Each Chinese New Year, we often find ourselves with a surfeit of bak kwa long after the ang pows have been spent. What do you do with the leftovers, then? You make bak kwa jam, of course. Heck, you don’t even have to wait for leftovers. Impress your visitors with a jar of this sweet-salty treat served with a few soldiers of toast on the side. Or with keropok. After all, this also has bacon in it for a savoury kick. Another way to elevate bak kwa (not that it needs elevating)? Especially if you can’t cook? Take your cue from the way Japanese chefs serve dried puffer fish with an umami dip of tobiko (flying fish roe) mayo. It’s a simple, clever way to make your bak kwa extra special — and er, even more calorifically yummy. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Bak Kwa Jam
Makes about 2 cups
5 rashers bacon, chopped
8 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 slices bak kwa, chopped
6 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp fish sauce
¼ cup brandy
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. In a skillet, cook bacon over medium heat without oil, stirring until the fat is rendered and the bacon lightly browned. This should take about 15 minutes.
2. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon from the pan to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
3. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet.
4. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the reserved bacon, bak kwa, maple syrup, fish sauce, brandy and vinegars.
6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the bak kwa turns soft.
7. Taste and add more fish sauce, maple syrup or vinegar if necessary.
8. Turn off the heat.
9. Transfer the jam to a blender or food processor. Pulse till roughly chopped (you don’t want the mixture to be smooth — you want some chunks of bak kwa in there).
10. Let cool and transfer to airtight containers. Keep refrigerated for up to a month.
Tobiko Mayo Dip
Makes ½ cup
5 tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
1 tbsp regular mayonnaise (try Hellmann’s)
5 tbsp tobiko roe (buy from the sushi section of supermarkets)
1. Mix all the ingredients together and stir.
2. Serve alongside neatly cut strips of bak kwa. The dip will keep in the fridge for a day, two at most.
More brilliant ways to stretch your bak kwa stash:
1. Tuck a few slices of bak kwa between two slices of bread dipped in egg and milk and fry up some bak kwa French toast.
2. Stir chopped bak kwa and pork floss into rice porridge for oomph.
3. Chop bak kwa and add to fried rice or your favourite cookie recipe.