Bak kwa: Buy or bake?

Marinated meat ready to hit the oven

Bak kwa or pork jerky is a staple for Chinese New Year. And without fail, the price of this yummy honey-glazed grilled meat will increase as the festive season approaches.

The reason given by the sellers is that ingredients and manpower costs escalate during this period. Point taken but the increase can make the product prohibitively expensive at S$68 per kg from my favourite store. This high price is especially more of a concern in such turbulent times.

With that in mind and inspired by some posts on home-made bak kwa, I decided to check out some recipes on YouTube to explore the possibility of making my own.

After watching a few videos, the process looks surprisingly easy. My mind was made up as the risk seems low. After all, if the end product is not nice, it won’t cost me much either.

Virgin attempt

My attempt is based on this clip, which is really easy to follow. Plus, I’ve got all the ingredients listed in that clip at home, except for the minced pork.

All that’s needed to bake your own bak kwa

Having read in another recipe that they added five spice powder, I opted to include that too. Another online recipe suggested adding fermented tofu, which I didn’t because there’s none in my kitchen.

Once all of the above has been mixed together, it’s a matter of letting the marinated meat set for four hours. I left it overnight as I didn’t want to cook past midnight.

The baking process was relatively straightforward. Pop the meat into the oven, take it out to slather a layer of honey water, then baste both sides. You can find the process in the YouTube link mentioned above or any other clip online.

Looks like the real thing

Then comes the most important part — taste test. The entire family loves it! OK, there’s definitely room for improvement in terms of thickness and texture but the taste is just right. I had cut down on the sugar after sizing up the recommended sugar amount and the honey water coating.

Our conclusion is that we will skip buying and bake our own this year. With all the ingredients already available at home, I only had to buy the minced pork, which cost S$12 per kg. The total cost, minus labour, was about S$15.

Weighing this cost against the hefy price from the traditional shops, we will experiment with other ingredients and cooking processes further so that our family and friends can taste something different this Chinese New Year.

Verdict

Taste: 👍👍👍👍

Texture: 👍👍👍

Changi Experience Studio@Jewel: Be immersed in Singapore’s aviation history

Fun fact! Singapore’s first airport was located in Kallang – near our port. As time evolved and Singapore saw the need to increase the passenger airport’s capacity, the government explored other options, including the Seletar and Paya Lebar areas. However, due to residential considerations and the further possibility of expansion in the future, Changi was selected, and that was how Singapore Changi Airport came into existence.

I learnt about the fun fact above when I visited the Changi Experience Studio located at Jewel recently, and I would recommend anyone interested in the aviation industry or if you’re interested in learning about how Singapore Changi Airport came to be.

At the entrance, we were presented with our own personal journey maps with RFID tags on it. With it, we could quickly go to different sections in the studio and opening the map activated content of that section to be projected onto it (something like a Le Petit Chef video experience).

Timeless Exhibit

As we walked through the different exhibits, each exhibit had a story to tell. The first exhibit was a simple introduction to how the journey map worked, and the second exhibit was where things got interesting. We travelled back in time to learn about how the idea of Singapore Changi Airport came to be, view clips of famous people visiting the airport, learn more about Terminals 1, 2, 3, and the budget terminal. It was fascinating to know how far Singapore Changi Airport has evolved from a single terminal in 1981 to the four terminals and Jewel.

The third exhibit had many stations within it, which told short stories about Singapore Changi Airport. From fun facts about the three runways to learning about the extensive baggage system that runs across the airport, and the Singapore Changi Airport’s distinct scent, this exhibit showed behind-the-scenes on how the airport is run, and ultimately how the airport experience is built.

Following, there were many other experiential exhibits that include a race down a runway on stationary bikes, simple games on identifying dangerous objects from bags through x-ray machines, and even a booth that ‘rated’ your smile. A photo booth was also present, and you can take a photo and get it tagged to your journey map. You’ll be able to purchase the picture at the counter when you exit.

The Changi Experience Studio is very impressive –the technology it utilised throughout the museum helped tell the Changi Experience story.

If you’re looking for an attraction in the east, or if you have some SingapoRediscovers vouchers to utilise, hit this place up – you will not regret it.  

Changi Experience Studio
Level 4, Jewel Changi Airport (closest to Lobby C)
Monday-Sunday: 11:00-20:00
Last admission: 19:00

Fancy Ban-mian!

It’s well-known that the Chinatown area has a ton of good food. Today, I managed to try out this particular noodle stall, 麵莊Mian Zhuang, at Hong Lim Food Centre that serves ban-mian (板面 also known as flat noodles) but with a twist. I first chanced upon this stall in an “Our Grandfather Story” video and was intrigued that the stall owners dared to venture out to start this hawker noodle stall despite having stable jobs previously.

A conventional noodle stall usually serves ban-mian with minced pork, an egg, some vegetables, and ikan bilis (anchovies). Occasionally, the stall will also serve it with sliced fish, but not many do.

However, this stall serves ban-mian with minced pork balls, ikan bilis, and something very different – fish maw! I had this combination and have to say that I enjoyed this combination. The soup was light and flavourful, the minced pork balls were fresh and gave more texture (as compared to just minced pork), the ikan bilis added the salty and crispy texture, and the fish maw was a delectable ‘sponge’ that absorbed the soup well.

The chili that was served on the side was spicy and had a slight tangy flavour which paired very well with the bowl of ban-mian. The texture of the noodles was nice and chewy, and it was evident that it wasn’t factory-made – quite rare in recent times.

At S$4.50, I would definitely recommend this modestly fancy bowl of noodles to others.

Other combinations are also available including ban-mian with abalone clams (S$4.50/S$6.50), abalone (S$13.50) and prawns (S$4.50/S$6.50). The homemade chili can also be bought at S$5.50/bottle.

Do check Mian Zhuang out if you’re in the vicinity! It is located at Hong Lim Food Centre #01-51 and opened from 9am to 3pm (Monday-Saturday). Do note that it seems to run out of items later in the day so do head there early!

Verdict

Taste (especially with the chili): 👍👍👍👍👍

Value: 👍👍👍👍👍