Bak Kut Teh – literally translates to “meat bone tea” (in Hokkien) is a perennial favourite with my family.
History has it that Bak Kut Teh was introduced to Malaya back in the 19th century by Chinese workers from the Fuchien (Hokkien) province. Back then, most of these immigrants worked mainly in the docks and Bak Kut Teh was usually their main meal. So it isn’t surprising to note that Klang and Port Klang are where the Bak Kut Teh action is! Bak Kut Teh is essentially meat (usually pork) simmered in a soup rich with a mixture of Chinese herbs for hours. Angelica sinensis (dang gui), star anise, cinnamon, red dates, ginseng roots, white pepper, wolfberries are just some of the herbs that go into this concoction.
I was first introduced to Klang Bak Kut Teh some 20+ years ago. The all-time family favourite BKT place for us is none other than Klang Lek Bak Kut Teh in Taman Teluk Pulai – read my post about it here. This shop is just a stone throw away from my in-laws’ place back then and it used to be an almost-every Sunday breakfast affair. This place is so popular that we practically had to wait near occupied tables, willing them to finish their meal quickly. My penchant for BKT was more pronounced during my pregnancy and even now we often say that LL got his very early doses of BKT when he was still a foetus in my womb! Need I mention that he is now a true-blue BKT fan?
We still go back to Klang for Ah Lek’s magical BKT broth – yes, still in the same shop as 20+ years ago! The Hokkien-styled BKT is darker in colour, from liberal use of dark soya sauce and the taste of Chinese herbs is stronger. Klang residents eat BKT at any time of the day, starting from early morning! It is a common sight to see people enjoying their BKT in the shops as early as 6am. Besides various cuts of pork (ranging from ribs to knuckles to belly cuts), quite often offal is included – like intestines and stomach. Most Klang BKT lovers would be familiar with the way the intestines are stuffed until they form a solid mass. I have actually learned the technique to do this and very often this is added to our home-cooked BKT.
I prefer using a claypot to serve BKT. Besides keeping the soup piping hot for a long time, there is something very comforting about sharing a big pot of home-cooked goodness! Cooking BKT at home is really a very simple task as you can get the BKT herbs and spices all packed in neat packets, available in the supermarkets/grocery stores.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1kg meat (pork tastes best!) – use your favourite cuts
1 whole bulb of garlic – do not remove skin, crush it lightly
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
3 tbsp light soya sauce
salt to taste
1. Boil a pot of water and put in the meat, boil for about 3-5 minutes and then drain – to remove the scum.
2. Boil the 2.5L of water, then put in the pre-boiled meat, the BKT herbs, garlic, soya sauces.
3. Simmer on low heat for about 2 hours until meat is tender.
4. Put in enough salt to taste and serve.
Of course nowadays many people add in fried beancurd sheets (fuchook), beancurd puffs (taupok) and mushrooms for added taste. Those are my favourites too and you can be sure there’re lots of those in my pot of BKT!
Bak Kut Teh goes very well with rice and for added punch, chilli padi in light soya sauce! I usually have “Fragrant Oily Rice” served with BKT. For that, fry some sliced shallots and garlic in some oil and then add this fragrant oil into the rice cooker and cook your rice the usual way. Don’t discard those crispily-fried shallots and garlic – sprinkle them on the rice and brace yourself for some delicious home-cooked comfort food!
And here’s the BKT No.1 Fan who inspired this post
I am submitting this for Babe in the City-KL’s Merdeka Open House 2011 with this year’s theme “Eating through Malaysia”.