It seems for most Singaporean hawkers, lard is their not-so-secret weapon to whipping out mouth-watering char kuey teow, Hokkien mee, and bak chor mee. However, the way the lard is used is still a mystery to me. Did they use lard as cooking fat, in place of oil? Is it a combination? If so, what's the ratio? Or did they just use the pork's back fat, and fry it up like cracklings? Or is the answer: All of the above?
I decided to do a little investigating on the Web. I found several recipes that call exclusively for lard as the "cooking oil." And the fried pork fat bits are separate. Mystery solved. Now, I know lard has a terrible reputation, but new studies have shown that they're actually better for you than vegetable shortening and margarine. Of course, moderation is the key.
Bruce Aidells, Bay-area's sausage king, frowns upon the store-bought packaged bricks of lard, which are "highly processed and don't taste anything like real lard." Instead, he encourages you to make your own. Here's his lard recipe"
6 pounds pork back fat, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1.) Preheat the oven to 300F
2.) Put cubed fat in large pot or Dutch oven, making sure it's no more than half full
3.) Slip into oven and bake until the fat begins to melt.
4.) Stir the mixture every 45 minutes, until the bits of cracklings (fat) brown and float to the top. It could take as long as 4 hours.
5.) Strain lard and store in canning jars. Cool and refrigerate.
If you grind them, the cooking time can be reduced.
The lard could store up to 6 months.
It's tedious, but could be worth it.