Pineapple tarts are good and love letters are, well, lovely — but it ain’t Chinese New Year if you aren’t bingeing on bak kwa. These glistening squares mottled with blackened char marks are sweet, savoury, umami, meaty and gratifyingly greasy in a way a cookie never will be. It’s manna from the CNY snack heavens — but only when you encounter a piece worthy of the (exceedingly high) calories, of course. We know the pain of excitedly biting into a slice only to find it depressingly dry and blah. So, because we believe in making your CNY snackage a blissful experience, and this being the year of the pig, the 8 DAYS foodie team risked clogging their arteries by chomping on stack upon stack of bak kwa from 12 famous brands — both chain stores plus mom-and-pop ones — and ranking them, starting with our least fave (scroll to the bottom for our #1 pick).

We quietly bought the same item across all 12 brands undercover: traditional sliced barbecued pork — the classic cut of bak kwa favoured by most Singaporeans (besides the cheaper, softer minced pork version). It’s typically made by slicing entire sheets of pork from the creature's hind leg. This treat, which originated from Fujian in China, is then marinated with a myriad of seasonings such as soy sauce, fish sauce, honey and sugar before being grilled to a gloriously smoky finish.

The three of us on the tasting panel guzzled plenty of water between bites to clear our palates, bickered a little when we disagreed on what we liked, and finally, after much debate, came to a consensus on the ranking. Interestingly, the brand that emerged #1 on our list is head and shoulders above the rest, with #2 trailing rather far below in terms of flavour and #3 falling even further down when it comes to ticking all of our differing bak kwa-lovin’ checkboxes.

Without further ado, let’s begin with...

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