Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bak Gwa (aka Rou Gan aka Chinese Jerky)

Photo from

Chinese people just love eating pork, and now that it's closer to Chinese New Year, people are going crazy for Bak Kwa, a special type of grilled pork jerky. It's really delicious stuff, but you can see how healthy it is for you, especially after you take each piece out of a greased wax paper wrapper.

The Daily Singapura Makan blog posted a great article about this very topic today, and I can completely identify with it. When my parents were here a few weekends ago, they gave me a bag full of this, and it lasted less than 2 days. I was snacking on it for breakfast, after dinner, midnight snack, anytime. Yum!

But how does this relate to INSEAD, you ask? Well, you know you've been studying when you start to apply economic principles to everyday things like bak kwa. This past Sunday's newspaper mentioned how bak kwa prices have suddenly skyrocketed around Chinese New Years, from around $20 / kilo to around $30-40/kilo. Sure, so nobody really buys a kilo for themselves, but it's a common gift. Our take on this phenomenon? The demand for bak kwa is fairly inelastic, people are willing to pay almost anything to buy this for CNY. And, what happens when prices suddenly increase in a market? It starts to attract new entrants.. and the Sunday paper even mentioned an economist from Morgan Stanley in Singapore, who said that NTUC (a local grocery store brand) should start supplying a private label bak kwa product because the bak kwa industry was dominated by 2 players who had complete control over pricing. Ok - only in Singapore would a MS economist comment about the economics of food!

Ok, guess that makes me a bak kwa / economics nerd, but I found it really interesting..

btw: Lim Chee Guanj is pretty good! I like the chili pork.. but be ready to stand in line (or queue as they say here)

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