Bakkwa (BBQ Meat) 肉干
Bakkwa, 肉干, commonly known as BBQ meat, is a food tradition from Southern China. Thin slices of meat are marinated with sugar, honey and spices, air-dried and smoked. The smoked meat is left to cool and wrapped in layers of waxed paper.
The meat used for producing Bakkwa is usually pork but contemporary versions include chicken, beef and even vegetarian Bakkw, 素肉干, made from Soya sources.
Bakkwa is a food preservation technique developed at a time when there were no refrigerators. When Chinese migrated to Singapore, this food preservation technique was transmitted as well.
Bakkwa as a food product was an innovation to preserve meat in response to food demand in the face of technological and climatic limitations. This innovation produced a technique that worked and tasted good at the same time. Bakkwa eventually became a food item in its own right.
The invention of the refrigerator did not spell the end of demand for Bakkwa. In fact, refrigerators were used to enhance the freshness of Bakkwa.
In the past, Bakkwa was considered a luxury good and most families bought it during festive seasons like the Chinese New Year. As the economic situation of most families improved, Bakkwa became affordable and consumed more frequently. This led to the introduction of individually wrapped bite-size Bakkwa for individual consumption.
Bakkwa can be consumed in many ways. It can be made into a sandwich, used as an ingredient, served as part of a cold dish in an official banquet, munched on its own, served as a finger food, or enjoyed with beer.
Being a delicacy, Bakkwa is a popular choice as gift item. Consumers would present them to their parents, siblings, in laws, relatives or friends. Some companies even give Bakkwa as corporate gifts to important customers. Tourist buys them as food souvenirs. It is also featured in international food fairs as a Singapore export item.
During festive seasons like the Chinese New Year Bakkwa is one of the main gift items. In some popular Bakkwa outlets, despite the long queues customers are willing to wait for hours to buy a popular or well-known brand. The Bakkwa packaging is often bright red and adds to the festive atmosphere.
Modern versions of Bakkwa reflect new dietary choices and innovation. Bakkwa with cheese, pineapple and black pepper have appeared. Singapore, being a multi-racial, multi-racial country, has seen the emergence of Halal Bakkwa to cater to Muslim customers. Halal Bakkwa is made from non-pork meat and produced in accordance to Islamic food processing requirements. Halal Bakkwa is also popular in Muslim countries and with Muslim communities.
As a food product, Bakkwa has evolved from an innovative preservation technique to become a delicacy in its own right and as a product of cross-cultural consumption.