Bak Kut Teh
"Bak Kut Teh" is a Chinese Hokkien word. "Bak" refers to a type of meat. "Kut" means bone, and "teh" means tea. But, there is no "tea" in the ingredient of making "bak kut teh". The logic of the word "tea" comes from drinking Chinese tea with "bak kut teh". As I remember when I was growing up in Penang, "bak kut teh" was available only in the morning as a morning tea meal in a traditional Chinese "tea house". Just like eating "dim sum" or "yum cha". This morning ritual is to restore the "qi" energy and vitality in our bodies before we start the day. Now, "bak kut teh" in Penang, Malaysia is rarely available in the morning, but more as an afternoon and evening meal.
Traditionally, "bak kut teh" is made from scratch mixing the different Chinese herbs to balance the "yin-yang" and "qi" energy of the body. In this recipe, I will share with you the different types of Chinese herbs and spices that go into making the herbal soup. The longer you brew the herbs and spices, the stronger is the flavour of the soup. You can season the soup by adding light soy or sea salt for saltiness, and rock sugar for sweetness. This depends on individual tastes.
Place the Chinese herbs and spices in a separate sachet bag
Blanch and rinse all pork bones and meats. Place the herbs, spices, garlics and pork in a clay pot filled with 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to the lowest heat to gently brew for a few hours
Prepare accompaniments to go with the herbal soup and serve with rice
How to make
First, place Chinese herbs in a sachet bag. Divide them into separate sachets, if necessary. Place the spices in a separate sachet bag.
Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Then add the pork bones and pork meats to blanch for 2-3 minutes. You will see some scums floating on top of the water surface. Remove the pork bones and meats. Rinse under running tap water to wash off any residues sticking to the bones and meats. Set aside.
Fill a clay pot with 2 litres of water (note: in my video, I used 3 litres of water, which was too much liquid for the portion of herbs and spices used). Then add the sachets of herbs, spices and garlic bulbs. Bring the liquid to a boiling temperature, then reduce the heat to the lowest temperature. Next add the cleaned pork bones and meats and gently brew the stock for 4 hours minimum. Halfway through the brewing time (2 hours), remove the pork meats only (including pork ribs if you are using them) and set aside. Add the remaining herbs - red and black dates, and goji berries. (Hint: the longer you brew the herbs, spices and bones, the better and stronger is the flavour of the soup)
While waiting for the herbal soup to continue brewing, prepare the following accompaniments:
- soak the dried shiitake mushrooms with room temperature water for at least 1 hour. Once they are soft, squeeze the mushrooms to remove any excess water and discard the woody stem. Set aside.
- soak the dried bean curd sticks with hot water for at least an hour. Gently squeeze the bean curd sticks to remove any excess water and set aside.
- cut the tofu puffs into halves or leave whole (personal preference). Then quickly blanch with hot water from the kettle and drained. Set aside.
- mince some cloves of garlic. Finely slice some fresh red and green bird-eye chillies. Place the garlic and chillies in a small bowl with some light soy. Set aside as a dipping sauce.
- separate the enoki mushrooms into a few smaller bunches. Lightly rinse to clean and set aside.
- wash 1-2 cups of long grain rice. Cook rice using master stock (from my other video "soy poached chicken") or water.
After the herbal soup "bak kut teh" has been brewed for 4 hours, use a smaller clay pot (if you have) or any other pots for a final stage of preparing the "bak kut teh" for serving. In this smaller pot, add some pork meat and pork ribs enough for the number of people you are going to serve. At this stage, you need to cut the pork into small bite pieces. Add sufficient soup to cover the meat. Bring to a quick boil, then add a few tofu puffs, bean curd sticks, shiitake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms and cook for 3-5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest temperature. Taste the soup. Adjust the saltiness and sweetness based on your own taste. Turn the heat off and serve with some rice and the dipping sauce.
Tip: you can continue to slowly brew the main pot of soup with the herbs and spices for another 2-4 hours. After that remove and discard the sachet bags of herbs and spices.
1.5 - 2 kgs of pork bones and pork meat (use either pork ribs, pork belly or pork shoulder or a combination of meats) Hint: leave the pork meats in large chunky pieces
8-10 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 packet of enoki mushroom
10-12 dried bean curd (tofu) puffs (cut in half or leave whole)
4-6 dried bean curd sticks
1-2 cups of long grain rice
2 - 3 bulbs of garlic
spices - 3 cinnamon sticks, 10 cloves, 5 star anises and 1 teaspoon of white peppercorns
herbs 1 - 10 Chinese red dates, 10 Chinese black dates, 2 tablespoons of goji berries
herbs 2 - 1 tablespoon of angelica "dang gui", 1 tablespoon of szechuan lovage "chuan xiong", 4 slices of solomon's seal "yu zhu", 4 slices of liquorice "gan cao", 2 sticks of codonopsis pilosula "dang shen", 3 foxglove "shu di" and 3 mandarin peel "chen pi"
light soy, sea salt and rock sugar to taste