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.

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