Friday, 2 November 2012

Bak Kut Teh

My family loves bak-kut-teh (especially my 5 year old son - sometimes I reckon he can have it three meals a day and still wants more!).  Bak Kut Teh is a herbal soupy stew that primarily uses various cuts of pork, boiled over hours to obtain that heady herbal flavours with melt-in-your mouth pork meat. 

For someone who absolutely loves her bkt, I didn't know that our southern neighbour's (Singapore) version is totally different until just last year!  Malaysian version of bkt is thicker and darker (use more dark soy sauce) and much more herbally, whilst the Singaporean version leans towards a peppery broth (almost like pig stomach pepper soup).  So yes, this is the Malaysian version :)

Everyone has their own list of favourite bak-kut-teh eateries, but it is getting so expensive eating out these days, so it makes sense to cook it at home sometimes, especially since ready-made bakuteh herbal packs are easily available. 

However, home cooked versions are usually more watery than those made in the shops as they used a lot of pork bones, boiled over long hours (and with liberal doses of MSG added in no doubt).

Typical ingredients to make bakuteh broth include:

  • Pork bones
  • Garlic
  • Tong Sum
  • Tong Kwai
  • Chuin Kung
  • Sook Tei
  • Kei Chee
  • Yuk Chuk
  • Kam Choe
  • White peppercorns
  • Black peppercorns
  • Anise pepper or Szechuan pepper (Fah Chiew)
  • Fennel seeds (jintan manis)
  • Cumin seeds (jintan putih)
  • Cloves (bunga cengkih)
  • Star anise (bunga lawang)
  • Cinnamon stick (kayu manis)
When I cook bkt at home, I usually use the herbal packs as a base, and supplement the broth with smoked garlic and some additional herbs to enhance the flavour.  This gives the soup more depth. 

Bak-Kut-Teh (Herbal Pork Ribs Stew)

  • 800g pork ribs (I prefer to use soft ribs), par boiled, rinsed off the scum
  • 3 large bulbs of smoked garlic, rinsed 
  • 1 large bulb of normal garlic, rinsed
  • 2 pieces of tong kwai (about 3 cm in length per piece)
  • 2 sticks of tong sum (about 3 inches in length per piece)
  • A small handful of yuk chuk pieces
  • 1 tsp of black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp of white peppercorns
  • 400g fried tofu, cut into bite size cubes
  • 150g pork meatballs, rinsed
  • 200g oyster mushrooms, rinsed
  • 2 packs of fried tofu puffs (2 x 50g)
  • 2 packs of straw mushrooms (2 x 10g)
  • 1 packet (2 sachets) of bakuteh ready made herbal pack
  • 1 tblspn black soy sauce
  • 2 tblspn light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp chicken stock powder (optional, depending on how heavy you prefer the flavour)
  • Salt and pepper

1.  Put 2.5 litre of water to boil.  Add in the 2 sachets of bkt herbal packs, smoked garlic, normal garlic and all the additional herbs and aromatics.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20min.

Smoked garlic

My preferred brands of bkt herbal packs - Claypot brand (Klang bkt variety)
and Xifu brand (for its lighter version of Si Chuan bkt) 

2.  Add the pork ribs, bring to a boil again, and let simmer for 1.5 hours.

3.  Add the fried tofu, tofu puffs and meatballs, and let simmer for another 10min.  Add the oyster mushrooms and strawmushrooms.  Add seasonings and adjust the taste.  Once the mushrooms have softened, switch off the fire and serve the stew with hot steam rice.


  1. Wow Esther, your bak kut teh has so much good stuff! Delicious.

    1. Ya, i like to add lotsa stuffs in to make it a complete meal.

  2. Esther, I am also a BKT maniac! Can eat without getting tired of it. Oh dear, I want some BKT now!

  3. Hi Esther, my hubby likes BKT with a lot of 'liao' [Kelantan version] like yours. A Hakka friend has cooked BKT which tasted good too and he told me he added 'tien chat' to the soup.

    1. Oh, tien chat is it? Thats new to me, will find out more. Thanks for the tip.

  4. It's one of my favorite comfort dishes too! We eat this at least once a week.

    1. At least once a week? Wow, you are another big bkt fan :) yea, sometimes i crave for it so often, just for the soup, notso much the meat, so i go for the vegetarian version.

  5. Esther, I just had this for lunch yesterday. You are right that it's getting expensive to eat out nowadays - Three of us paid S$45 for our BKT lunch.

    I like both the dark herbal and white peppery version.

    1. Yea, eating bkt outside is ultra expensive these days, sigh. You know, i told myself i must find a good singaporean bkt place that has good peppery version...:)

    2. I usually have my BKT fixes here:

      1. Song Fa BKT ( - 3 outlets
      2. Ng Ah Sio BKT (208 Rangoon Road)

      But there are few other famous outlets like Outram Park Ya Hua BKT and Founder BKT. But personally, I like Song Fa and Ng Ah Sio. Give them a try when you are in town next time.

    3. Thanks for the heads up! My BIL lives in Singapore, so the next time we are in town, will ask him about the above.

    4. Hi Esther, I can't help but to comment that Song Fa BKT has loads of MSG so you are prob better off with Ng Ah Sio. I also enjoy the Klang version at Leong Kee (Klang) along Beach Road (near Arab Street).

    5. Hi Michelle, thanks for that insider info :p Excess MSG makes my kid go hyper! So thanks, noted about Song Fa. We are coming down for christmas, so hopefully i get a chance to drop by those two outlets you mentioned :)

  6. Hi Esther! Although I've never tried or heard Bak Kut Teh, your photos of this dish made me want to have some! Smoked garlic... yum, that sounds so good. Thank you for the images of the packages! It's easier for us to find this product. :)

    1. Thanks Nami...maybe your hubby might know about bkt...taiwanese cuisine would have some herbally stewy thing that is similar. Smoke garlic gives a nice extra kick to this dish..:)


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