Yesterday was all about orecchiette, tomorrow will be all about Robbie Burns, and today is all about jerky. Singaporean jerky, to be specific. I finally paid a visit to Mai Mei Hong in Parker Place Mall, who specialize in ‘bakkwa.’
I’d never really thought much about jerky variations until I visited this shop. Used to seeing the cowboy-branded bags of it in gas stations, I’d always just assumed jerky was jerky was jerky – chewy dried meat with a ton of salt and spices. I was wrong.
This style of jerky – called ‘bakkwa’ – is a hugely popular snack in Singapore and Malaysia. It’s typically made from ground (not sliced) meats such as pork, turkey, chicken, and beef, and at Mai Mei Hong they even do a salmon version. The meat is marinated overnight in a mixture that includes sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and often honey, then is dehydrated and grilled. The result is a tender and smoky snack that unlike the stuff from gas stations, won’t give you an arthritic jaw. My Australian friend Suzie used to live in Singapore, so I asked her about it. She said “Chinatown is lined with stores selling the stuff, and Singaporeans will argue loudly and frequently about who makes the best. Every time I travelled from Singapore to Europe, my Europe-based-Singaporean friends made me bring them some, so I guess it’s like the Singaporean version of vegemite.”
You can buy as little or as much as you like, and the sheets of jerky are sold by weight. Once you’ve decided how much you’d like (I opted for two sheets of the plain pork, and think I’ll try spicy next time), the meat is vacuum-packed for you. After you’ve opened the bag, they recommend keeping it in the fridge, though here’s the thing: once you start eating this stuff, you’re unlikely to have leftovers. Mai Hei Hong’s pork jerky was sweet, a bit salty, and charred and smoky from its pass over an open flame. I will certainly be returning to buy more.
I decided to round out my meat snack with a bento box from Womee Japanese Food (also in Parker Place), and asked for one of their daily specials – teriyaki with beef, rice, and stir-fried vegetables. I also got an order of gyoza, and the meal came with a complimentary honey green tea. All together, my bill was a little over $10.
The food was simple but satisfying. The sticky rice and beef were tasty, but I was most happy to be eating the stir-fried broccoli and cabbage on the other side of the tray. The gyoza were decent, but could have used more seasoning in the meat.
Another bit of info from Suzie? “By the way, in Singapore if you want to say something was awesome, especially food, you say it was “shiok”. E.g. “This bakwa darn shiok man!”
So go check out Mai Mei Hong – it IS darn shiok.
Vegetarian options available (but meat-heavy menu)
No vegetarian options available! Though salmon is an option.