“Rain….rain…go away! Little children want to play….” Yup, it is the rainy season and the temperature outside has turned quite cold recently. Since it is cold outside, everyone starts to wear thick clothing, bring umbrellas and sit together to enjoy a hot meal. Indeed! Nothing comes with the blessing of a hot meal, especially a steamboat on a chilly day. However, there is one local delicacy that is worth introducing to your friends and relatives from overseas, that is the famously known “Bak Kut Teh”.
This is one of my favorite dishes, followed by Steamboat which I would usually take during Chinese New Year with my close relatives. However, Bak Kut Teh sits on top of my favorites list as it does not only taste great, the smell of its ingredients will surely make everyone instantly open wide their appetite. However, some people, especially friends from overseas, may have a lot of questions about this dish. No worries, let me talk about Bak Kut Teh and its ingredients.
What is “Bak Kut Teh”?
First of all, what is that? “Bak Kut Teh” is a Chinese dish, serves in a bowl of soup with pork ribs and a bunch of herbal ingredients. The “Bak Kut” is a Hokkien word, known as pork ribs while the word “teh” means tea in the Hokkien language. Thus, it directly translates as pork rib tea, but in fact that it is a drink but more like a cuisine in which it is served along with a bowl of rice and a mixture of chopped green and minced garlic soak in soy sauce.
The Origins of Bak Kut Teh
Next, from a historical standpoint, the actual origin of this dish is unknown. During WWII, a different version of the dish was marketed along the Singapore River, notably at Clarke Quay and River Valley. Most people assume, however, that the meal was imported by Chinese merchants from Southern China who landed in Port Klang, where it gave rise to the Malaysian Bak Kut Teh. The topic has been a subject of hot dispute for both Singapore and Malaysia, even the former Malaysian ministry of tourism, Ng Yen Yen criticized Singapore for “hijacking” the origin of bak kut teh and strongly claimed the Bak Kut Teh is from Malaysia as righteous. Despite that, none of these claims are proven until this day. It is clear why Malaysians often associate the dish with Port Klang as the place of origin of this dish, thus calling the cuisine “Klang Bak Kut Teh”.
Varieties of Bak Kut Teh
Furthermore, this is one of the most surprising facts which I came across about this dish. Previously, based on my understanding, this dish is a Hokkein dish as the place of origin, Klang is a major Hokkien Chinese region. Until I further dig into it, I realized that Bak Kut Teh consists of two other varieties as well, the Cantonese and the Teochew variety, which means the dish has three different varieties. Now, I’m going to explain the differences of the dish based on the 3 varieties.
Hokkien style Bak Kut Teh
Hokkien-style Bak Kut Teh presents more in a soup form. The soup has a great scent after boiled with rock sugar along with some herbs. Plus, dark soy sauce is added which makes the soup appear dark brown; making the taste slightly saltier than the other varieties.
Cantonese style Bak Kut Teh
Meanwhile, this style of Bak Kut Teh appears to have added more herbs for medical purposes. Most people mentioned that this variety appeared to be less salty with strong herbal scents.
Teochew style Bak Kut Teh
This variant of Bak Kut Teh presents much lighter in color when compared to other variants. Thus, this results in a much lighter taste compared to other variants of Bak Kut Teh mentioned previously.
Ingredients and Serving of Bak Kut Teh
Furthermore, regardless of the appearance of the dish that follows the variant, the base ingredients consist of various herbs and meat with ribs. First, let’s take a look at the herbal parts of the base ingredient. In general, most of the herbs which are used to cook the dish contain some medical benefits. Thus, it is known as the “medicine bag” by most people. Herbs which consist are:
- Solomon’s seal Rhizomes
- A mixture of Star Anise, Cloves, Fennel Seeds and Peppercorn
- Wolf Berries
- Rhizoma Ligustici
- Black dates
- Codonopsis Root
However, each of these herbs has an appropriate proportion to serve a strong scent of Bak Kut Teh. If you are not sure about the proportions, don’t worry. Pay a visit to a Chinese Medicine shop or any market where it is usually sold. For convenience, you may even buy it online. As for the meat section, Pork meat or ribs are widely used among the Chinese to prepare the dish which will undergo a 3B (blanch, boil, and braise) process before serving. Since Malaysia and Singapore are both places with diversity, thus the halal variant was given birth by using beef or mutton as the base ingredient. Besides, the vegetarian variant is also available by replacing meat with Hericium Erinaceus. Along with the herbs and meat, additional ingredients are added as well, mostly button mushroom, garlic along with the seasoning of dark soy sauce.
Besides that, when it comes to serving Bak Kut Teh. The cuisine is usually placed in a clay pot which allows the soup to remain hot and scentful for a long time. Along with bak kut teh as the main dish, bowls of white rice, Chinese crullers, and a small plate of minced garlic immersed with soy sauce are provided. Since I have been presenting so much about the bak kut a lot in general, without further ado, let’s hope into the highlight of the topic, shall we?
Top ten must-try Bak Kut Teh restaurants in Klang Valley
As I mentioned, Port Klang has been associated with the dish for decades. Since the location of Port Klang is just a 27 minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur, thus the influence of the dish is heavily seen as there are countless restaurants that primarily or only serve Bak Kut Teh across the Klang Valley region. Whenever there is Bak Kut Teh, there will be a crowd of people heading towards the restaurant for the sake of having a Klang Bak Kut Teh as a dinner meal every night. However, since there are so many of them, which restaurant might provide the best bak kut teh with the great taste and best value of money? Let’s find out!
Ah Hei Bak Kut Teh
Ah Hei Bak Kut Teh restaurant ranks the highest among the list with a rating of 4.2 according to Google reviews. Located in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, the restaurant operates daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thus, based on the working hours, this restaurant mainly serves as the breakfast place. Although people mostly don’t take Bak Kut Teh as breakfast, the dish is usually quickly sold out by noon. This is due to the dish prepared to have a much lighter herbal taste which is just perfect for those who are having their first time trying Bak Kut Teh or prefer more on the lighter taste.
Kee Hiong Bak Kut Teh
For those who are expecting a true style of Klang Bak Kut Teh, this is the restaurant that you should be looking for. Kee Hiong Bak Kut Teh consists of two restaurants, the base restaurant located in Klang while another one sits in the SS2 Petaling Jaya. So why is it known as the true Klang style Bak Kut Teh? The restaurant is known as one of the oldest restaurants in Klang Valley. Kee Hiong, which was founded by the descendants of Lee Boon Teh, the godfather of bak kut teh from Fujian, China, serves a genuine and flavorful bowl that will bring back memories with each bite. Their soup has a strong herbal flavor, while their dry bak kut teh is spicy and fragrant, thanks to the addition of fried shallots. They currently have multiple locations around Malaysia, as well as branches in Singapore and Perth, Australia.
Ah Ping Bak Kut Teh
Located in Subang Jaya, Ah Ping, a favorite among Subang residents, opened in the late 1980s and serves authentic Klang bak kut teh with chunky pork pieces in a thick and aromatic herbal broth. Meanwhile, the dried bak kut teh recipe is regarded as famously unique as the dry version has grilled pork pieces in a spicy black sticky sauce that will leave you wanting more. Ah Ping’s meat servings are generous, and you can expect succulent, soft flesh that easily slips away from the bone. On a chilly and wet day, dig into their bubbling hot clay pot bak kut teh soup, and you’ll be more than satisfied. The restaurant operates daily, from 4 pm to 10 pm on weekdays and 11 am to 10 pm on weekends. If you don’t feel like dining, Grab and Foodpanda delivery are provided.
Wing Hiong Bak Kut teh
Besides that, Wing Hiong (永香肉骨茶）which sits in Petaling Jaya, has a diverse cuisine that includes clams, fish, pork stomach soup, vinegar pork, veggies, and tofu, in addition to bak kut teh. Their bak kut teh soup is deep, black, and very scented, with a sweet undertone. Each dish is generous and delicious, and you get to choose your meat choices. The dried cuttlefish and caramelized sauce that uniformly covers every piece of meat give its dry version a distinct savory flavor. The restaurant operates daily from ten in the morning until ten fifteen at night.
Teluk Pulai Bak Kut Teh
Both the soup and dry varieties of Bak Kut Teh may be found here at Teluk Pulai Bak Kut Teh (直落玻璃肉骨茶). Even before 7.30 a.m., the location is constantly packed with people. The meal is noted for being served in a soup bowl with pig knuckle, huge bones, and tendons. The dry form of Bak Kut Teh, on the other hand, contains simply pork knuckle for two people. The food is typically served in a clay pot, as this is how bak kut teh is traditionally presented, whether it is a soup or a dry dish. The portion with pig tendons is the restaurant’s signature dish, and it may sell out quickly. Based on the review by most people, the soup version is one of the best which you will catch in the non-stop refilling cycle.
Seng Huat (Under the Bridge) Bak Kut Teh
The restaurant sits in the old town of Klang, below the flyover near the Klang River where the restaurant got its nickname as “Under the Bridge” Bak Kit Teh (桥底肉骨茶). Founded in 1979, this heritage business currently runs by the 4th son of Lee Han Sen, who is one of the grandchildren of Lee Boon Tek, the founder of Bak Kut Teh recipe for over 40 years since the foundation. The restaurant is the most trendy restaurant on google search as internet users typed “Klang Bak Kut Teh” the name will surely appear first on the webpage. Plus, what makes the restaurant famous is that it was visited by numerous celebrities from both local and neighboring Singapore. Also, Seng Huat is famous for its special dish as the highlight, which is their stir-fried Bak Kut Teh with both wet and dry versions available; only served in the Genting branch.
Fatty Bak Kut Teh & Fish Head
Fatty Bak Kut Teh, which has been serving bak kut teh and distinctive steamed song fish (carp) head since 2002, is located on Old Klang Road. Their pigtail, which is wrapped around a bone and features a mix of delicate flesh, soft fat, and chewy skin, is regarded as a specialty. The fish head dish is available in a variety of sauces, including ginger, black soybean, chili sauce, and the original. Since it is produced with a blend of quality soy sauce, fish sauce, and chicken essence, their sauce is both flavorful and healthful.
Sun Fong Bak Kut teh
Sun Fong, a famous restaurant among both residents and visitors looking for a substantial bowl of bak kut teh, is located in the center of KL. They’re famous for providing huge portions of pork kidney and the chewy, delicious meat in a robust, slightly bitter herbal broth. If you want something less harsh, you should take a try at their highlight dish, the seafood bak kut teh, which comes with a rich, sweet broth. Aside from that, their famous dry bak kut teh is flavorful and goes well with rice, so you’ll keep coming back for more!
Kheong Kee Bak Kut Teh
Kheong Kee began as a little corner shop and has now grown to possess multiple business lots around Kuala Lumpur. The vegetarian version bak kut teh is prepared by using the most excellent ingredients that any vegetarian bak kut teh have ever served. Despite having a moderate herbal flavor and being lighter than the Klang version, the soup is calming and tasty in its own right. You should try their yellow wine chicken soup, vinegar pork knuckle, Thai fried tofu, spicy and sour vegetable stew, and black pepper soup with ribs in addition to their bak kut teh.
Samy & Min Bak Kut Teh
In Klang, Malaysia, Samy & Min Bak Kut Teh (三美肉骨茶）has become a household name. The restaurant takes pleasure in the high quality of its offerings, which include creamy broth and delicately fresh meat. Due to the balanced texture of the meat and the bouncy gelatine, their ‘Big Bone’ dish is a favorite for the locals in Klang. Every morning, the ingredients of Samy & Min Bak Kut Teh provides freshly prepared, resulting in smooth and delicate meat that slips off the bones. The dish ‘Samy & Min Pork Bend’ is a best-seller because it includes a rare and limited-edition ingredient. The abalone dish here has a chewy texture and a sweet flavor, making it a fantastic palette teaser before digging into the genuine Bak Kut Teh dishes.
Bak kut teh has become a key business in the Malaysian culinary industry. As in my opinion, the great herbal taste with the nice texture of the pork being braised for a long time is truly worth making it your best choice of dinner. Since there are so many restaurants that are selling the same dish, it is hard to list as the best rated are still out there a list endlessly goes. So next time remember to recommend it to your relatives or friends when you would like to introduce them to local Chinese cuisines.