Singaporean Cuisine: Bak Kut Teh Recipe
On my regular visits to Singapore, I am always surprised how diverse Singaporean cuisine is. Food in Singapore has cultural influences from all over the world and has been assembled together to create something totally unique. You find many cultures, Chinese, Indonesian, Southern Indian, and Malay influencing the food of Singapore, resulting in a cuisine which unlike any country I have ever travelled to.
Singaporeans’ view of food is crucial to their national identity. While sitting with Singaporeans, the conversation always turns to food: where they think the best food is, what they ate on the weekend, and suggestions for your next meal.
Recently I had a coffee with a friend and local chef in Singapore. Our conversation quickly turned to what could be considered national dishes of Singapore. After much discussion and argument, it was decided we would need to start a quest to find the top five dishes which can be considered truly Singaporean.
My friend and I spent two weeks eating our way around the streets and restaurants, in search of our top five authentic Singaporean dishes. However, choosing five authentic food dishes to highlight was a really difficult task. Singaporean cuisine offers so many dishes to choose from, and there are many similarities to the food elsewhere in the world. After much debate, we settled on the following five dishes and included recipes from friends who live in Singapore for you to enjoy. Today I am going to talk about Bak Kut Teh and share its amazing recipe with you!
Bak Kut Teh
Bak Kut Teh is one of the very popular dishes people must try when they come to Singapore. You will find this soup throughout the streets of the country. Many of my Singaporean friends say they start to crave this dish in just a few days when they are travelling away from Singapore.
The name is literally translated as ‘Meat Bone Tea’, but the name is rather misleading because Bak Kut Teh does not actually contain any tea at all, it is a soup! Perhaps it’s the soup’s color that resembles tea. Customarily Bak Kut Teh is prepared through many hours of simmering meaty pork ribs in a broth of pepper and garlic, amongst other herbs. There are many different versions of Bak Kut Teh: the Hokkien style soup, which is dark in color, thicker and more herbal, whereas the Teochew style is a clear and peppery soup. The following is a Teochew style which is the recipe of my friend’s mother.
Photo credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22546001
- 1 kg Pork Ribs
- 2 litres Water
- 2 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Dark Soy Sauce
- 2 TBsp. Light Soy Sauce
- 12 cloves Garlic (old)
- HOMEMADE SPICE MIX
- 2 Star Anise
- 10 Cloves
- 1/2 stick (3-4gm) Cinnamon
- 4 tsp. White Pepper (whole)
- 2 tsp. Black Pepper (whole)
- SAUCES, GARNISHES AND TOPPINGS
- 4 Big Red Chilli
- 5 TBsp. Dark Soy Sauce
- 3 TBsp. Light Soy Sauce
- 2 Chilli Padi For Garnishing
- 4 sticks You Tiao Pre-cooked
- Blanch the pork ribs in a pot of boiling water over high heat for 10 minutes.
- Discard the water and use a small knife to scrape off any blood clots or scum stuck to the pork ribs. Rinse well and set aside.
- Toast the white and black pepper in a pan for a few minutes until aromatic.
- Pound the star anise, white pepper, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon lightly using a pestle and mortar. Place these spices in a small filter bag.
- Lightly bruise the garlic with skin on.
- Wash the chilli and slice it, then and put in a small bowl. Add 5 TBsp dark soya sauce and 3 TBsp light soya sauce to the bowl as the dipping sauce.
- In a large pot, add 2 litres of water and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, add in the blanched pork ribs, salt, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce and the spice mix bag. Simmer for 1 ½ hour’s over medium-low heat with the lid half-covered.
- Add the bruised garlic and continue to simmer for another 15 mins or until the pork ribs are soft. More light and black soya sauce may be added to taste.
- Fish out and discard the bag of spices.
- Serve the Bak Kut Teh with the dipping sauce and rice.