Why It Works

  • Dried shiitake mushrooms add a deep mushroom be aware to the inventory that rounds out the flavour of the herbs and spices.
  • Toasting the garlic lends a smokiness to the soup.

Late-night food selections are completely different everywhere in the world, however for my part, there are few locations which have larger attraction (and sheer number of choices) than Malaysia, particularly within the Klang Valley metropolis that features Kuala Lumpur and the encompassing territories. Tom yum, tandoori hen, road burgers—it is arduous to go hungry when wandering the streets after hours. And for these up for a bit of drive, there’s pork bone soup, or bak kut teh, ready for them. 

Severe Eats / Michelle Yip


The eponymous port township of Klang sits on the west finish of Klang Valley, about half-hour from Kuala Lumpur’s metropolis heart with out visitors. It is an essential a part of Kuala Lumpur’s financial previous and current, residence to a large Hokkien Chinese language inhabitants descended from those that emigrated to Malaya (pre-independence Malaysia) to work on the shipyards. It is also residence to the Malaysian Hokkien model of bak kut teh, a hearty broth of pork bones plus herbs and spices utilized in Conventional Chinese language Medication (TCM). Bak kut teh is now served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Klang and round Klang Valley, however is especially adored as an possibility for late-night feasting. After a strenuous night time of clubbing, it isn’t unusual to listen to, “Let’s drive to Klang for bak kut teh.”

“Bak kut” interprets to “pork bones” in Hokkien. Whereas some have translated “teh” as “tea,” there are tales that declare the recipe comes from a prepare dinner named “Teh.” Whichever it’s, it’s usually accepted that bak kut teh grew to become well-liked within the early twentieth century as a technique to feed the port employees. Two fundamental elements come into play right here: First, using meat bones (normally pork), which provides collagen, protein, and numerous minerals; and second, using particular herbs and spices introduced over from China so as to add conventional medicinal worth to the broth. This was an especially efficient and cheap technique to increase the well being of the employees, and purportedly helped maintain afflictions like arthritis at bay.

Severe Eats / Michelle Yip


Lately, bak kut teh is eaten just because it’s scrumptious. Deeply flavored, nourishing, and comforting, it’s a kind of broths that reminds you of residence, even in the event you’ve by no means had it earlier than. The precise mixture of herbs and spices differs from prepare dinner to prepare dinner, however there are a number of which are widespread all through: star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, and cassia bark (Chinese language cinnamon). Numerous roots and berries in numerous ratios make up the remainder of the substances, angelica root (当归) and Solomon’s seal (玉竹), two fragrant roots which are generally used and lend a warming mouthfeel to the broth. Sizzling tea is normally served with bak kut teh as effectively, because it helps lower via the fats within the broth.

Severe Eats / Michelle Yip


Bak kut teh is customizable to a sure level, and never each single herb and spice is completely needed for a hearty broth. Within the 80s, my aunt, who was finding out in Little Rock, Arkansas, was eager for a style of residence, however wasn’t capable of buy all of the herbs and spices required to make the broth. Her mom (my grandmother) then invented a three-herb model utilizing angelica root, Szechuan lovage, and star anise. Although nearer to the lighter Teochew model of bak kut teh well-liked in Singapore (albeit much less peppery), it did the job.

Severe Eats / Michelle Yip


For those who’re not within the temper to seek out particular person substances, you will discover pre-mixed herbs online, so that you solely want so as to add the meats, produce, and sauces. Bear in mind, although, that prepackaged spices can typically be outdated and dusty, so that you’re higher off utilizing your personal recent spices (plus, you may alter the ratios when making your personal to fit your tastes). Actually, that is the toughest half, and it isn’t even arduous—as soon as the herbs and spices are acquired, it is comparatively straightforward to organize bak kut teh at residence.



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