Malaysian Street Food : Bak kut teh (pork tea bone soup)


Bak kut teh is a Malaysian soup, developed from the Hokkien and Teochew chinese communities.  It’s an intensely flavoured herbal soup, cooked down for hours with chunks of melt in your mouth pork rib and a mixture of Chinese herbs and spices, the soup is a dark colour from the use of soy in the broth. It generally includes some offal and a mixture of mushrooms, including those long thin enoki ones.
It’s served with white rice, a mixture of chopped chillis and garlic as a condiment and Youtiao (AKA chinese crullers/chinese donut)

bak kut teh in penang malaysia

As a westerner, this meal is so far out of comfort zones and frames of reference as the soup broth has such a herbaceous and almost medicinal taste to it, mixed with the deep, strong spices associated with Chinese cuisine. It’s both earthy and sweet, with a bit of saltiness from the soy sauce.

Bak kut teh is often eaten for breakfast, although my local friend enjoys eating this late at night after a few drinks or when he feels a bit ill with cold and flu. Penang has a great food culture and old Greenhouse food court sells bak kut the from 8PM all through the night. It’s a little more expensive than your average Penang hawker meal, at around 20RM, but the portion will easily serve two.

It’s well worth trying once, when visiting Penang.


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