BAH KUT TEH, RESTAURANT AH HER, PANDAMARAN, MALAYSIA
Bak or Bah (meat) Kut (bone) Teh (Tea), 肉骨茶, is a hokkien (dialect) rendition of a pork dish. It originates from Klang, my hometown, and the local cuisine has gained popularity with Chinese all over Malaysia and Singapore, and with diaspora, it has spread overseas.The popularity of the dish is due to its acquired taste (varied), meat satiation (withstand hunger longer), relatively cheap, and there is selection of one’s favourite pork-type.:( joints, tendons, thigh, short and long ribs, three-layered pork, organs, even chicken legs and pork intestines and other organs).A meat dish cost about Rm10, rice Rm1, tea Rm6 per pot. According to random statistics by sellers, there are probably some 300 stores serving the dish at all hours around Klang and P. Klang. There are many varieties, herbal or sauce or broth based; now chilly, peppery (Singaporean style), claypot (meat with vegetables, sea cucumber, fish maw etc); string-tied, or loose. (Fish maw and sea cucumber could be expensive, ask for price first.) I only partake herbal or broth based, the rest are less worthy. The catch is to visit the top stores (Ah Her, Samy , Nam Hong, Mosang-ko are among my favourites), with their regular customers, otherwise you wont get your selected meat. My favourites choices are pork knuckes, ankle joints, ribs, on the top of the new cooking pot. You must have the patience (and proper acquaintenaces) to wait for the next top pot, if the meat is no longer attractive in the old pot. Knuckles are best when it appears shinny and elastic, with lots of collagen.
Ah Her is the name of the boss, meaning fire; appears in his 40’s. At the time of my patronage, there were about 30 tables, with 200 people or more; customers turn-over fairly fast. Even on a weekday evening, he could have sold 3- 4 huge pots; making an income far more than most professionals. His BKT was less herbal, more soy broth. I guess he has a novel way of preparing his distinctive broth (and he is mean in his supply ; other stores are more liberal ); maybe he added pig skin, chicken bones, dang kui and small amount of herbs.
It is essential to partake BKT with Chinese tea; Chinese believe the tea (anti-oxidant) washes away the fat and cholesterol. Many business men in Klang consume the dish almost daily, that is about 30 bowls per month, yet their cholesterol may not be high as imagined. I prefer to consume once a fortnight. Ah Her sold his herbal packaged , which can also be used as a vegetarian dish, depending on what one adds to the broth. However, don’t expect the prepared recipe to be as good as the instant bowls. I had permission to take his pictures and he was happy to gain overseas fame. Good to make friends with cooks, and, you will obtain better meat. Knuckles are usually reserved for regular customers.
Singapore BKT is peppery, with good long pork ribs, lots of organs parts (liver, kidneys, intestines) to add, but they are expensive (Singapore currency), but you might swear never it’s a third world quality in a first world marketing.