Bak Kut Teh, is literally translated as Pork Ribs Tea. But I think it is more meaningful to be called Pork Ribs Herbal Soup to detail this Malaysia/Singapore specialty. The mouth-watering Chinese savory soup is made from pork ribs which is simmered in a collection of Chinese herbs for several hours. It is also served with white rice or yam rice, ‘yu cha kui’ (fried dough stick), fresh raw garlic and oyster-sauced ice-berg lettuce.
Bak Kut Teh is a popular dish among South-East Asia Chinese but surprisingly, not among the typical Chinese in China. According to Wikipedia, Bak Kut Teh was first introduced to Malaya in 19th century by the coolies from Canton or Hong Kong as they ate to gain energy. That’s a bit of the history.
And how Bak Kut Teh is prepared? Usually back in my home country, my mom would get a pack of herbs from Chinese medicinal hall. They are later wrapped using a white linen and put in water to simmer with pork ribs. In my situation, I usually purchase a packet of A1 Bak Kut Teh from grocery store in Malaysia and then simmer with pork ribs for an hour or two.
On the other hand, living here in Austin means I need to ration my ‘imported’ paste/ingredients. This is my second attempt of cooking Bak Kut Teh. Obviously, this round I was very satisfied. Perhaps, I deserved a little credit on both important criteria – the flavor/taste and the presentation. In addition, I prepared my home-made meat balls to be added into the soup. While in my first attempt, I did not have sweet soy sauce and therefore the color of the soup was in lighter shade (not dark) which somehow did not perceive to be apppealing even though the taste of it was pretty much the same.
Read on how did I mess up with my cooking lab…
Ingredients (Serving for 4)
2/3 pound pork ribs – large cut
4 cup water
10-12 clove garlic
1 packet Bak Kut Teh spices (I used A1 brand – made in Malaysia)
2 cup cabbage – large squared
5 piece black mushroom – immersed in water for an hour, cut into 4 each (optional)
1 cup baby corn (optional)
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce (I used ABC brand – made in Indonesia)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
A pinch of salt
Some spring onion (scallion) – chopped
To prepare the meat balls
1/3 pound ground pork – to prepare meat balls
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp corn starch
Dash of salt & pepper
1. Marinate the ground pork with soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt/pepper and corn starch for an hour.
2. Rinse the pork ribs.
3. Place water into a saucepan. Bring it to boil.
4. After the water is boiled, add in the garlic, pork ribs and a packet of A1 Bak Kut Teh spices.
Use 2 spoons to make the meat ball and roll into the soup gently.
5. Turn to medium heat. Put in cabbage and simmer for an hour.
6. Stir occasionally.
7. Add in dark sweet soy sauce, light soy sauce and oyster sauce.
8. Simmer for another 5 minutes and turn off the heat.
9. Dash some pepper if you like.
10. Serve hot and garnish with some chopped spring onion.
Tips: In my recipe, I add some cabbages as it usually supplies a bit of natural sweetness into the soup. Adding mushrooms (black mushroom, button mushroom and needle mushroom) and baby corns are also common in Bak Kut Teh preparation.