Loh bak or five-spice pork roll (卤肉) is one of the festive dishes in my family. Much like many Nyonya or Straits Chinese families in Penang, my family celebrates festivals according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
Every year, there are numerous festivities when special festive foods are served: Chinese New Year, homage to ancestors, the 7th month of Chinese calendar or “the hungry ghost festival,” winter festival, etc. Different festival calls for different offerings or festive foods, but loh bak is always served…
Growing up, I remember many occasions when I helped my family rolling loh bak. Loh bak is made with marinated pork in Chinese five-spice powder and then rolled up with bean curd skin (soy bean skin/腐皮).
My aunt is an expert in making these pork rolls and her loh bak is always moist, aromatic, and delicious. She also makes a killer vegetarian version which is made of taro (locally called “yam” or 竽头).
The vegetarian version is often served during the “Kao Ong Ya” (Nine Emperor God/九王爷) festival when many Straits Chinese observe up to 9 days of pure vegetarian meals. The very thought of loh bak–both meat and vegetarian versions—simply makes my mouth water…
Here is my family’s recipe for loh bak, another classic Nyonya/Straits Chinese recipe.
Loh Bak Recipe (Five-Spice Pork Roll/卤肉)
Five Spice Pork Rolls or Loh bak, a Malaysian recipe with 5-spice marinated pork wrapped with bean curd skin and deep-fried. So yummy.
- 2 pieces bean curd sheets, cut into 6" x 8" rectangles
- 500 g lean pork, cut into strips
- 300 g water chestnuts, skinned and chopped finely
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cucumber, (optional)
Combine the seasonings and add in lean pork strips and marinate the pork overnight.
Chop the water chestnuts and combine with the marinated pork, add garlic, onion and mix well.
Lay one sheet of pre-cut bean curd skin on a flat surface. Light dab it with some water to soften it. Spoon the mixture onto the sheet, fold in the two sides and roll up tightly. Seal the edges with the marinate juice.
Heat up your wok, pour in 2 cups of cooking oil and deep-fry the meat rolls over medium heat until golden brown.
Drain on on paper towels. Serve with sliced cucumber and chili sauce.
Loh bak can be found in the many Chinese kopitiam (coffee shops) in Penang as an appetizer or snack. At home, loh bak is served as a main dish as part of a multi-entree family meal.