Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Bak Kut Teh


Recommended Posts

Speaking of "Bak Kut Teh", which in Chinese is 肉骨茶. A friend who lives in Malaysia had sent me a package of Bak Kut Teh seasoning. I followed the instructions and used it to make the dish. It is pretty tasty. I have an impression that it is quite similar to the Lo Shui (master sauce) in mainstream Chinese cooking. The result broth (or liquid) seems a bit salty. I did not keep it.

Then... I feel like a complete idiot... My friend asked me if I drank the "Teh" (tea) from Bak Kut Teh! And I had to tell her the truth...

Questions: What is the essence of Bak Kut Teh? Is it in the meat you cook with the seasoning? Or is it in the "sauce" (tea) itself? Or is it both? Is the broth/sauce/liquid supposed to be salty? If not, I must have done something wrong. Why is it called "Teh" (茶) when there is no tea leaves involved? (or maybe I didn't make it properly).

What is the proper etiquette of eating/drinking this dish?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You threw away the soup?!?!?! :shock::shock:

The soup is only as salty as you make it. AFAIK, the "herb" packets don't contain any salt. Go easy on the salt and you'll be set, and the dark soy is optional. Feel free to double the amount of garlic that the instructions ask for.

Bak kut teh is more a herbal soup than a tea. My stash is at home so I can't read the list of Chinese herbs from the packet. That information should be easy enough to google.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You threw away the soup!!!!!??????? :wacko:

This calls for a Lesson in Bak Kut Teh (BKT). :laugh:

BKT was born in the good old '60s in Klang, a hokkien-dominated town, which is, happily, just 40 minutes away. It is said that if you randomly throw a stone in Klang, it will hit a BKT stall. Famous ones are the one-under-the-bridge and Teluk Pulai BKT. :biggrin: BKT stalls open early and sell out early too. Don't go late or you won't get the cuts you want, which are lean meat, fatter cuts, ribs, big bone, soft bone, feet and innards. Mmm...soft bone...cartillagenous heaven........ :rolleyes:

Coming back...when you order BKT, it comes with a big bowl of the cuts (mixed or specific) you ordered and separate bowls of soup sans meat, but, with tofu pok (tofu puffs) and sometimes foo chook (bean curd sheets) and mushroom. Then, there's the side order of yau char kwai (crispy chinese cruellers); these you soak into the meat-less soup for as long as you like...the longer the soak, the softer the crueller. I like just a half-minute dip for mine. Lovely. The idea is not to taint the flavor of the meat soup.Different stalls have different styles from their secret recipes. Some make their soup clear, some more robust and heavier on spices....one seller said he used 12! Some make their meat firm, some have the meat falling off the bone.

BKT is served with plain hot rice; some shops offer yam rice too. I prefer plain; yam's too heavy with BKT. And, hot freshly-brewed chinese tea. A total BKT experience.

Our mothers used to bag their own mix of spices and herbs but it's now available in convenient pouches. The contents in myA1 Bak Kut Teh spices read - Angelica pepper, Aralia cordata, Sinensis, Cinnamon, Paurantii Star Anise, Astraglietc, Cigusticum, Fructus Zanthoxylum. To tell the truth, I started deciphering all that by googling, but either the names are incomplete or I looked for one name but came up with 2 or more conflicting description. :blink:

I'm going to make BKT tomorrow....with 2 heads of garlic at least and a 2-1/2 hour-brew. I think I'll also add some dried scallops. Yum.

Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never heard of this but it sounds so good.

What is the typical meat served?

You also said it comes in two bowls, do you know why?

Is the bowl with meat also served with soup?

Final question, is this a Malaysian dish or is it popular all over Southeast Asia?

I am working on a list of products I want to pick up in Bali and this sounds intriguing...

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never heard of this but it sounds so good.

What is the typical meat served?

When one makes it at home, we typically use pork ribs. But, chicken can also be used which makes it chik-kut-teh, but it'll result in a different texture/taste, good for a change, though. When you eat out, you get more choices.

You also said it comes in two bowls, do you know why?

Is the bowl with meat also served with soup?

The bowl of meat has soup in it too. But the other one, which is basically the same soup, has in it tofu pok, tofu sheets, firm tofu and mushroom...well, not all of them all the time. Serious BKT eaters don't want the soup corrupted with the other flavors.

Final question, is this a Malaysian dish or is it popular all over Southeast Asia?

I am working on a list of products I want to pick up in Bali and this sounds intriguing...

You should be able to find it in Singapore as well. Haven't been around SEA enough to know if you can find it in other places.

Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bakuteh is one of my favourite foods. It used to be hard to find in Hong Kong - could only fill my cravings when visiting Malaysia or Singapore. But a Malaysian bakuteh maker (Yeoh's, from Klang) opened a branch in Hong Kong and then quickly opened two more. It's quite successful.

The Malaysian bakuteh seems to be more herby than the Singaporean version, which seems more peppery. My Malaysian friends prefer their version, my Singaporean friends like theirs best. I am happy with whatever is put in front of me.

The soup/meat (whichever cuts you choose) are served in a bowl or small sand pot with a plate of rice and a small dish of dark soy, to which you add chillies and/or garlic. I usually eat it Malaysian/Singaporean style and pour a ladleful of soup with some meat onto the plate to soak a small amount of rice then spoon a little soy/chilli onto a mouthful of meat then use my spoon to eat it.

In Hong Kong, many people call bakuteh pai gwat cha (literally pork rib tea in Cantonese) which I believe is also the meaning of bakuteh in another dialect (is it Hokkien?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bak Kut Teh (Hokkien) translates to Pork Rib Tea or Yuk Gwat Cha(Cantonese).

Think there are 2 variations to it, the darker Hokkien (Fujian) version (with dark soy sauce added to the soup) and the lighter Teochew (Chaozhou) version. Like aprilmei says, the dip of light soy sauce with freshly cut red or birds eye chillies is the essential touch to a yummy mouthful of meat, soup and rice.

I think it must be Chinese in origin, brought over to South East Asia with the diaspora and popularized in areas where there is a concentration of Hokkiens and Teochews such that it is now thought of as a Malaysian / Singaporean dish such that even tourists from China visit Klang for Bak Kut Teh as part of their package tours!

For more on Bak Kut Teh, here are links to a couple of articles and a recipe (for those who can't get access the pre-packaged herbs)

- The origins of Bak Kut Teh

- The Broth of Life

- Amy Beh's Bak Kut Teh recipe

Edited by Shiewie (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You threw away the soup!!!!!??????? :wacko:

BKT is served with plain hot rice; some shops offer yam rice too. I prefer plain; yam's too heavy with BKT. And, hot freshly-brewed chinese tea. A total BKT experience.

I love a version where the rice is seasoned with lard and fried shallot sooo fragrant and decadent. Some will argue that the fried onions overwhelms the soup, delicious none the less.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never heard of this but it sounds so good.

What is the typical meat served?

You also said it comes in two bowls, do you know why?

Is the bowl with meat also served with soup?

Final question, is this a Malaysian dish or is it popular all over Southeast Asia?

I am working on a list of products I want to pick up in Bali and this sounds intriguing...

They sell Bak Kut Teh packets at the Asian supermarkets here (several different brands too), so maybe Chinatown might be a good place to find it. Either that or you can get the list of the Chinese herbs used, get them at the Chinese herbalist and DIY! :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You threw away the soup!!!!!??????? :wacko:

Sorry...Sorry...Sorry...Sorry...

I learned of the dish while living in Hong Kong but never had the opportunity to try it. I didn't know what to expect. :sad:

Thank you for the crash course in BKT101. Very refreshing.

I read some of the BKT recipes linked. I know less than half of the spices used! :wacko::wacko::huh:

BKT seems very close to the Chinese "red cook" dishes using "master sauce", except for the difference in spices used.

So... unlike Tea Eggs, there is no tea leaves involved in making BKT?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The defining characteristic of BKT is the use of Chinese herbal roots and medicines. There are more differences compared to "red cooked" dishes than there are similarities, IMHO.

BKT belongs to the class of Chinese soups that includes 八珍药 and chao yi da (Foochow, will find out the pinyin - a pork soup prepared by boiling the roots of a certain tree). To describe BKT as medicinal isn't far off, but it doesn't taste as medicinal as 八珍药, and actual Chinese medicinal drinks.

The "teh" in BKT is somewhat of an anomaly.

Edited by Laksa (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would never think to compare it with red cooked dishes, that's an interesting perspective. To my tongue it tastes very different. In fact, I must confess that I didn't like it the first time I had it, because of the medicinal taste. Over the years it's grown on me.

I wrote about the Singaporean/Hokkien version we make in the Chinese forum a few years ago, here is the thread, it includes a recipe with the pinyin for the herbs.

In Singapore, we get the packages made up for us at an herbal shop (where you can buy yeast for making rice wine too). Here in the US, we haven't had much luck with that, the guys always insist that sort of soup isn't good for you (too much heat) and sell us ching bo leung packages instead. Sigh. The store bought packages here in the US, are not that great. They don't have much herb, and mostly it's just black pepper and msg.

regards,

trillium

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the additional info, trillium.

It seems like Bak Kut Teh is more than just a dish for a meal. People eat it for the herbal/medical reasons?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I drink it because it's so damn tasty. I don't know of anyone who drinks it for medicinal purproses. The fatty ribs that give the soup its flavor will probably offset whetever benefits you might hope to get.

The last BKT meal I had in Malaysia, we ordered a "spare parts" BKT (offal), and a seafood BKT in addition to the traditional pork ribs BKT.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not really. Not like the medicinal Cantonese soups. Which is why I think it's hard for us to get the Cantonese herbal shops to make the packets. People usually eat it because they like the taste, at least the ones I know, but the herbs are supposed to be good for you. And the way I've learned about it is that it is sort of a meal in itself, with all the accutrements, and it started out as a breakfast dish.

regards,

trillium

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's a very good stall in Old PJ, Malaysia. I'll speak to dad about the address and post it here for reference. We've been eating there since, day dot.

I think a word needs to be said about condiments, just a small word :raz: Many of us have a saucer containing hak-yau or thick dark soy sauce, and minced fresh garlic and a couple pieces of chopped cili padi. I drizzle it over the rice too, before pouring on the soup.

Ah Leung... with all due respect.... YOU THREW OUT THE SOUP??? :raz:

Now, on the soup, to add my 2 cts worth, my mother says there is dong-kwei in there which makes it heaty. So don't indulge too much unless you're in confinement :huh:

Being an overseas Chinese, I have to rely on packs sent over, and I find the Eu Yan Sang brand very good. I generally throw in a couple pieces of rock sugar (ping-tong) and a bowl of light soy sauce when it comes to a boil.

For the meat component, I use pork belly :wink: and spare ribs :wink: . Spare ribs in first, up to simmer, blanch the pork belly (in 2in cubes) then into the pot.

At the Old PJ place, they also have a selection of offal such as liver, intestines, trotters <----- EXCELLENT, and also mushrooms (dried shitake variety) in addition to tow-fu-pok.

DAMNIT... the count for homesickness is not up to around 10 threads on eGullet... can't do a pot of the stuff now, it's almost summer down here and too heaty lah!!!

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's a very good stall in Old PJ, Malaysia. I'll speak to dad about the address and post it here for reference. We've been eating there since, day dot.

Hmm....haven't been there in ages. Yup, it's a firm fav with the older generation.

People usually eat it because they like the taste, at least the ones I know, but the herbs are supposed to be good for you.

Here's a list of the herbs (cantonese bold, pinyin italics) from the Amy Beh recipe Shiewie linked to.

Tong Sum/Dang Shen - commonly used as a substitute for ginseng. Appetite booster. Nourishes the blood. Strengthens the lungs (problems with shortness of breath and palpitations)

Tong Kwai /Dang Gui - also referred to as 'women's ginseng because of its role in the processes of the blood....menstrual disorders and blood deficiency. Helps with problems of dry skin, hair and nails, joint pains.

Chuin Kung/Chuan Xiong - Disperses cold, temporal headaches. Invigorates the blood to move problems like painful periods due to blood stagnation.

Sook Tei/Shu Di - For blood deficiency problems like dizziness and palpitations. Helps with night sweats, hot flushes, lumbar aches, infertility and impotence.

Kei Chee/Qi Zi - Strengthens the liver and kidney. Helps with impotence problems and poor vision.

Yoke Chok/Yu Zhu - For dry coughs, thirst and feelings of hunger.

Kam Choe/Qin Jiao - useful for pain, aches, stiffness and cramping of the muscles and tendons. Clears heat.

My fridge's chiller section is pretty much stuffed with the above chinese herbs....hmmm...I need to replenish some of them.

Edited by Tepee (log)

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tong Sum/Dang Shen

Tong Kwai /Dang Gui

Chuin Kung/Chuan Xiong

Sook Tei/Shu Di

Kei Chee/Qi Zi

Yoke Chok/Yu Zhu

Kam Choe/Qin Jiao

With all these herbal ingredients, do you use them in raw (non-shredded) form to make BKT? The package my friend sent me was just a pack of some herbal shreds in a cloth bag. (Very small quantity too it seemed) Would the shredded form be just as good or slightly degraded compared to cooking with the whole herb?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

my grandma always says to go easy on the BKT because it's very nutritious, and can imbalance one's equilibrium.

short answer is that it can raise it, but that's not a bad thing if your blood pressure needs raising!

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Danger danger Yetty...

for some, and I don't count myself amongst them anymore, though I once was... chik kut teh can be like asking for a double de-caf triple skinny soy latte-mocha-cino....

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...