Wednesday, February 10, 2010
My Venture into Asian-Inspired Candied Bacon
A very special holiday is coming up. Can you guess which one? I'll give you a hint. The favorite color for this holiday is red. Need another hint? It's celebrated on February 14 by millions of people worldwide. That's right – Chinese New Year! Today's recipe was inspired by a food I ate many years ago during Chinese New year.
Bacon and I go way back. It, more than any other food, is responsible for the cellulite on my thighs, the dimples on my patootie, and one of my man-boobs (the left one). I was a vegetarian for four years and bacon is the ONE meat I always missed. For four long years, I dreamt about bacon at night and drooled about it during the day. When I stopped eating bacon, I sent Wall Street into a panic and pork prices dropped overnight.
Many moons ago, I was walking through the streets of Singapore right before Chinese New Year and I caught the unmistakable whiff of grilled pork fat. Like a sailor lulled to his death on a rocky shore by a Siren's beautiful song, I was drawn to the source of this intoxicating odor. I walked into a very busy shop filled with Chinese women buying hoards of index-card-size pieces of dried meat which had been coated in a sticky glaze and then grilled to tasty perfection. Most of the meat was pork but they also had fish and other proteins that had been prepared in a similar fashion.
I struck up a conversation with a lady in line and asked her what the shop was selling and why it was so popular. She said that the meat was called Bak Kwa (in Hokkien Chinese dialect or Rogan in Mandarin). She explained that it was pork jerky made from minced pork with secret ingredients, then dried in a top-secret way, and finally grilled using a top-secret glaze. Apparently, it's easier to find out how to enrich uranium than get specifics on how to make Bak Kwa. She further added that, when she was a little girl, this delicacy used to only be sold during Chinese New Year but, nowadays, you can get it year-round. I told her that it smelled wonderful but that I was a vegetarian so I couldn't eat any. Upon hearing that I was a vegetarian, she looked at me like I was Satan's gardener or something and insisted I try it. She handed me a piece of Bak Kwa and practically force-fed it to me like she was trying to gavage a goose. OK, that's a little exaggerated. She actually just handed me a piece and said "here, eat this". After one bite, I almost cried. It was THAT good. I've been a carnivore since.
I have tried in vain to make Bak Kwa at home. The recipes I have found on the internet are a poor substitute for the real thing. Since Chinese New Year is just around the corner, I thought I would make a VERY Americanized version of Bak Kwa with bacon. Most of you will probably think of it as Asian-style candied bacon. It's certainly not Bak Kwa but it is REALLY good nevertheless.
Did you know there is another holiday on February 14 that is celebrated by millions of people? That's right – Arizona Statehood Day! Unfortunately, I have never developed any recipes for that. Until I do, I hope you try this Asian-inspired candied bacon. Enjoy – and Gong Xi Fa Cai!
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Asian Candied Bacon
1 lb thick-cut, center-cut bacon
1 TBSP regular soy sauce
1 TBSP dark soy sauce (may substitute regular soy sauce)
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP honey
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 c plus 2 TBSP firmly packed light brown sugar
1 TBSP rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp red food coloring
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sided sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place an oven-safe rack on the sheet pan. Place the bacon in a single layer on the wire rack. You may need to slightly overlap the bacon to get it all to fit on the pan.
While the oven is heating, add all of the glaze ingredients to a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, continue to simmer the glaze for 3 minutes – swirling the pan every minute or so to keep things mixed up. Reduce the heat to low to keep the mixture warm.
As soon as the oven has preheated, place the bacon (unglazed) in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the strips of bacon and bake 10 minutes longer.
Pull out the bacon, flip all of the strips, and brush on some of the glaze. Bake 5 minutes.
Pull out the bacon again, flip over all of the strips, and brush on some of the glaze. Bake another 5 minutes.
One final time, pull out the bacon, flip the pieces, and brush on a final layer of the glaze. Bake 4 to 8 minutes or until the bacon reaches your desired color and crispiness. Discard any leftover glaze.
Transfer the cooked bacon to a clean rack. Drool until the bacon has cooled to room temperature. Devour.
Posted by Cooking Ventures at 8:54 PM