The Bwa Kua experience – triggering the smoke detector during a blizzard

On to the second item to make for CNY – Bwa Kua.

I am not a fan of bwa kua and had long quit consuming it years ago after the sight of the oil exuding from a piece terrified me. You mean I have been drinking oil all along?? My mom would try to savour a piece in front of me and acting as if she was enjoying it tremendously (which I think she was) in an attempt to entice me. Her plot failed, miserably.

But here I am, in Boston, far away from home and every attempt at cooking anything local comforts me. Besides, the hubs likes bwa kua and so why not try to make it? No harm trying right?

I turned to the recipe that S showed me just a few nights ago. The site contains local recipes by MIT students. It looked easy and here goes:

1 lb pork, minced (I use 50% lean pork and 50% pork bellies)
1.5 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp Hua Tiao cooking wine
1/2 tsp Worcerstershire sauce 
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/8 tsp five spice powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon powder


Chop the pork bellies into small pieces (not minced). I used the food processor to help me.


Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and whisk it till it is well-blended. Combine the mixture with the minced meat in a big bowl and use a pair of chopsticks to stir until well-mixed.


Put the meat mixture (I divide into 2 portions) on a piece of aluminium foil. Cover with cling wrap. Use a rolling pin to spread the meat into a sheet till it is about 3-4 mm thick.

Remove the cling wrap. Fold the edges of the foil to get a makeshift tray to collect the juices.


Put the meat on the third rack from the top and broil on one side for 11 minutes, followed by the other side for 6 minutes, and finally on the first side for another 3 minutes (adjust for your own oven and meat thickness).

This was the part that the drama began. After broiling for 11 minutes, the kitchen was a bit smoky. I dismissed it, thinking it was part and parcel of broiling. Turning the meat over, the meat continued to be broiled for another 3 minutes when the smoke got into our eyes and irritated them. S, who was chatting with me on gchat, alerted me that it would get so smoky that it might trigger the alarm. I panicked and did a most silly thing – tying the divider (which is just a sheet) between the kitchen and the bedroom so that it would allow more circulation. That was a grave mistake.

The smoke got into the bedroom which has smoke detector and within a minute, the alarm was set off. Panic attack! I ran to the oven and took out the tray of meat. The oil/lard/juice (whatever it was termed) was burnt! Then I ran back to the bedroom and quickly opened the window in the middle of a blizzard! The hubs took the paper bag and tried to create more air movement while I removed our laptops from under the sprinklers (where our kitchen was placed).

Meanwhile, S tried to calm me down, informing me that this was normal and perhaps the fire brigade would only be alerted if the alarm was really triggered. At the sight of those words, I panicked even more. OH NO!! Waiting for 10 minutes, I thought the fire brigade wouldn’t be coming and calmed down a little with the alarm still sounding loudly. Two minutes later, I thought I heard a siren and went out to take a look. OH NO! I saw a few ambulances coming near our building. OH NO! OH NO!

I raced back to our unit and informed the hubs. I was like the headless chicken, running around. It must have been quite a sight. One moment I was at the window, trying to ascertain the situation. The other moment, I was out again to see if any fireman or first-aider was coming into the building. The hubs asked me to calm down and he was really cool like cucumber.

The alarm finally shut up after a good five minutes (I think). No fire brigade? No first-aider? I went out to look again and was also rehearsing in my mind my apology. I must remember to look pathetic. Sorry, Mr Firemen! I was broiling something and it got burnt! Everything was all right. I’m sorry to trouble you. How about a chocolate muffin? I really felt bad if they were to turn up in the middle of a blizzard and realised that it was nothing serious.

I calmed down finally, after a good 30-minute. They were not coming after all. I thought of giving up but S encouraged me to go on, stating that many of her friends have triggered the detector several times and it was common. However, it IS definitely NOT usual for me. Since when have our apartments back home been installed with smoke detector. This was surely a first for me and certainly hope it would be the last too. After another encouragement from my SIL, I decided to go ahead with the second portion. This time, I decided to use what I know.

I put in the meat mixture again in the oven with a temperature of 450F for about 5 minutes. Take it out, remove the juice and turn the meat over. Put in again for 5 minutes. By now, both sides should be a little cooked. It was not smoky too. Try the steps again for 1 or 2 times more. Remove any juice that the meat exudes. Then turn down the temperature to 200F and leave the meat in. I have to ascertain its readiness by the sight of the meat. I did a lot of checking before it was done. Time-consuming? Yes, but it surely won’t trigger the detector. =)

The result? It was good! I mean, really good. But I don’t think I would be doing it again. It was too trumatic for me. Anyway, it is really not healthy to consume this, in my humble opinion. Can you look at the juice /lard/oil that was produced? I’m quite disgusted by it =p.

Besides eating bak kua on its own, how else can you eat it? Fried rice! It tastes like lap cheong.

Some of the sights after the blizzard.




Do the pictures remind you of Narnia when it was frozen by the White Witch?

Happy is the baker

I do love gatherings and especially those that call for pot-luck dishes. Because I would be able to bake and have honest critics. If not, how else would two lovely people be able to stomach all those rich food?

At the same time, however, I would be all stressed since I only want to bring the best dessert dish to the gathering. Anything that falls short of my own standard won’t do. They have to be good, if not, decent.

Yesterday, we had a farewell pot-luck dinner for SL who will be going back to China in a couple of days’ time. I wanted to bake Pineapple Tarts for her since CNY is coming. The preparation started a day before and the whole of the morning was devoted to the tarts.

Afternoon came which I had to bake something for me to bring to the dinner. I had chocolate mousse cake in mind initially but the indecisive me decided to make Tiramisu instead. It was a different recipe from what I normally used and I couldn’t be sure if the turnout would be nice. After the tiramisu was set, I tried a mouthful and it was heavenly! But still, as a backup (not everyone can stomach raw yolks), I baked Chocolate muffins since nothing could go wrong with chocolate.


The feedback was great! The guests probably did not know what Pineapple Tarts were and after they tried them, they went back for more! My most ardent fan was Tom who had at least four of those tarts (I didn’t bring many). The tiramisu received fabulous review too. Happy was the baker when she heard the exclamation, “Oh! This is GOOD!”

I guess those recipes are to stay!

Chocolate-chocolate chunk muffins (Adapted from Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan), yields 15 muffins

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