Bak Kwa IS Jerky

Definition of meat jerky

The English word “jerky” for dried meat is derived from the Quechua word charqui, and archaeological evidence shows that the Incans sliced and salted meat surplus to requirements, then left it to dry in the wind and sun. 

Source: The Economist

Definition of Bak Kwa

Bak kwa, also known as rou gan (肉干), is a dried savoury sweetmeat which traditionally takes the form of thin square slices and is usually made from pork. Bak kwa and rou gan mean “dried meat” in Hokkien and Mandarin, respectively. It is also sometimes referred to as barbecued pork, dried pork or pork jerky. Bak kwa, which has its origins in China, has become a favourite local snack in Singapore, with its popularity peaking during the Chinese New Year period, as evidenced by the long queues at the branches of famous bak kwa chains.


Bak kwa is thought to have derived from a meat preservation and preparation technique used in ancient China. It is also considered a Hokkien delicacy, as it originated from the Fujian province in China, where poverty meant that the consumption of meat was a luxury usually reserved for Chinese New Year. Leftover meat would be preserved by slicing the meat into thin sheets and marinating them with sugar and spices, before air-drying the slices and cooking them over a hot plate. When immigrants brought this delicacy over to Singapore and Malaysia, it took on local characteristics. For example, while the meat is still air-dried, it is instead grilled over charcoal, which imparts a smokier flavour. The local version is also sweeter than its original counterpart.

Australian Customs [link]

  • An import permit is not required for jerky/biltong intended for human consumption only, provided the product is:
  • Shelf stable
  • Commercially prepared and packaged
  • Imported in an amount up to 1 kilogram
  • For the personal consumption of the person wishing to import it.
  • Meat jerky/biltong (other than from avian meat) must be manufactured in one of the countries specified on the Department of Agriculture FMD Approved Country List. (Singapore is under FMD approved list)

No such thing as "sometimes can, sometimes cannot," or "depends on person." This is Australia, not some alibaba country where you slip money between the passport pages. Tell the officer their website confirmed this definition and that is the proper description of your item that he might never have heard of. There is no excuse for ignorance, for either sides.


  1. Or, print out this page to accompany each packet of Bak Kwa flying into Straya...


  2. Ok ok we know Bak Kwa is jerky BUT

    Still need to pass custom and each officer allowed to make own discretion (how long are you prepared to argue for it?)

    Would you be prepared to hang around long enough to be shown in TV series "Airport Security" where somehow it is almost always Asian and Middle Eastern people who are shown on TV or maybe it is the Asian and Middle Eastern people who tend to be the one trying to import crazy things?

    1. If in doubt, besides printing out this post, print out the original web pages which define it as such as well.

      Actually, bak kwa is bloody unhealthy. I love it, for sure, but will be glad in some way that I'm giving it a miss this year.

      Of course if someone offers me some, that's the end of it.


    2. Not that i dont want to believe but:

      Anyone can print out webpage that looks official and come from "National Library Singapore" and for all they care NLS may be a mud hut in Singapore

      For some see-bay-niao officer unless it say bak kwa beef jerky slices from Singapore is OK in his/her own guidebook otherwise lan lan cannot pass and have to throw in bin

      So what I want find out as always is that did anyone here got any experience buying 1 kg* BK and keuh lapis vacuum packed swee swee, and declare + pass through custom no question asked (or very little questioning is OK) since sometimes how they are packaged matters alot.

      * Ok I know I very gian but if still can bring 1 kg I will buy 1 kg

      If anyone got experience please point to which SG chain store for BK and Kueh Lapis packing A-OK for Aussie custom.

      Thanx in advance

    3. I think it would have to be Nix's first reader to return here from SG with bak kwa who can say for sure.

      And it just might be you!

      I think you just have to try it, unless you manage to hear failures first. Even then, it may depend on the individual custom officer just like you said...

    4. Wah lao! Throw my perfectly OK 1 kg Bee Cheng Hiang BK and Bangawan Solo Kueh Lapis down the bin?

      It's not the money but it's heresy for foodie like me.

      Think of the hundreds of non-Muslim IMAs 1 kg BK can feed. It will create world peace in Manus camp. The Kueh can pacify both Muslim and non-Muslim IMAs worldwide.

      This is a lost opportunity for the final bid for peace in the Middle East. Imagine Mahmoud Abbas having high tea with Benjamin Netanyahu (With Keuh Lapis doing the talking there is no need for John Kerry, US envoy)

      So cannot waste this good food wan. Million of Ethiopians still starving since 1980s (but not the exact same people from 1980s, they somehow can have the energy to have more babies to grow up to starve. Offensive to you? Read this The population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich)

    5. Foodie XYZ, bring back 100g to test lah.

    6. But but but 100g where got spunk?

      Must gan gan try.

      Look like I may end up be the first one who makes the leap of faith!

    7. i did that before. and wun do it again. simply have no energy to ague with them with a super hungry tummy (without food from 9pm the night before- i have no habit taking supper as well as bread for breakfast in the plane)

  3. Lol... Of course I know Australia is not an alibaba country otherwise I won't even want to come here. :-d What I meant by "Some will say ok and some will say no to the same thing." is about them being lenient lah. I've brought in dried shrimps many years ago (Not commercially packed and the requirement in the past is they have to be commercially packed. I've chucked them into some zip lock bags only) and the custom officer just inspect them and allow me to bring them in. I told him can't find those vaccum packed ones and he said it's ok as long as they are free from parasite etc. If he's the law by law type of person he could just decline my dried shrimps.

    Another instance, my friend brought in some instant noodles but forget to declare was slapped with a fine straight away. No please or buts... But on another occasion, my aunt brought in some unfinished peanuts and forgot to declare and she escaped a fine and was just given a verbal warning...

    Anyway, if anyone wants to minimise lost, maybe can buy those chewing gum size or just one piece of bak kwa and test water. Purposely bring in, show them and asked if they considered that as jerky. If yes, good. If no, just pop that into your mouth and finished it before u clear custom. Haha...

    1. Sound OK but I did entertain eating 1 kg worth of BK at the custom..... Probably cannot because too "heaty"!!!

    2. How babe? Cheong or no cheong?

    3. Nix, bring some sample back and try lah. If they really allow then next trip back sg I'll definitely bring more for you! (o)

  4. That's useful info. My mum asked my brother's fren who is going to Vancouver to bring some Bah Kwa for the children but the fren refused saying that it can't pass customs. Maybe he didn't want to carry the extra weight!

    1. Can blame the fren

      Passing custom is really very troublesome, often you alredi very tired after a long flight and then you have to answer a lot of questions especially when it is not clear cut. Remember some have to carry the thing through more than one custom and transit stops along the way. If simple thing non food I will say OK, but even if my relative give some foodstuff to me to bring home eat, I rather throw it than to face the custom officer.

      So I always say that if someone bring food from home to you overseas it is a big big favour they have done for you.

    2. Sorry I meant Can't blame fren

  5. i talk to someone who is always bring food into australia.
    WRITE IN to the authories, in this case the quarantine office. asking if that is ok or not. listing the brand and all ingredients in the pack. (best that if u can attached a phot i fink).

    keep the reply letter and bring it with u unpon declaration. if not, it is really a heng sway situation. even tho the website did state clearly u can bring in bawkwa. really, i have been in a scenario where it was a new supervisor on board and i get the heat & my bawkwa was taken away from me T_T

    I also seen scenario where a baby can of milk powder was deny entering. reason? the can was open . silly as it sounds. so WRITE IN to protect your rights

  6. Good point. A write in with a positive response is as good as an import permit.

  7. Ok. Nix, just want to let you and your readers know, that I just bought 280g of Bee Cheng Hiang Chilli BBQ Port (What is labelled, nowhere on the box does it say it is jerky), and flew back to Sydney this morning.

    Declared, and showed the officer that it is pork jerky. Look at it, and allowed it through. She told me to constantly check their website for updates, because it may be changed at anytime.

    Not sure whether they are expecting more "refinements" or "changes" or "withdrawal" of this category.

    So ... YES.

  8. hi all, belated gong hee fatt choi =)

    just to confirm, my wife and i just return from SG on Scoot on Friday, 21 Feb 2014

    we purchase and declared the following;

    - bee cheng hiang pork coin bak kwa

    - bee cheng hiang pork floss

    both were allowed into Perth =)

    reason being;

    - bak kwa must be tightly sealed in a commercial bee cheng hiang packaging

    - bak kwa must be MADE/BOUGHT only from Singapore

    luckily i kept the receipts in the plastic bag with the food to show proof of purchase

    so yeah, thanks for the tip and we got our bak kwa through....nice!!