Bakkwa, or Chinese sweet dried meat, was a staple of mine during my undergrad days. It was easy to store in the dorm, always ready to eat, and can either be a snack or a viand. My favourite was the chicken barbecue coin made by Bee Cheng Hiang, which has a branch in Robinson’s Place in Ermita. After undergrad, I shied away from most forms of bakkwa (and meat jerky in general), mostly because I no longer had to store food in a clothes cabinet and partly because it probably wasn’t doing wonders for my health.
On a recent trip to Singapore, though, I chanced upon a branch of Bee Cheng Hiang in Chinatown and rediscovered an old friend. I bought a box of chicken barbecue; S$18 for 280 grams. At S$1 = P31.7, that’s P203.78 for every 100 grams. Not really the cheapest bakkwa out there– Fat & Thin has a cheaper pork version (marketed as tocino) for about half the price– but quite exquisite. Only BCH makes soft bakkwa (and made of chicken), as far as I can tell, but Fat & Thin’s pork version is also quite acceptable.
The great thing about bakkwa is that you don’t really need to heat it, but unlike canned goods it doesn’t have that canned/fake flavour. It was meant to be eaten in its preserved state at room temperature. If you do choose to heat it, you have a number of options at your disposal: microwave it, toast it, broil it, grill it, even dunk it in hot water (while in the pouch). A meal can consist of microwaved bakkwa, fried egg, and garlic rice plus a side of fresh tomatoes. Or you can add it to fried rice or an omelette. Or it can be a viand all its own– a recent meal was just broiled chicken barbecue bakkwa and steamed rice.
I wouldn’t recommend having bakkwa as a regular fare, but it would make for a good substitute for canned goods from time to time. It’s for those times when you’re just too tired (or lazy) to make a proper meal or go out and buy food. It was student friendly back then; it is definitely bachelor friendly now.