Kim Hwa Guan is a famous bak kwa store that you will see in almost everyone’s top bak kwa list. When we made a trip down to their store on a rainy Sunday afternoon, there were no less than 7 staff working around the store to churn out that amazing bak kwa. When we joined the queue, there was a nice elderly man from the store who came to chat with us. We surmise that he had a managerial or supervisory role but he played down his position. A significant portion of the staff at Kim Hwa Guan, the elderly man included, only come out during the Chinese New Year period, when there is a ridiculous demand for their bak kwa.
We learnt from the elderly man that Kim Hwa Guan was first established around 50 years ago, and they have been growing their customer base ever since. During the Chinese New Year period, the staff gather before 4am everyday to prepare their bak kwa, and their first customer that day came to the store just after 4am. If you are unlucky, you may have to queue for hours to get the bak kwa from Kim Hwa Guan.
Yes, we are a bit confused about their name. They are listed as ‘Kim Hua Guan’ on their storefront and on their price list, but they use ‘Kim Hwa Guan’ on their packaging and virtually everyone calls them that. Also, yes, their bak kwa is all grilled on the spot at the store, with a complex process that includes cooling the bak kwa down after grilling and adding their secret seasoning.
[ If you’re a bak kwa fan, be sure to have a look at our Top 5 Best Bak Kwa in Singapore! ]
For us, on a Sunday afternoon one week before Chinese New Year, we queued for approximately 30 minutes even though the queue didn’t seem too long – there were about 10-15 people in front of us. Please also note that their bak kwa has a 1kg purchase limit per person during the Chinese New Year period. To us, this was very odd as they were grilling large quantities of bak kwa and with the 1kg limit you would expect the queue to move swiftly. However, we spotted a few people swooping in on the store to pick up what seemed like many large bags of bak kwa and we could only surmise that the limit was not for everyone.
They are one of the more pricey bak kwa stores this Chinese New Year, with their signature ‘square minced pork’ bak kwa going at S$54 per kilogram. Of the famous bak kwa stores in Singapore, Kim Hwa Guan is one of the few to have the minced pork version as their signature item. Others like Lim Chee Guan and Kim Joo Guan do not even offer minced pork options.
Please note that they limit orders to 1kg per person during the Chinese New Year period.
Kim Hwa Guan – Square Minced Pork Bak Kwa
Their signature square minced pork bak kwa has a slightly lighter colour than your usual bak kwa. However, it still packs a monstrous taste behind it. After queuing for about half an hour, we arrived at the head of the queue only to realise that we could have sampled the bak kwa first! They have a loose version of their bak kwa in smaller pieces as well, but this is not on the menu and it is sold for a substantial discount of S$11 per packet. Their available samples was this loose bak kwa as well, but the elderly man assured me that they were virtually identical except for the smaller pieces and maybe slightly greater incidence of black charring.
The loose bak kwa samples were a big disappointment and we sheepishly revised our order to a much smaller quantity. This was a huge mistake! Back at home the full slices of the square minced pork bak kwa were super delicious. We can only put the discrepancy down to either the loose bak kwa being inferior in taste despite the elderly man’s assurances, or that the sealing and seating of a stack of bak kwa together for a couple of hours drastically improves the taste and the delicious juices work their way into the cooked bak kwa.
Kim Hwa Guan’s bak kwa was super soft and tender, and they had a taste which was lighter and slightly less sweet than the overwhelming fragrance that I was used to. As this was minced pork, it was missing the usual fullness of the sliced bak kwa, but you usually have to choose between the soft tenderness of minced pork and the fullness of sliced bak kwa (the only exception to this is Lim Chee Guan’s sliced bak kwa).
We rate the delicious bak kwa at Kim Hwa Guan a super delicious 4.3/5.
This is possibly one of the top 3 bak kwa in Singapore, and it is definitely in our top 5 best bak kwa list. It is also one of the most conveniently located being just outside Chinatown MRT station. The taste is unique compared to the usual bak kwa, but it is still super delicious and we love it. If you are bored of the typical tasting bak kwa from Bee Cheng Hiang and the others, you must try Kim Hwa Guan’s bak kwa.