Kim Joo Guan was established in 1977 as a wholesale bak kwa business without a proper retail store. Since the late 1970s, they have been the suppliers of the famous Lim Chee Guan bak kwa. Fast forward to the present, and they have an annual turnover of >S$10 million supplying their bak kwa to more than five retail brands.
They tried their hand with retail in 1986 but they closed down in 1998 due to manpower issues. However, they made a big splash in 2009 when they reopened their one and only retail bak kwa store in Chinatown without giving any notice to the Lim Chee Guan owners. A visibly upset Mr Rod Lim, the owner of Lim Chee Guan, was quoted as saying “I am really surprised that Kim Joo Guan did not tell us they are going into retail again, unlike the first time they opened a shop. We have always been very close and I treat them like family.”
That said, sometimes business and family don’t really mix and since then there was no indication of any supplier switch by Lim Chee Guan.
[ If you’re a bak kwa fan, be sure to have a look at our Top 5 Best Bak Kwa in Singapore! ]
It doesn’t really look too long but you can expect to wait upwards of 40 minutes for your bak kwa. This is not because of any slowness of inefficiency on the part of the shop, but we have customers buying upwards of S$300 worth of bak kwa each. When we were there, we spotted a stream of individuals with their hands full of large bak kwa bags walking out of the store.
This was the queue on a Sunday afternoon exactly one week before Chinese New Year.
Price, Guarantees and Awards
They have priced their signature ‘Gourmet Traditional Pork Slice‘ at a market-spoiling S$51 per kilogram, which is the cheapest amongst all the famous bak kwa stalls that we surveyed that day. We note that this is about a 20-30% premium in pricing over their rates outside of the Chinese New Year period.
Kim Joo Guan does some incredible marketing as well, with guarantees and awards plastered all over the shop. They make the following guarantees in relation to their bak kwa:
- 100% Australian Grain Fed Fresh Pork
- 100% Free from Artificial Colours
- Premium Shoulder Cut
- No Added Preservatives
Now since Kim Joo Guan has been supplying the same bak kwa to multiple retails brands for the past 30-plus years, we wonder why we have not seen any similar claims from bak kwa stores elsewhere. In any event, these guarantees should be applicable to Lim Chee Guan as well since they share the same source.
Kim Joo Guan – Gourmet Traditional Pork Slice
After a long 40 minute wait, we finally arrived at the head of the queue and requested some samples before deciding on how much to buy. Our first bite gave us an extremely delicious and familiar taste – this was very close to the Lim Chee Guan bak kwa deliciousness! This was very close and almost there with the strong delicious fragrance with the oh-so-familiar sweetness. However, the main difference between the bak kwa here and at Lim Chee Guan is the toughness. Kim Joo Guan’s bak kwa is slightly less tender than Lim Chee Guan’s version and this goes down to the grilling and preparation techniques of the bak kwa.
That said, we rate the pork slice bak kwa at Kim Joo Guan a cool super delicious 4.4/5.
Chilli Pork Slice, Gold Coin and Loose Versions
Kim Joo Guan also has a variety of other bak kwa types on sale. They have the chilli pork slice at S$53 per kilogram, its loose version (small pieces) at S$49 per kilogram, gold coins at S$49 per kilogram and loose traditional pork slices at S$47 per kilogram.
Kim Joo Guan definitely has the perfect bak kwa taste down. With their traditional recipe that is around 100 years old, it has withstood the test of time. If you would like to buy a ton of bak kwa for your Chinese New Year consumption but you are really afraid of the crazy queues at Lim Chee Guan, you may wish to consider getting your annual fix at Kim Joo Guan. You will not get the exact same perfection as Lim Chee Guan, but for the lesser queues and cheaper price, Kim Joo Guan is a very good option.