Monday, May 9, 2011

Bakuteh (Bak Kut Teh) Herbal Soup

The first $10 gift voucher goes to...Rak Singh!! Below is Rak's Bakuteh (Bak Kut Teh) Herbal Soup and introduction about himself.

Rak Singh's Bak Kut Teh:

1 Tean's Gourmet Herbs & Spices packet (has two bags in it)
2 to 2.5 lbs of pork spare ribs
2 garlic bulbs (peeled and cleaned)
8-12 dried mushrooms (note, if you use more than 12 mushrooms, you may want to add the optional spices below)
8-12 dried red dates
8-10 cups of water (measuring cups)
Soft tofu
Chinese Lettuce

2 Tablespoons of light soy sauce
1 Tablespoon of dark thick soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Oyster sauce.  You can find a few different brands of oyster sauce here.
White pepper and salt to taste

Optional Spices (rinse them before use)
2 Star Anise (Dried Aniseed)
2 Licorice
6 Dried Cloves

1. Blanch the spare ribs separately first in boiled water so that the Bak Kut Teh soup does not become murky when you cook the ribs with the spices. Discard the water after ribs have been blanched.
2. Soak the dried mushrooms and dried red dates in warm water
3. Boil the 8-10 cups of water and add the Tean's Gourmet Herbs & Spices packet (the packet has two herb bags in it)
4. Boil the herb bags in water for 30 minutes. Cover the pot.
5. Now add the blanched spare ribs, garlic bulbs, dried mushrooms and dried red dates. Ensure there is enough water to cover all the ingredients. Bring water to boil again.
6. Turn down the heat and simmer over low-medium heat for 1.5 to 2 hrs. Simmer covered till the meat starts to fall off the bone easily. Add more water as you go along if needed.
7. Add the optional spices if you feel that the dried mushrooms are starting to overpower the taste of the broth or if you would like a strong herbal taste to the soup.
8. Skim the fat off occasionally.
9. About 10 minutes before the end, add the additional seasoning (light soy sauce, dark thick soy sauce, Oyster sauce (you can find a few different brands of oyster sauce here), white pepper and salt.
10. Add the soft tofu at the very end. Alternatively, you can also fry firm tofu and use that instead. Or you can use tofu puffs and add to the broth while boiling.

When serving, add the Chinese lettuce to your bowl/dish and then pour the broth over. Best served with steamed rice, steamed or stir-fried vegetables and chillies.

A little bit about me:
I was born in Kuching but grew up in Brunei as my dad ran a construction services company there. I left Brunei in 93 to head to the UK to study for a degree and then ended up landing a job in America (in San Francisco). I've moved around the States quite a bit and also spent some time in between in Amsterdam, New Delhi and Toronto before finally moving to Denver in 2004, where I currently am now.

I grew up eating a lot of Hokkien food and that is why I like to cook traditional dishes from Malaysia for my family now. And as for why I cooked Bak Kut Teh, well it is one of my dad's favorite lunch time meals and even now when I visit my parents (they still live in Malaysia), we will often go to the Bak Kut Teh restaurant near their house (a trip home is not complete unless we have bak kut teh and Hainanese Chicken Rice at least) . And now that I live in America and have my own son, I would like him to experience the foods that I grew up with so that his culinary experience is as diverse as possible. And I look forward to cooking bak kut teh for my dad too the next time I visit. I bet he will be very proud of my bak kut teh cooking abilities!

Now, I must give credit to a dear friend of mine who lives in the UK (but was from Kuantan initially). I met her while I was in the UK as she was there studying in the same college (and was a class-mate). She recently shared her mom's special bak kut teh recipe with me and that is why you see red dates in the list of ingredients. It adds a little bit of sweetness and also provides a lovely layer of depth to the meal. She can cook some wonderful dishes too so I must steal more recipes from her.

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