Bak kut teh (肉骨茶 pronounced bah-kut-tê) which in Hokkien is literally translated as “meat bone tea”, consists of meaty pork ribs or fillets cooked in soup with a mixture of herbs and spices. Till today, it is popularly served in Malaysia and Singapore, in areas with predominantly Hokkien and Teochew communities. There are indeed two versions of bak kut teh; the Teochew style or the Hokkien style. The former is popularly served in Singapore, where its broth is clear but rich in pepper. The latter, on the other hand, which is commonly served in Malaysia, has dark broth with thick herbal taste. What makes this dish so special is that it suitable to be eaten at any time of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and even supper). And this dish is without a doubt, best eaten during the cold, rainy days.
On a side note, I am Cantonese and back in my hometown (Ipoh), we have our own version of bak kut teh as well. The pork ribs are nicely cut into small pieces, as compared to both the Hokkien and Teochew version where the ribs are cut in big pieces (difficult for girls to eat courteously). The Cantonese bak kut teh also features dark broth with herbal taste, and its best to be eaten together with another hot pot of stewed pork.
This dish is also commonly coupled with Chinese tea as the older folks believe that tea will help dissolve a large amount of fat that is present in the soup.
To be honest, I love all the versions of bak kut teh so much so that I do not mind eating them every week. However, my hubby being a pure Hokkien, dislikes the peppery Teochew version and strongly holds on to his belief that the Hokkien version from Klang is the best bak kut teh ever. Klang is after all known as the bak kut teh capital of Malaysia. And as a result, most of the time I only can indulge in this version of it. Usually we will head to Klang to have his favourite bak kut teh, but Klang is quite a distance away from where we live. Lucky for us, we found a restaurant (Restoran Ban Lee) that serves delicious Klang bak kut teh right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Restoran Ban Lee is one of the most popular bak kut teh restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and is always crowded with people. The business was so good that throughout our lunch time there last week, I noticed the owner just sat on the corridor in between the two shoplots collecting payment while at the same time, he had his workers to run errands for him.
The dark herbal soup was served in a huge claypot and was filled with ingredients like lettuce, enoki mushrooms, button mushrooms, Chinese bean curd skin and of course the pork ribs or fillets. The broth was richly-cooked with herbal ingredients which is the highlight of the dish. Each claypot came with an extra small bowl of soup and of course, we could ask for more soup if that wasn’t sufficient for us. We ordered for two pax but it seemed that they gave us extra pieces of pork ribs and fillets to the point we were struggling to finish them. Well, I guess partly it was because I had a companion who is a small eater.
I would say that it was slightly expensive for 2 pax as compared to the one in Ipoh. But considering the generous amount of ingredients used and its authentic taste, it was definitely worth a try. Oh, not forgetting there wasn’t a 6% GST charge as well.
Well, the only downside of this shop is that it’s pretty difficult for customers to park their vehicles and you will need to walk a distance from the shop to their allocated parking space (located behind of the shop), which by the way is not free.
Restoran Ban Lee is located at 222, Jalan Ipoh Batu 2, 52100 Kuala Lumpur. For reservation: +6012 203 6865.
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