Bah kut teh literally translates from Hokkien as meat bone tea. There are many versions throughout Singapore and the Malaysian Peninsula but it is generally pork ribs in clear broth with either Chinese herbs or lots of pepper and garlic, never both together. The chicken version is fittingly known as chick kut teh.
My KL friend was shocked that I’d not tried the famous Klang Valley Bah Kut Teh before. He promised that he’d take me there and give this ignorant Singaporean a taste of the dry version of bah kut teh. When I went up to KL last month, we spent almost an hour driving from KL to Klang. He takes any excuse to trek out there for his BKT fix.
We’ll start with the wet version. This one is pretty standard fare, with herbal soup and the option to add more ingredients like taukee (tofu sheets) and taupok (deep fried tofu cubes). I liked the aromatic broth and the ribs were pretty succulent even though I was tricked by a piece of bone masquerading as meaty pork rib.
Next up was the dry version of the bah kut teh. It’s actually described as “stewed meat” on the menu and technically isn’t bah kut teh considering there’s no soup in it. It comes piping hot in the claypot, check out the steam escaping. Thick chunks of belly pork are braised in heaps of dark sweet soy sauce and the killer ingredient, dried squid. Topped off at the last moment with lettuce leaves, the combination of tender savoury meat and squidy goodness makes it totally worth the long drive out. I slurped up every last bit of gravy in the pot.
Even though we were pretty full by then, brunch is brunch, so we had to seek out the breakfast portion of it. We also had the flimsy excuse of getting some kopi to stave off post-food coma for the drive back. Kopi peng (iced local coffee) is really famous at one of the stalls in the area, so we each had one. My friend asked for his to be gao (extra thick). The coffee was rich and strong, sweetened just-so with condensed milk. Reminded me of a toned down version of Vietnamese ca phe sua da. It went down smooth and was just the thing after lunch.
Well, you can’t just have kopi and nothing else right? Of course we ordered kaya toast. It’s quite different from the Singapore version. This one comes in a charcoal-toasted bun and has butter spread carefully so that the whole layer melts unctuously into the kaya. And the kaya! It’s more caramel than coconut and has this intense, almost molasses flavour that isn’t over-sweet. It is so excellent I could give up my Ya Kun kaya toast for it.
Having thoroughly fortified ourselves with Klang delights, we headed back to spend the afternoon playing wii.