Bak Kut Teh (BKT) in Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) literally means Pork Rib Tea. When I was a child, my mum would cook this herbal soup using the herbs/spices from the Chinese medical shop. Nowadays, most grocery stores and supermarkets in Malaysia and Singapore carry the sachets which contains the powdered herbal mix ready to be used.
Being a strong advocate of healthy eating, I still prefer to use the loose herbs mix in this dry BKT dish. Reason? I once bought a packet of ready to cook BKT sachet and realised that there were preservatives in it. How disappointing!
Klang town in Malaysia is famous for its BKT in soup form. Some years ago a dry version originated from this town and is now not only popular around Malaysia but also in Singapore. The BKT soup is dark and strong (with spices and herbs) in Malaysia whereas the soup is pale and peppery in Singapore.
My family and I love the strong and robust flavours in this dry version; the additional ingredients are fried dried cuttlefish, mushrooms and the chillies which gives it an oomph to our palate!!
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Serves 4 persons
For the broth:
600 pork shoulder ribs/pork ribs, Salt and rinse off after 5 minutes
1½ inch cinnamon stick
15 cloves garlic, rinsed skin on/off
15 pieces of Wolfberry (gei ji), rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon thick dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
For the dry BKT:
350 ml of broth
1 to 2 medium dried cuttlefish, soaked, drained and sliced into strips
6 pieces dried shitake mushrooms, soaked, drained and sliced thinly
2 pieces chilli padi
10 pieces dried chillies
10 ladies’ finger/okra, washed and sliced diagonally about 1cm thick
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ tablespoon thick dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation for the broth:
- Add the water into a pot and bring it to a boil.
- Add in the aniseeds, cloves and cinnamon stick into the boiling water.
- Simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Add in the pork, garlic, wolfberries, dark soy sauce, and light soy sauce.
- Simmer in low heat for 45 minutes.
- Remove the pork from the broth and set aside. Keep the broth for later use.
Cooking Dry BKT:
- Add some oil in a pan/pot, fry the dried cuttlefish for 30 seconds
- Then add the dried chillies, and chili padi until fragrant.
- Add in the mushrooms and stir for another minute.
- Add in the ladies’ finger and fry 30 seconds.
- Add in the pork (from Step 6). Fry for 2 minutes.
- Add in the broth till it adequately covers the ingredients. (Or top up some water.)
- Adjust the taste by adding in the light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Bring it to a boil.
- Simmer until the gravy is reduced to the consistency which you like.
- When it is ready to serve, garnish it with the chopped coriander.
- Goes well with steamed rice.
- If you want your dry BKT to be spicier, you can cut some of the dry chilli into half.
- I used only the basic herbs/spices for this dish.
- If you prefer a firmer texture for the ladies’ finger/okra, add them in in at Step 14 halfway through the simmer.