Bak Kut Teh or 肉骨茶 or "meat bone tea" is a mixture of complex Chinese herbs, garlic and spices pair with pork ribs and simmer for hours. Tenderloins, pork intestines, mushrooms, fried tofu puffs are sometimes added. A handful of lettuce would be added into the soup just before serving. It is believed that Hokkien preferred saltier food and thus more soy sauce was added and created the darker soup base. Another variety is Teochew which has the lighter soup base and more white pepper is added (Singaporean seem to prefer this). As for Cantonese, they loved a stronger flavored soup by adding more medicinal herbs into their bak kut teh. The well known condiments for bak kut teh are red chili, chopped garlic in light or dark soy sauce. Chinese fried dough stick or yu tiao can be ordered as side. Hot water and tea would be offered along side to wash down the oily broth soup.
The history of Bak Kut Teh as quoted in wikipedia, "Bak kut teh was introduced to Malaya in the 19th century by Chinese coolies and workers of Hokkien origin. The dish is reported to supplement the meager diet of port coolies and as a tonic to boost their health. The Teochews came later and the main visual difference between the Hokkien and Teochew version of bak kut teh is that the Hokkiens use dark soy sauce and thus the soup base is characteristically darker in colour."
Klang Bak Kut Teh or 巴生肉骨茶 is a popular Malaysian breakfast. I remembered my dad would drive us all the way to Klang for its Bak Kut Teh every Sunday morning. The place that we frequented many years ago situated behind a Chinese temple (I later learned that it was a Hokkien Association Building) in an enclosed open area. It was run by a husband and wife team. I am not sure whether it is still there or not after almost two decades (can anyone confirm?). The business was good back then and it served the Hokkien version of Bak Kut Teh (one with dark soy sauce). My dad would bring his own tea leaves. And it was our ritual to watch my dad carefully used the hot boiling water provided to clean the tea pot and each tea cups before pouring us our tea. My dad would order the fried Yu Tiao (Chinese fried dough sticks) for us to dip into the soup and we would be really disappointed if they ran out of yu tiao as it was our favorite. Another thing we liked about this place was they served with dark sweet soy sauce along with soy sauce for the chili and chopped garlic as condiment. We fell in love with the sweet soy sauce condiment and even now I want my bak kut teh with sweet soy sauce. Here, I served up my Klang Bak Kut Teh as I remembered it, with fried yu tiao, chili, chopped garlic in sweet soy sauce. Alas! I forgot to prepare a cup of green tea to go with it!
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1 packet of A1 Bak Kut Teh Herbs (60gm) (I guess I have an excuse to use the packet herbs since I am living abroad, :-P)
1 whole slab of ribs, cut
10 cloves of garlic
8 Chinese mushrooms, soften (optional)
5 oz of tofu puffs, cut in half (optional)
4 hard boiled eggs (optional)
10 tofu knots, soften (optional)
Seasonings per packet instruction (soy sauce, dark soy sauce, salt, chicken powder, etc)
Yu Tiao/ Chinese fried dough stick
Chili padi/ Thai bird eye chili
Chopped fresh garlic
ABC sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), or light soy sauce
Just cook everything per packet instruction. I added hard boiled eggs, tofu knots, tofu puffs and Chinese mushroom into mine. You can add whatever you prefer. I simmered mine until the meat on the ribs fall off the bone soft, about 4 hours. Serve with rice, yu tiao, chili, garlic and kecap manis.