Bak Kerng 五香肉卷
This is my mother-in-law’s recipe and one that my wife and I decided to attempt to make today. I decided to follow the exact method and portions according to the original recipe so that I can make changes to it after I have done it. The recipe appended below can literally feed quite a lot of people, so attempt only if you are ready to take on the challenge.
Bak Kerng as the name of the dish is called is really Chinese style meat sausage. In Singaporean hawker centres or good courts, one would easily locate these stalls selling wu xiang or in English would mean five flavours. It is as if the five flavours of foods are represented here. Most people refer to Bak Kerng as Wu Xiang and over time, it’s become an easier term to refer to it.
This recipe is heap full of ingredients as nothing is left to chance here. Deliciously sweet Swa Lor prawns are used and pork belly instead of just lean pork. The addition of the cuttlefish paste adds a different dimension to the bak kerng and especially after frying it in a mixture of olive and soya bean oil, the traditional dish literally comes alive. A secret ingredient is the rind of the pork belly as I infused the vegetable oil with the fatty pork oil that made the flavour of the bak kerng phenomenal.
Cuttlefish Paste 500 grams (I use the brand Seawaves from NTUC Supermarket)
Pork Belly 1Kg
Dried Shitake Mushrooms 10 pieces
Water Chestnuts 2Kg
Garlic 50 grams
Shallots 500 grams
Local Celery 500 grams
Spring Onions 100 grams
Eggs 10 whole
Prawns “Swa Lor” 2Kg
Bread Flour 500 grams
Dried Tofu Skin 2 large pieces (The brand Sun Kee is good and can be found at NTUC Supermarket as well)
Olive Oil & Soya Bean Oil enough to fill a pot to a height of 5 cm for dry frying.
Salt 1 teaspoon
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Chicken Stock 2 teaspoon
Sesame Seed Oil 2 tablespoon
White Pepper 1 tablespoon
1. The first thing to note is that the meats are to be sliced and not chopped. So I sliced the entire pork belly till I got a blister on my finger for holding onto the knife’s edge for too long.
2. Remove the rind and reserve it for frying in the oil. Then sliced the pork belly into small pieces. Don’t use the food processor as the final taste will differ.
3. Peel the prawns and cut them into 3 or 4 parts depending on the size of the prawns. I got the small to medium version of the Swa Lor prawns which not many places sell. The flavour of the prawns is nicer.
4. Minced the garlic and fine chop the shallots. It is a lot of shallots to go through so if you need to, please wear a gas mask. Then peel and slice the waterchestnuts into small pieces. I bought the muddy version but you could opt for the washed and peeled version.
5. Soak the dried mushrooms until soft and then sliced then into small pieces. Chop the spring onions and local celery. For the local celery, use only the stem. The leafy portion tends to add a bitter flavour into the dish.
6. When you are ready to mix, cut an entire packet of cuttlefish paste into the mixing bowl and add all the sliced ingredients into the bowl. You may also add the bread flour and the seasonings. Last to go in is the two eggs. The eggs will help to bond the meat mixture together.
7. Once everything is well mixed, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to allow the meat to marinate.
8. Cut the tofu skins into small sheets so that you can roll the ingredients. Crack two eggs so that they can act as egg wash to seal the meat sausage.
9. Fry 6 eggs in oil without salt or seasoning. The egg pieces will go into the bak kerng as you roll the meat mixture in the tofu skin.
10. Now you should be ready to rock and roll. Mix a small portion of meat mixture onto the tofu skin with the fried egg and roll into sausages. After that sliced then into bite size pieces before frying.
11. The oil in the pot should be reasonably smoky when you place a wooden chopstick in the centre. Place the meat dumplings into the hot oil and deep fry till they turn a golden hue of brown.
12. Do this until they are all fried up and delicious.
Bak Kerng Meat filling
Meat mixture rolled into sausages using dried tofu skins
Bak Kerng after being fried in medium heat for about 5 minutes each or until brown.