I come from a town that is famous for Bak Kut Teh. No prizes for guessing where (if you’re from Malaysia)!. But the odd thing is, my family never used to eat much of it. We’d perhaps go for Bak Kut Teh 4-5 times a year? I mean, we loooourrrrvve it. The herbal broth of pork simmered for hours until the meat is impossibly tender. Onion oil rice. Oil fritters soaking up that flavourful broth. All the added trimmings like beancurd skin, tofu puffs, mushrooms, pork intestines etc. All washed down with Chinese tea. As such Bak Kut Teh is literally means Meat Bone Tea in the Hokkien dialect. It’s just too good.
Thing is, Bak Kut Teh is traditionally eaten as a breakfast. It was originally created by enterprising food hawkers to cater for Chinese labourers. These labourers needed something filling (rice & meat), nourishing (herbs & ginseng in broth) and warming (hot broth) to ensure they were able to withstand the hard labour. Hence, this became a popular breakfast meal.
If you know my family, we tend not to have such heavy breakfast. I mean, yes, we do sometimes have a small bowl of bihun or nasi lemak but that’s not really the norm. As much as we love Bak Kut Teh, we can only stomach it later in the day. That’s why we usually cook our own if we want some for dinner!
I made some recently for our church’s lunch and it went down rather well. It always draws people to the pot because it’s so wonderfully fragrant. So easy to make too these days with prepacked powdered spices. You just have to experiment with the brand you like. My favourite is the one handwrapped by my late grandma’s pork seller. As I don’t get to see him often, I’d just use whatever I can find.
For the soup base, I used:
Once the broth is done, which needs some good time, then you can pretty much add whatever trimmings you like. I used shimeiji mushrooms, beancurd skin (not the same as the one used in my Ngoh Heong. This one is crisp and smaller) & tofu puffs.
Next time, I’ll visit a Chinese medicinal store for a hand-selected spice pack so we can have a look the various spices and herbs that go into making this. Enjoy, peeps!
“My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change.” (Proverbs 24:21)
Bak Kut Teh
500 gms (appx 1.1 lbs) Pork Ribs (or any bony cuts that benefit from long braising), chopped to 2 inch chunks
1 whole bulb Garlic
1 packet pre-packed Bak Kut Teh spices
2 tbsp Dark Cooking Caramel
5 tbsp Soy Sauce
8 cups Water
1 pack/can Mushroom of choice (I used Shimeiji)
10 small sheets Beancurd Skin (tau kee)
7-8 Tofu Puffs (tau pok), halved
- Bring a little over 8 cups of water to a boil.
- Blanch pork by pouring boiling water over meat and let it soak for about 5 minutes. Drain and repeat if desired.
- Place blanched pork, garlic, spice pack, cooking caramel, soy sauce and the rest of the water in a stock pot or slow cooker.
- Bring to a boil the let it simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours until meat is fork tender. If using slow cooker, set to LOW and cook for 8 hours. I do mine overnight.
- Just before the broth is done, blanch beancurd skin and tofu puff with some boiling water to remove some oil.
- Add mushroom, beancurd skin and tofu puff into broth and bring to a boil. If using slow cooker, pour into a pot and bring to a boil as well.
- Simmer for additional 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning using soy sauce.
- Serve with oiled rice or even noodles!
** You can add whatever ingredients you want into this. Change up the mushrooms and add form tofu. You can even use chicken of beef if you so prefer.