Thursday, June 12, 2014

B for Bak Kut Teh

Oh Yeah! We are back ! 
Don't know where to have a nice food ?! 
No worries, today we're going to share with you another one of the many famous Malaysian food.

 Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh is one of the famous Chinese cuisine that can be found easily. Most Malaysians believe that Bak Kut Teh originated from Klang.  There is not doubt that the people of Klang survive, nay, thrive on this mix of various pork parts simmered in dark and powerful herbal concoction.  There are over a hundred shops in Klang selling Bak Kut Teh and some Klangers even have it everyday!

So, today we're going to introduce you to one of the famous Bak Kut Teh restaurant in Klang which is named Restaurant Seng Huat Bak Kut Teh!

             Seng Huat is one of the oldest outlet serving Bak Kut Teh in Klang. It is known to many as “Bak Kut Teh Under the Bridge” because of its close proximity to the Klang Bridge. This restaurant has been operating for more than 60 years. It is said that Seng Huat restaurant was set up just after World War II. The founder of Seng Huat restaurant was Lee Boon Teh 李文地. He started off by selling mixture of Pork Bone Soup. This dish became so famous that they named the dish after his name. The customers would have to brew the Chinese tea by themselves.  The kettles are placed strategically around the tables to boil the water for the brewing of Chinese tea. Customers would need to be extra careful when walking around the restaurant. The proud chef emphasised on its original taste and flavour of Bak Kut Teh that you cant find soy sauce, chopped chilli padi, minced garlic or pepper in the recipe.

                In year 1979, Seng Huat restaurant Bak Kut Teh was taken over by John Lee(Mr.Lee) and his wife, Sally. Mr. Lee is the third generation owner. The dish is prepared by Mr.Lee himself, chopping the meaty pork style with vigour. The pork is then simmered in a complex broth. His sons would help him serve the prepared dishes to the customers. The restaurant opens daily in two shifts from 7.30am to 12.30pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm. They only close for 3 days in a year which is during Lunar New Year. The restaurant is so well known that at 7.30am, the crowds were already building up. The restaurant is small but it is always bristling with customersand they will have to add more tables outside on the pavement to cater for more customers. They sell an average of 6-7 large pots a day based on a first come first serve basis as this restaurant does not entertain any reservation. The restaurant will close right after all meats are sold out even if it is not their closing time yet.

                Seng Huat restaurant serves a unique oily hot rice which is stir-frieded with lard. It is a must try which you will not regret. Seng Huat restaurant’s broth is perfectly balanced, enhanceing the meaty flavour. The broth is presented with garlic, cinnamon, dang gui, pepper or soy sauce merely as the background fragrant without overpowering the original taste. These herbs and spices do not affect their broth as their cooking technique makes their Bak Kut Teh to have the absolute balance and refreshing delights and the taste to be simply superb!

                The restaurant’s owner has earned so much that he is a multimillionare now. However, he still works hard to sell his charcoal cooked Bak Kut Teh. They were offered to install ventilation system for free by one of their regular customers but Mr. Lee rejected it because he prefers his customers to dine and leave earlier. This is so that more seats can be vacated faster for other customers. 

The signboard of Seng Huat is the best testament to its historical legacy and delicious food.

A claypot of pork cooked in a rich flavor of herbal soup and as garnishing, some fresh vegetable was placed above it.

 The MUST try drinks while eating Bak Kut Teh, Chinese Tea, the drink that compliments perfectly with the herbal taste of the Bak Kut Teh.
In normal Chinese tradition, they will pour out the first round of tea for washing purposes.

 The pork is broiled to perfection.
The meat was simply mouth watering, juicy and tender !
The soup was also rich with the herbal taste, leaving you craving for more.


As a fellow Malaysian, we often bear the conception that Bak Kut Teh originates from Klang but now, Bak Kut Teh stalls can be found everywhere as Bak Kut Teh has become increasingly popular. 
With the increase in demand, there is bound to be an increase in supply and true enough, many have joined the Bak Kut Teh in the recent years. This can be proven from the number of Bak Kut Teh stalls present in Klang as the numbers have exceeded 400 stalls in Klang alone. The competition is very intense.

Considering we can find a Bak Kut Teh stall everywhere in Malaysia now, I believe Bak Kut Teh has developed itself as a food heritage in Malaysia.

There were several stories that argues the origin of Bak Kut Teh. 
However, the most believable story among them all is the 'coolie' story.
If you're not familiar with the term coolie.
It is basically a term that refers to the unskilled native labourers in India, China and some other Asian countries.
After World War II, there were plenty of coolies working in the jetty at Klang.
Due to the heavy workload, they had to use a lot of energy to accomplish their task. Hence, they require food and nourishment that would help replenish their strength to continue working. As a result, pork is the favorable and preferred choice to achieve this need.

To cater to the daily needs of the coolies, there were several hawkers selling ‘streaky meat’ in that particular area. The so-called ‘streaky meat’ is akin to boiled pork with layers of fat and meat, served together with sauce and it was a very common dish for coolies at that time. Coolies usually have ‘streaky meat’ with tea to eliminate the oil of pork.

The inventor of Bak Kut Teh is named Lee Boon Teh who was a hawker at that point of time. He made some improvisations on the dish mentioned earlier in order to attract more coolies. The changes he made was that he added in Chinese herbs as well as local spices while cooking the meat. This new dish caught on and soon became popular among the coolies. They would eat Bak Kut Teh everyday for their breakfast as it is delicious and also healthier. In the olden days, traditional Chinese traders are called by trade name in front of their own names. Considering 'streaky meat' is his trade, this is how the name 'Bak Kut Teh' came about.

In the 1970s, there are not many Bak Kut Teh stalls opened in Klang and they only used the traditional cooking method to prepare this dish. Bak Kut Teh was not popular at that present time; a stall could only sell around 1 to 2 pots of Bak Kut Teh in a day. However, the emergence of glass pot has caused a substantial change in the demand of Bak Kut Teh in the early 1980s.

Bak Kut Teh can be cooked in a few methods and each is different from one another. They differ in various ways in term of the soup or the meat used as well. For instance, there is dried Bak Kut Teh, seafood Bak Kut Teh, Chick Kut Teh and so on and so forth. Each is served to cater for the different preference of different people. Throughout the years, Bak Kut Teh has evolved from being a pork and herbal soup to being a rice dish. Now, other ingredients are commonly found in a bowl of Bak Kut Teh such as mushrooms, chicken feet, youtiao (fried strips of dough), fried tofu puffs, pieces of dried tofu and iceberg lettuce. In addition to that, side dishes come long with the main dish for example, blanched iceberg lettuce drizzled with a mixture of oyster sauce, fried shallots and a small amount of oil from the fried shallots. It is normally enjoyed with a bowl of fragrant rice, sprinkled with fried shallots and raw garlics on top. Alternatively, some shops serve yam rice as a replacement of fragrant rice. Compared to olden times, people nowadays have a wider array of choice.


       Why Bak Kut Teh is so famous and how did it become one of Malaysia's food heritage? 
This brings us back to the long history of Bak Kut Teh and let's return to where is first started.
In the past, there was no food quite similar to Bak Kut Teh that serves pork broiled with herbs and spices.
The clear soup of Bak Kut Teh is made of herbs and spices that can be easily found in Malaysia. For example, Angelica sinensis (commonly known as Danggui), wolf berry and star anise. Danggui enriches the blood, wolfberry improves the eyesight and the star anise is rich in shikimic acid.
 In addition to its high nutritious value, the rice served together provides sufficient carbohydrate and energy for the people to work the entire day. As we all know, work in the past is rather demanding and heavy. Therefore, to start the day, the workers need a full and healthy meal.
Back in the days, it is important for the coolies to maintain good health at all times as their work mainly involves physical labour.
Hence, it is not a surprise that Bak Kut Teh have been a local favourite since the past until today considering its benefit.

In the past, Bak Kut Teh is only served for breakfast but that is no longer the case today.
Today, Bak Kut Teh is also served at nights and sometimes it even operates till the wee hour in the morning. The demand for Bak Kut Teh have been increasing every day and I believe this would continue in the future. 

With a better understanding of this dish, I hope we, Malaysians could learn to appreciate this dish more and to those who travel from a far country,
Don't forget to try out this local dish of ours that will keep you wanting for more !
I promise you that it will not disappoint ! :D

Restoran Seng Huat Bak Kut Teh
No. 9, Jalan Besar, 41000 Klang,
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.
Contact No.: 012-309 8303 / 012-385 5154
Opens daily from: 7.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
5.30 p.m.  to  8.30 p.m.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A for Assam.Laksa

Hey Guys, as what we all know sharing is caring! So, we've decided to share one of the food that you must have when you travel so far to Malaysia - Assam Laksa !

Assam Laksa is one of the Nyonya cuisine that was 7th in the top 50 most delicious food in the world in a poll by CNN. This remarkable dish is one of the most popular dish in Malaysia. With its spicy-sour fish broth and noodles (especially great when fused with ginger), Assam Laksa will have your nose running before the spoon even touches your lips. Be sure to try it when you travel to Malaysia ! To further understand about the origins and details of the recipes, we had conducted a short interview with the cook of this Penang Assam Laksa, Ms. Esther Chan. This has assisted us to clear any uncertainties and doubts about the recipe as well as being able to distinguish the differences between the two recipes, the recipe found online and Ms. Esther's homemade recipe. Ms. Esther was very active and cooperative during the interview, and the interview was conducted successfully. 

 Today we are not here just to tell you how nice the Assam Laksa is! 
We know that some of you might not able to travel so far just to try it out. 
So ~~~~ We've decided to share an awesome secret recipe with all of you. 
YEAH!!! Let't start now !


Servings: 30
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hr 30 mins


           5000ml water
·         ½ pkt tamarind paste
·         1.2kg Slimy Mackerel, cleaned (ikan kembung)
·         2 stalks lemongrass
·         10 Tamarind Peel (assam keping) 
·         1 stalk ginger flower
·         10 stalks daun kesum 
4    6 tblspoon Shrimp Paste/Prawn Paste (belacan) 
1    1 stalk bunga kantan
·         4 tblspoon sugar
1 tblspoon salt
A (For Spice Paste) :

2nd Question
To make a comparison with the recipe provided by Ms. Esther Chan, the other recipe reviewed by us is from the website Rasa Malaysia which offers easy Malaysian cuisine to everyone in the world. The author of this food blog is Bee Yinn Low and throughout this post, we will be referring to her as Bee.
There were several notable differences between the two recipes.
First and foremost, we shall talk about the availability of ingredients.
In Ms. Esther's recipe and in her area, fresh tamarind has proven to be a rare ingredient wheareas in the recipe from Bee, she had difficulty sourcing for bunga kantan.
Therefore, depending on the area you are in, there will be factors that will influence the overall taste of the dish.
1    1 tblspoon fish sauce

·         3 packs  Mihun

·         5 pcs Red Chilli (seeded)
·         10 pcs Dried Chilli (seeded
·         1 ½ stalks lemongrass
·         75g galangal
·         300g onion
·         50g garlic
·         ½ stalk wild ginger flower (bunga kantan) 

·         Pineapple
·         Cucumber
·         Large onion
·         Lettuce
·         Ginger Flower
·         Chilli
Fresh Mint leaves

 Asam Jawa
Ikan Kembung (Slimmy mackerel)

Topping !

Fish Sauce

1.      Ingredients B are first blended until smooth and then put aside
2.      Put in tamarind paste and bring 5000ml water to boil.
3.      Put in kembung fish for 15 minutes until cooked. Carefully remove kembung fish and drain. Start removing flesh from fish, discard the bones and pound until fine.
4.      Put in lemongrass, bunga kantan, assam keping and gingerflower. Boil for 15 minutes.
5.      Add the blended ingredient B and daun kesum into broth. Boil for 1 hour to bring the flavor of the daun kesum out.
6.      Put pounded fish into soup and then add 6 tblspoon belacan, 4 tblspoon sugar, 1 tblspoon salt and 1 tblspoon fish sauce. Boil for 30 minutes.
7.      While waiting for the flavor to come out, in a separate pot, put mihun into water and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft. Then insert mihun into cold water to further soften. Drain.
8.      To serve: Place a serving of laksa noodles in a bowl. Garnish with preferred amount of topping. Ladle laksa gravy over the noodles and vegetables.
9.      Enjoy !

Done our peeling Job !

Just keep swimming !
One of the most important tool that have to use for prepared nyonya cuisine.

Further Q & A ?! 

1st Question

“Hi, Ms. Esther, when did you learn to cook this Penang Assam Laksa and where did you get this recipe from?”

-“It has been more than 30 years since I've learnt how to cook this Penang Assam Laksa from my grandmother, and this recipe have been passed down ever since my grandmother's generation. Penang Assam Laksa belongs to the Nyonya cuisine and it originated from the northern part of Malaysia, Penang hence, the title "Penang" Assam Laksa. My grandmother who was also from Penang brought the recipe over to Perak when she migrated over and from Perak, I've brought it back to KL.

“Next, based on your opinion, do you think that it requires high level of skills in order to create this dish, and to compare to the Penang Assam Laksa elsewhere, which do you think prefer a higher level of skills?"

- “To be honest, this is an easy dish that every can cook easily but it requires a lot of patience as it involves a variety of ingredients and a considerable amount of cooking time. In comparison with the Assam Laksa served outside, I would say it's different in the sense that most restaurants tend to cut cost and shorten the duration by using flavourings and preservatives. "

3rd Question

“Are the ingredients involved easy to obtain and is it costly to make this dish? And again, to compare with the Penang Asam Laksa outside, is it cheaper?”

-“In order to produce a good Penang Assam Laksa, of course it would cost more and that's not an exception in my recipe. In order to create a rich and authentic flavour, it is going to incur a higher cost for sure as every ingredient used in my recipe is fresh off the market and there are no artificial flavourings added. The ingredients used in the recipe can be easily obtained in the local market. For example ikan kembung, belacan, gingerflower, tamarind leaves and other daily used ingredients. "

4th Question

“Regarding time constraint, what do you think about the time spent on preparing this dish?”

-“As I mentioned earlier, you will need a lot of patience in the making this dish. This is because it will take up a lot of time to prepare the ingredients beforehand. In addition, you can't keep the ingredients out for too long as the freshness of the ingredients while you prepare the dish will cause a significant difference in the taste of the dish. Therefore, I would recommend to complete the dish within 6 hours."

5th Question

“Lastly, from the perspective of a customer, what do you think about the Penang Asam Laksa cooked outside comparing to your recipe?”

-“ My laksa will definitely taste better ! The flavour is original and authentic. Furthermore, in the preparation of the dish, I did not add any oil or artificial flavourings which makes it healthier. Other than that, the freshness of the ingredients also maintains the quality of the flavour. Although my recipe may cost more, the quality of the dish will definitely make it worthwhile."

            From the interview, we got to know in detail about the recipe of Ms. Esther. 
We are grateful for the cooperation and help of Ms. Esther in providing such useful information for our recipe blog. 
The Penang Assam Laksa recipe could be found at the link below:
In addition, the way they cook the dish have slight variances. Particularly, in the terms of the order. Bee would put the bunga kantan first whereas Ms. Esther would put the bunga kantan in afterwards. This really depends on the preferences of the cook as they might have learned the recipe in different ways.
Furthermore, the duration of the time preparing the dish also contributes to the taste of the dish in the end. For example, If you cook the dish for a longer duration, it will certainly bring out the flavours of all the spices.
Finally, in terms of richness of flavour. It can be seen that Ms. Esther's recipe is richer as she's really generous with her ingredients. This might also stem from the fact that Ms. Esther cooks for her family members whereas Bee's recipe is simplified to suit the preference of the international audiences.

In conclusion, depending on the availability of resources, time available, the techniques used and the generosity of the ingredients used, the taste of the dish will greatly differ. Of course, if you can't find specific ingredients in the area you're living, you can always find substitutes like what Ms Esther did when she substituted Fresh Tamarind with Tamarind Paste. Even though, you can't get the original taste, you can always get a somewhat similar taste !
Always learn and never stop innovating !
Everyone can be a chef.
It's just whether you're willing to try.

 Factors Changing Malaysian Food Heritage
            Today, Malaysian food heritage is facing a challenge in surviving. Some of the Malaysian food has been struggling to be continued and some even have failed to be inherited until today. UNESCO is one of the organizations that protecting the food heritage and prevents the extinction of them. There are many factors that cause the change in the food heritage.
            Firstly, the change of Malaysian lifestyle to modern lifestyle is the main reason that causes the change in Malaysian food heritage. Malaysian people nowadays are getting busier in their life due to the increase in time spent in work, as well as entertainment activities. This has caused the dining time to be shortened. Therefore, people would prefer to eat fast food because it is more convenient and does not consume much time. In example, fast food chains that open 24/7 provide drive through and delivery service, it is fast, convenient and also offers in attractive price. This brings disadvantage to traditional food where it is less preferred by the young generation.

            After that, further developments of technology in food industry also affect the change in food heritage. Some of the traditional cooking methods will be eliminated, as modern cooking method is easier and efficient that shortens the cooking process. New artificial flavoring and coloring agents will cause a huge impact on the originality or the authenticity of traditional cooking as well. Replacement of ingredients and equipment with modern technology does not only affect the originality of a dish, but as well as the spirits of making the dish.

            Next, availability of ingredients is another factor that will affect the change in Malaysian food heritage. Due to natural causes or government related factors, some ingredients might not be obtained easily in the market. In example, removal of subsidy for corn plantation farmer will lead to the shortage of corn in the market. And some recipe might face difficulty in being inherited to the net generation.

            Other than that, the change in the dining habit of Malaysian is also another factor. The switch of preferred eating habit to brunch, teatime and supper is threatening Malaysia traditional foods. Western cuisine is more suitable to be eaten as brunch and teatime while heavy meals are not recommended for supper. Popularity of heritage food will then face a dramatic fall.

            Lastly, fail in passing down the recipe to the next generation will affect the change in food heritage. The younger generation today is not interested in learning traditional recipe because they are exposed to wider world and has broad interest. Most of the people are not interested in learning, as it will not allow them to make much money in the future and western cuisine are usually more preferable by the young. This will cause the elimination of traditional recipe and extinction of some recipe in the food heritage.