We've all seen the insane queues, but whose bak kwa is worth the devotion?
It’s not really Chinese New Year without pigging out on copious amounts of heart-burning festive snacks, the most popular of which is undoubtedly bak kwa – sweet, smoky pork jerky. And it’s gotta have those charred edges. We’ve got no shortage of stores hawking this savoury delight, each of them ardently defended by their munching advocates – and they’ve got the snaking queues to prove it. To make it easier for you to navigate the wonderful world of bak kwa, we’ve come up with our own list of favourite purveyors of this scrumptious snack.
Bee Cheng Hiang
Homegrown favourite Bee Cheng Hiang is definitely one of the most popular choices and is practically a household name when it comes to bak kwa. If the ridiculously long queues during CNY are any indication, the brand’s a pretty safe bet to satiate your cravings for the classic sliced pork bak kwa ($33.60 for 600g).
Bee Cheng Hiang, multiple locations including Jewel Changi Airport, Nex and Suntec City.
For a side of feel-good factor with your snack, we recommend the gourmet version at Ryan’s Grocery ($53.90 for 500g). The store’s take on this CNY treat, which is made with free-range Borrowdale pork from Australia – sans hormones and antibiotics – uses 60 per cent less salt and sugar than most, and is free from additives, preservatives and food colourings. These sell out fast so you’d best make an order, stat! Oh, and if you like it hot, this year’s new offering packs a punch with spices and chilli oil.
Ryan’s Grocery, multiple locations including Great World City and 29 Binjai Park.
Kim Joo Guan
Using a traditional recipe handed down for four generations, the Ong family is well in touch with their craft. All the bak kwa offerings are made with grain-fed Australian pork and char-grilled for a subtle smoky flavour. Fans of the classic bak kwa should try the traditional pork slices ($52 for 1kg) while those looking for a spicy kick will love the chilli pork slices ($54 for 1kg).
Kim Joo Guan, 257 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058806
Kim Hock Guan
Another stalwart that has stood the test of time is the venerable Kim Hock Guan. With a history that dates back to 1906, it remains a family-owned and operated business with a loyal following. The brand utilises century-old production methods to dish out its traditional BBQ sliced pork and spicy sliced pork bak kwa. Plus, it avoids minced meat, so this one will be a favourite if you like yours chewier and more richly-flavoured.
Kim Hock Guan, multiple locations including 150 South Bridge Road and The Bencoolen.
You’re really spoilt for choice here. In addition to regular and spicy versions, Fragrance offers bacon, red yeast, chilli, honey, Kurobuta and, if you’re still in a Christmas mood, turkey bak kwa. It also takes the cake for having one of the strangest offerings: Crocodile bak kwa. Any adventurous eaters in the house?
Fragrance Bak Kwa, multiple locations including The Centrepoint and 233 New Bridge Road.
Peng Guan Bak Kwa
What Peng Guan lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in quality. Every order (from $24) is handmade from scratch and done to order so you know you’re getting the absolute freshest. Choose between traditional options for the purists and chilli bak kwa for you spice fiends.
Peng Guan Bak Kwa, #02-36, Chinatown Complex, Block 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335
While protein-heads may scoff at the idea of meatless bak kwa, this store’s BBQ soy jerky offering ($5.89 for 220g) makes sure your vegetarian mates aren’t left out of the CNY tradition.
Friendly Vegetarian, #01-1165, Blk 421 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Singapore 560421
Goodwood Park Hotel
Marinated in the hotel’s special blend of spices, the bak kwa is tender, not too dry, and practically melts in your mouth. Each order ($56 for 600g) is also pre-cut into small slices, which makes it so easy to just gorge ourselves endlessly on this fabulously delicious treat!
Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road, Singapore 228221
Kim Hwa Guan
While not as big a player in the bak kwa game as several other stores, Kim Hwa Guan has its own loyal following who favour its tender, thinly sliced nibbles. The pieces here come in sealed bags as well, perfect for preserving that glazed crunchy surface (the store doesn’t skimp on the marinade!).
Kim Hwa Guan, #01-1022, People’s Park Cooked Food Centre, 32 New Market Road, Singapore 050032
Surprise, surprise! If you love the Swedish furniture giant’s meatballs (who doesn’t!), go ahead and have a taste of its bak kwa. You’ll be pleasantly surprised; it’s actually pretty decent, with the right amount of sweetness and smokiness. Plus, it comes in the iconic Ikea-style box ($20.80 for 500g) that’s just too good not to add to your cart.
Ikea, available at Ikea Alexandra and Ikea Tampines
Hu Zhen Long
It’s been around since 1948 and the current shopfront still evokes a sense of nostalgia with its traditional decor and wooden displays. Besides the traditional bak kwa, other unique flavours include crocodile meat and BBQ lobster variations.
Hu Zhen Long, 14 Sago Street, Singapore 059015
Lim Chee Guan
Another local favourite, Lim Chee Guan also manages to attract insanely long queues during the CNY period. If you’re not too fond of sweeter bak kwas like those from Bee Cheng Hiang and Fragrance, you should definitely give this place a shot for its tender slices.
Lim Chee Guan, multiple locations including 203 New Bridge Road, People’s Park Complex and Ion Orchard.
Kim Peng Hiang
Fancy a bit more luck and prosperity for CNY? Check out the family-run store’s pineapple bak kwa (from $26 for 500g), a unique combination of savoury and sweet. But if you’re keen to stick to the traditional tastes, the sliced royal pork creation is tender and juicy, and comes in bright red packaging suitable for gifting. Just beware the long lines, because you will be waiting for a while.
Kim Peng Hiang, 465 Changi Road, Singapore 419886
Xi Shi Bak Kwa
Established since 1985, the brand’s bak kwa is still made using traditional methods instead of modern machinery, and Chinese herbs are part of the recipe. As such, you get innovative choices including monascus bak kwa (homemade monascus rice wine is used to marinate the pork), chicken seaweed sesame bak kwa and duck bak kwa.
Xi Shi Bak Kwa, available online.
Sang Hock Guan
If you really wanna go old school, make your way here for authentic, traditional treats. This quaint little old school shop in Ang Mo Kio might not be the first thing that pops in mind when the craving strikes but it’s definitely on par with the contenders on this list. Heads up if you’re ordering in advance – it sells out pretty fast!
Sang Hock Guan, #01-446, Blk 163 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, Singapore 560163