The boiling aromatic pot of tender soft bak kut (pork ribs) simmering in hot claypot and spices, bak kut teh in Penang is not as well-known as Klang but unsurprisingly, it is one of the hawker foods that locals have enjoyed for breakfast and supper. Bak kut teh will keep your tummies warm and cravings satisfied.
Bak kut teh literally means Pork bone tea soup and is a Chinese herbal soup dish believed to be introduced into Malaysia in the 19th century by Chinese workers.
Due to the what the ethnic Chinese believe to be the “heaty” nature of the soup, it is expected that this particular food be available either early in the morning or in the evening till late at night. Bak kut teh has always been a treat for those who love warm soup with herbal meaty flavours. Bak kut teh is not only delicious but also rich in nutrients to provide us a full-day energy.
The bak kut teh stalls in Penang usually take up spots in coffee shops and some are on pavements outside the coffee shops but one thing is for sure, the stalls are usually open till past midnight to serve the supper crowd.
Each stall may serves a different mix of ingredients in each claypot, the usual ingredients will consist of pork ribs, mushrooms, bean curd, meat balls and several other parts of the pig from the tail to the trotters, tongue and intestines. There will also be a plate of deep fried crullers (eu char koay) to dip into the soup before eating. The broth is prepared with Chinese herbs and is infused with spices such as cinnamon and star anise.
To balance up the decidedly meaty dish, most bak kut teh stalls will also offer side dishes such as lightly blanched iceberg lettuce topped with meat floss and sesame oil for added flavours. At some stalls, they also offer deep fried crispy tau kua (beancurd) topped with spicy sauce and shredded vegetables.
These are then served with plain white rice or the more flavourful yam rice. To spice it up a bit, they have cili padi in soy sauce and chopped garlic in dark soy sauce to dip the meat into for extra flavours.
Our little food heaven here do have many to offer when it comes to bak but teh, at least not as good as the ones in Klang some may claim, but there are still those that offer up tasty concoctions that are perfectly flavourful without being too overpowering.
Here are few bak kut teh stall in George Town for you to try out.
How Bak kut teh @ Jalan Perak (6pm-12am)
Hong Xiang Bak Kut Teh @ Jalan Macalister (11am-10pm)