchen, because I’m pretty sure using an open flame in an electrical device for 9 hours is against some sort of regulation.” Me, being a gadget fiend and probably spending money too frivolously immediately began looking at cold smoke guns on amazon. Most of them were $100.00-$200.00, way too much for something that might not even work. Until I found one for under 40 bucks. Bought it on the spot. 


But now I needed something to use as smoke. Wanting to kinda stay local I began looking for kiawe wood that would be compatible with the smoke gun. Unfortunately, the people I was talking to said the powder would be too fine for the machine. I ended up buying a bag of mesquite wood chips and couldnt wait to use it. 


The next time Bak Kwa was on the menu, I decided to break it into 3 batches. Smoked once, Smoked twice, and Smoked Three times.  After some very scientific market research (Read: after too many seltzers and shots of whiskey) Smoked twice was the winner!


This flavor is special to me, not only because it connects me back to my Chinese roots; but because it marked the opening of the creative floodgates and what is now the mission of OoohMami Jerky “Introducing people to Asian Flavors through beef jerky.” Bak Kwa combines everything that makes food delicious. Its salty, savory, a little bit of sweetness, toastiness, and smoke into a mouth watering bite. Perfect for sharing with friends over a couple beers, or to celebrate the start of a New Year. I’m proud to be able to share this flavor with y’all. Happy Chinese New Years or Happy Lunar New Years!

S/O to Sean Takehara for the amazing picture!

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