Sweet pork jerky, made in thin sheets, is a popular snack food in Chinese culture. In Cantonese my parents called it "ju yok gon" (literally, "pig meat dried"). In Hokkien, it's known as "bak kwa." There's also a beef version, but I like pork better. And with pork, there are two variations, one made from slicing off solid blocks of meat, and one made from minced meat. I like them both, though the latter is easier to prepare at home, and is also easier on your teeth.
The recipe calls for finely ground granulated sugar, which I grind up in a coffee bean grinder (but not for too long, or the heat will make the sugar melt!) that I reserve for such use. You can also use Baker's Sugar if you have that lying around or don't mind buying it. This ultra-fine sugar dissolves easily.
One thing I've found with homemade pork jerky is that once I've stored it in the fridge (which I have to do, because I can't and shouldn't eat an entire batch in one go), a very slight layer of fat from the meat appears on the jerky, hardening in the cold and making it lose its customary shine. This is solved by reheating, either in the microwave or the toaster oven. Commercial pork jerky doesn't seem to have this problem, but I assume it's due to additives/preservatives. It helps to pat down the jerky with some paper towels after it's done to soak up excess grease (as you would pizza), but it's not foolproof.
Obviously the solution is to have your family and friends enjoy the jerky fresh. They'll be amazed!
Chinese-Style Sweet Pork Jerky
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1/2 cup finely ground granulated sugar (Baker's Sugar)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- 4 drops of red food coloring (optional)
- Combine marinade ingredients (all except the pork) in a medium bowl or large freezer bag and mix well.
- Add the ground pork, mix it well with your hands or a wooden spoon, and let it marinate overnight (or at least 4 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Using canola oil spray, lightly grease an 11 x 17" baking sheet.
- Spread the pork mixture onto the sheet as thinly as possible. You should be able to cover the entire sheet.
- Place the sheet in the oven on the middle rack. Close the oven door, but leave it slightly ajar -- you can close the door on a wooden spoon, for example. This will allow the steam from the meat to escape, drying it out. Cook for an hour.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and prep your broiler -- set it to "high" or about 450°F.
- Meanwhile, carefully lift the pork up off the sheet and flip it over -- the top of the jerky will appear drier than the bottom, so we want to give the bottom a chance to dry out as well.
- Place the sheet under the broiler and broil for about 4 minutes, until the meat just starts to blacken around the edges (or if you don't like the char, as I do, watch it carefully after every minute). The meat should look shiny.
- Remove the sheet from the broiler, carefully flip the jerky over again, then broil another 4 minutes (or to your preference) on the other side.
- Using tongs, place the jerky onto a wire rack to cool, using a pan or towels below it to catch drippings. If you desire, you can use paper towels to blot out extra grease.
- When completely cool, use kitchen shears to cut the jerky into desired shapes. Keep uneaten portion in the fridge.