In Praise of Malaysian Jerky, A.K.A. Meat Candy

Left to right: Spicy pork, spicy chicken, spicy sliced beef, sliced pork
Left to right: Spicy pork, spicy chicken, spicy sliced beef, sliced pork

Malaysian-style jerky is entirely different from the desiccated, chewy meat product most of us are acquainted with. It is incredibly, overwhelmingly delicious, a bomb of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors, charred on the edges and tasting of the open fire over which it was briefly dried. It's variously called ba gua, rougan, or bakk wa, and is eaten all over Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and parts of China. I first encountered it in Singapore, where brightly lit shops display stacks of the stuff to be sold by the pound. I bought a big bag for my husband but ate it all on the 20-hour flight home.

K.L. Malaysia Beef Jerky on Elizabeth Street grills up wonderful jerky, including a knock-out pork-shrimp variety. But I didn't realize that there was another jerky shop in Chinatown until today, when I stumbled upon Ling Kee Jerky at the eastern end of Canal. The woman behind the counter said that they make the snacks on the premises, and that, yes, it is Malaysian-style. Pork, chicken, sliced beef, and sliced pork are offered, as well as their spicy counterparts. The jerky here has a nice amount of char, and the square versions are tender, floppy and sticky, with just enough sweetness to make you think of meat candy. The sliced versions are a bit dry.

In a head-to-head taste test, I'm not sure if Ling Kee or KL Malaysia would come out on top, but I do know that I'm glad there's more Malaysian jerky to go around.

Ling Kee 42 Canal Street 212-965-1206

Related: Meat Candy

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