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Bak Kwa: What Is It and Why Is It POPULAR During Chinese New Year In Singapore?

It’s more than just barbecued meat.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or hiding out under a palm tree, you know that Chinese New Year is just around the corner. You know what to do and not do, you know all about the red packets, and you’re ready for the “prosperity toss.” Here is one more way to make like a local and enjoy this festive time of year: eat and or give the gift of Bak Kwa.

What is it?

Bak Kwa is dried meat, similar to jerky. Bak Kwa is generally sliced thin and cut into squares. It can be made from beef, pork or mutton and while it traces its origins to Southern China, it is particularly popular in Singapore and Malaysia. Often times the meat is grilled over charcoal to give it a smoky flavour, then blended with a combination of spices, soy sauce and sugar. It can be used as an ingredient in other dishes or enjoyed on its own.

Why is it a popular choice for a Chinese New Year snack or gift?

Traditionally, Bak Kwa was an expensive, luxury food and as such became popular during Chinese New Year when families wanted to welcome prosperity for the coming year and offer lavish gifts for friends and family.

While it not as expensive as it once was (generally around $55 to $58 per kg), it is still a traditional Chinese New Year food and welcomed gift for friends or relatives.

Where can I get it?

While it is relatively easy to find this time of the year, these spots consistently rank among the best places to buy it in Singapore:

Now that you know the meat of the matter, do note that there are restrictions on bringing bak kwa from overseas into Singapore. Read more about it here.

By Kathleen Siddell, January 2016 / Updated by Muneerah Bee, January 2020 

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