Bak Kwa or 肉干 is a form of dried meat that originated in China. A popular snack in Singapore, especially during the Chinese New Year season, the manufacturing of bak kwa entails preservation and the infusion of ingredients such as salt, sugar, sauces and spices thrown into the mix. In more recent years, bak kwa manufacturers have become more creative as well, infusing herbs, honey, chili and even minerals into the bak kwa to differentiate themselves from other brands. There has also been increased preference for more authentic looking bak kwa – which means less on the redness and the sugar.
Bak Kwa is extremely popular in Singapore, with some brands even ingrained internationally as being iconic of the Lion City. As such, it can be said that Singapore is at the forefront of innovation as well when it comes to this snack. Bak Kwa is also commonly used as an ingredient in some everyday dishes such as fried rice, claypot rice, etc; thus allowing it to a stand as a year round item even outside of Lunar New Year.
Some of the common types of bak kwa include:
- Sliced pork / beef / chicken / duck / lamb
- Chili sliced pork / beef / chicken / duck / lamb
- Coin-shaped slices using pork / beef/ chicken / duck / lamb
- Pork belly (think: similar to bacon but undergoing the same preservation and cooking technique as the usual bak kwa)
- Flavored bak kwa – can be infused with fruits, additional herbs, seaweed, minerals, etc
If you are wondering which is the best bak kwa to buy as an everyday snack or during Chinese New Year, I have tried to sum it up here for your convenience. Do note this list is not arranged in order. Most of these bak kwa brands also sell online and even deliver, giving an added convenience. For next Lunar New Year, you won’t need to waste a considerable amount of time queuing!
Table of Contents
Bee Cheng Hiang (美珍香)
The most recognizable bak kwa brand in Singapore, Bee Cheng Hiang originates from 1933 when it was founded by Mr Teo Swee Ee. These days, Bee Cheng Hiang sells so much more than bak kwa but the dried pork still forms the bulk of their business. The brand is known for its reliability and accessibility, with outlets in almost every corner of Singapore and even in other countries which are easily identified through the bright yellow/red striped signs. For those wishing to gift bak kwa to friends and associates overseas, Bee Cheng Hiang is usually the preferred brand as they sell vacuum-sealed bak kwa with a longer shelf life.
Top Seller: Among the bak kwa brands listed here, Bee Cheng Hiang is tops in terms of variety. Not only do they have the classic Sliced Pork but they also have chicken and beef bak kwa as well as a bacon-like Gourmet Bak Kwa. For those who can’t make up their minds on which portion of the pork to try, the Gourmet Fusion mixes juicy pork belly with the leaner pork rind.
Prices: From S$21 for 280 grams of Sliced Pork Bak Kwa
Order here (free delivery for orders above S$50)
Kim Tee (新东方金池)
Kim Tee traces its roots to the early 1970s when its founder, Teo Kim Tee, started selling bak kwa in Adam Road. The shop later moved to Serangoon Gardens in 1976 and still stands today as Kim Tee’s flagship store. Kim Tee now has 5 physical stores in Singapore and also sells bak kwa online.
While other bak kwa brands have moved to mechanize the manufacturing process, Kim Tee still makes their bak kwa by hand using the traditional method of barbecuing by charcoal grill from start to end. Special effort is made to trim excess fats in order to keep the meat lean. They also do not use tenderizers of preservatives. Coupled with Mr. Teo’s original marinade, Kim Tee creates a uniquely thin and tender slice of jerky that is the perfect blend of smoky, sweet and porky flavor in every single bite.
Top Seller: Kim Tee’s top seller is the Signature Bak Kwa, made using minced pork and is unique to other brands because of its markedly thin and tender texture – not too hard to bite on and good even for the elderly and young children.
Other than their signature bak kwa, Kim Tee also has Chili Bak Kwa which is seasoned with fresh chili padi – with the seeds clearly visible on the bak kwa! For something thicker, they also have the Sliced Bak Kwa.
Taste Profile: Personally one of my top picks, I tried their Signature Bak Kwa which was delightfully thin and tender. I loved the sweet-savory marinade – very addictive!
Prices: From S$19.90 for 200 grams with self-heating box / from S$26 for 500 grams of sliced bak kwa
Golden Gourmet (金质)
Golden Gourmet is a promising and relatively new bak kwa manufacturer in the local scene. Co-founded by siblings Josephine and Sky, the duo has had extensive experience in bak kwa manufacturing way before that with their family having sold bak kwa from as early as the 1980s out of a small tent in the east side of Singapore. Golden Gourmet has clearly thought of the younger crowd as one of their key markets with some unique offerings such as a probiotic bak kwa that possesses gut health benefits. Their products are all freshly made daily and grilled over charcoal on a bamboo plate to bring out the flavor and fragrance.
Top Seller: A product unique to Golden Gourmet is the Lacto Chicken Bak Kwa which possesses probiotic benefits not too dissimilar from Yakult. Aside from that, their traditional sliced pork slices also sell briskly.
Prices: From S$16.80 for 300 grams of sliced pork bak kwa / S$20.40 for 300 grams of lacto chicken bak kwa
Taste Profile: Golden Gourmet’s bak kwa is notably smooth in texture and they are quite generous in the sauce as well. Each slice is randomly peppered with charred bits – not overly so which is sufficient to give it a slightly smoky flavor.
Order here (free delivery for orders above S$50)
New Peng Hiang (新品香)
New Peng Hiang was founded in 1984 by a certain Mr. Khoo. Although this brand mostly sells its products in supermarkets rather than through their own stores, New Peng Hiang has successfully expanded overseas, where it exports to a few neighboring countries. The brand also has no less than 7 physical stores in Indonesia.
Top Seller: Those who fancy bak kwa as an everyday snack can look at their Bak Kwa Bites which are easy to carry. You can munch on them anywhere, even in the comforts of your office.
Prices: From S$20 for 500 grams of tender pork bak kwa
Order here (free delivery for orders above S$50)
Fragrance is one of the successful bak kwa brands in Singapore and has achieved mass-market chain status with its myriad of stores around Singapore and even in other countries. Although Fragrance started as a bak kwa maker back in 1969, the brand has since expanded to other items such as pork floss, sausages and even mooncakes. Altogether, Fragrance has a staggering 39 branches around Singapore – almost rivaling Bee Cheng Hiang’s 47 locations.
Top Seller: Products unique to Fragrance include the US Berkshire Pork Kurobuta Bak Kwa and the Heart-shaped Red Yeast Bak Kwa, alongside the traditional bak kwa variants.
Prices: From S$28 for 500 grams of sliced bak kwa
Order here (up to 30% off)
Hup Chong (哈中）
Hup Chong is a food manufacturer that started by selling bak kwa back in the 1970s. Today, the company has diversified and apart from making barbecued meat, they also manufacture pork floss and even other non-related products like ramen and a variety of cakes.
Top Seller: Their BBQ Pork Bak Kwa is their undoubted top seller but regulars also go for their BBQ Beef Bak Kwa.
Prices: From S$15 for 300 grams / S$25 for 500 grams sliced pork bak kwa
Order here (free delivery for orders above S$50)
Peng Guan (传统)
Peng Guan is considered as a relative newcomer in the bak kwa manufacturing scene, especially when you consider other brands which have been around for as long as 70+ years. Peng Guan started in 2014. The business started as a hobby, with the founders only making bak kwa during Chinese New Year while developing their recipes in the process. The brand has quickly risen as one of the more prominent bak kwa manufacturers as their products are all handmade to this day. They have 2 physical stores – in Bugis and Chinatown – and they also sell bak kwa online.
Top Seller: The Traditional Bak Kwa and Sliced Bak Kwa are among their best-sellers. A product unique to Peng Guan is the Bak Kwa Pau – a traditional bun on the outside with bak kwa filling on the inside.
Prices: Peng Guan’s Bak Kwa are competitively priced. 500 grams of their Traditional Bak Kwa starts at S$12 with Sliced Bak Kwa starting at S$13 – you can only get 300 grams from other brands at this price!
Kim Joo Guan (金裕源)
Kim Joo Guan’s bak kwa are marketed as being more premium than the other brands in this list, mainly due to their pork being grain-fed from Australia and their resolve to NOT use machines in their production. The result is a premium and sweet tasting bak kwa that is a bit rougher than others, due to the natural production process. Their prices are also a tad higher than others.
Top Seller: Kim Joo Guan has a rather lean assortment of products – with just 4 types. The Traditional Pork Slice, Chili Pork Slice, Golden Coin and Premium Pork Belly all sell rather briskly especially during Chinese New Year.
Prices: S$27.50 for 500 grams of the Traditional Pork Slice / S$38.50 for 500 grams of the Premium Pork Belly
Kim Peng Hiang (金品香)
Known for its snaking queues during Chinese New Year, Kim Peng Hiang remains to be a 1-outlet establishment despite their popularity. The brand originated in 1943 when Kim Peng Hiang opened its first store in Pearl’s Hill Road. They subsequently transferred to North Bridge Road in 1956 and finally to Changi Road in 1972 where they remain to this day.
Top Seller: The undoubted top seller at Kim Peng Hiang is its Pineapple BBQ Pork. Having tried it inside the store during off-peak season, the flavor is marvelously sweet with a hint of smokiness. It’s also quite soft to the bite. Kim Peng Hiang’s bak kwa is the best one in my book.
Prices: From S$24 for 500 grams of Sliced Royal Pork / S$26 for Pineapple BBQ Pork
Order: 465 Changi Road, Singapore 419886 (Tel: +65 6742 6853)
Hock Wong (福王）
The brand started in Kuala Lumpur over a decade ago before expanding into Singapore by opening their factory here in 2015. One of Hock Wong’s key selling points is the usage of honeysuckle in their roasting process.
Top Seller: Those looking for a fiery treat should check out their Mala Spicy Bak Kwa. Each slice is infused with Chengdu peppercorns, promising a numbing experience with every bite. Along with this, Hock Wong also has their classic honey-roasted Classic Minced Pork Bak Kwa.
Prices: From S$25 for 500 grams of Classic Minced Pork Bak Kwa / S$28 for 500 grams of Mala Spicy Bak Kwa
Order here (free delivery for orders above S$20)
Xi Shi (西施）
Xi Shi was started by Mr. Koh Hock Bin who used to work in a dimsum store. Having a bak kwa store as its neighbor, Mr. Koh eventually got to learn the ropes of the bak kwa trade until he learned everything including the recipes of his neighbor. He eventually set up his own bak kwa business in 1985. From then on, Xi Shi is known for still preparing their bak kwa inside a charcoal smoke house rather through the usage of machines.
Top Seller: While sales of their Handmade Sliced Bak Kwa move briskly, those looking for something different should check out their Duck Bak Kwa – made using duck breast and marinated with selected herbs – or their Monascus Bak Kwa which is marinated with fragrant monascus rice wine. Xi Shi was also the first manufacturer in Singapore to make the Chicken Seaweed Bak Kwa which has a Japanese tinge in the taste due to the mixture of seaweed and sesame seeds.
Prices: S$26 for 500 grams of original bak kwa
Kim Hua Guan (金华源)
My visit to Kim Hua Guan’s stall at People’s Park Food Centre was particularly notable because out of all the bak kwa retail establishments I visited during off-peak season for the purpose of researching for this article, Kim Hua Guan was the only one that had a queue (albeit a short one at that). And mind you, this was in October – not even near Lunar New Year by any measure. Kim Hua Guan has been around for more than 50 years in its People’s Park location and despite their popularity, they only have two stores – the one I visited in Chinatown and another one in Toa Payoh. Their bak kwa is made fresh daily and customers can even see them grilling on the spot over hot charcoal.
Top Seller: Their Traditional Minced Pork Bak Kwa is their undoubted top seller. Most regulars here swear by the tender and juicy minced version. Apart from this, Kim Hua Guan also has some other interesting flavors including Longan Bak Kwa and Black Pepper Bak Kwa.
Prices: From S$31.20 for 600 grams of Traditional Minced Pork / S$33.60 for 600 grams of Sliced Pork
Kim Hock Guan (金福源)
Kim Hock Guan has been around since 1905 – well over a hundred years! This makes them the oldest surviving bak kwa brand in Singapore. Their original outlet was at 70 Rochor Road, later moving to Chinatown and establishing another outlet in Bencoolen Street. Their Chinatown outlet in Hong Lim Complex which I visited on a rather languid Sunday afternoon was probably the most old-school store I have ever stepped into and it seemed to have remained unchanged since the 1970s!
Taste Profile: Kim Hock Guan’s Sliced Pork Bak Kwa seems more unprocessed than the rest. Just looking at the square pieces, one can easily make out the meat fibers. It’s also thicker and drier than the rest. I liked that it had less of the burnt edges compared to other brands.
Prices: From S$56 per kg of Sliced Pork Bak Kwa
More information here
Lim Chee Guan (林志源)
Lim Chee Guan originates from 1938 and has been a staple in many Singaporeans’ homes especially during Chinese New Year. With their flagship store in New Bridge Road, Lim Chee Guan currently has 4 stores in Singapore, including Jewel Changi Airport, Ion Orchard and People’s Park Complex.
The brand prides itself in its exacting standards – from achieving the perfect consistency of meat to mixing the spiced sauce and also barbecuing the bak kwa for just the right length of time.
Despite their relatively well-known brand name, Lim Chee Guan only has a few physical stores which means that long queues are expected every Chinese New Year period.
Top Seller: The Signature Bak Kwa is their undoubted best seller. Each slice has a smoky aroma, and is sufficiently tender with each bite. Consistency may drop a bit when the staff members are extremely busy, such as during the festive season but overall each slice is not too fat and has a nice combination of sweet and savory.
Prices: From S$16.80 for 300 grams / S$ 28 for 500 grams of sliced pork bak kwa