Bak Kut Teh

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Preparation info

  • Serves

    3–4

    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Chinese Heritage Cooking

Chinese Heritage Cooking

By Christopher Tan and Amy Van

Published 2018

  • About

Although there are now different dialectal versions of it—and in fact, the clear Teochew rendition is the most widely available in Singapore—bak kut teh is originally a Hokkien dish. Rather than using commercially-prepared bak kut teh spice sachets, which often overdo the pepper, assemble your own spice mix for a fresher and more satisfying result.

Ingredients

  • Cooking oil or liquid lard 1 Tbsp
  • Castor sugar Tbsp
  • Water 3 litres (96 fl oz / 12 cups)
  • Garlic 14 cloves, whole and unpeeled
  • Meaty pork ribs 800 g ( lb)
  • Light soy sauce Tbsp
  • Thick dark soy sauce 2 tsp
  • Salt to taste

Spices

  • Broken cinnamon stick fragments 1 Tbsp
  • White peppercorns ¾ tsp
  • Black peppercorns ¾ tsp
  • Sichuan peppercorns ¼ tsp
  • Cloves 2
  • Star anise 4 petals

Garnishes

  • Sliced red chillies in dark soy sauce as desired
  • Coriander leaves (cilantro) as desired

Method

  1. Combine spices and tie up in a muslin bag or a piece of muslin cloth. Set aside.
  2. Combine oil and sugar in a wok or heavy-based pot. Cook over medium heat for 1–2 minutes, swirling the wok occasionally, until sugar has melted and caramelised, forming brown globules. Immediately add water—it will sizzle—then garlic cloves and spice bag. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  3. Blanch pork ribs in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute, then rinse under running water and drain well. Add to spiced broth with light and dark soy sauces and simmer for about 90 minutes, until meat is tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and more soy sauce or sugar to taste. Turn off heat, cover pot tightly and let stand undisturbed for 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer ribs to a serving tureen. Skim off excess fat, then strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve (line with cloth for the clearest broth) and pour over ribs. Serve hot with garnishes, rice and/or toasted yu tiao (fried crullers) and a pot of Chinese tea on the side.