I've been in a quest for the best tasting Bak Kut Teh in the island for a long time now. Unfortunately, right at this point it still remains to be a mission. While I'm yet to accomplish that desire, I've already had a number of servings in some Kopitiams. The very first time I had it, I was instantly reminded of my grandmother's bulalo soup back home. Apparently, hers is not the typical version of Bulalo Filipinos are accustomed to. She usually adds chinese herbs into it. Hence, it was so familiar when I slurped my first try of Bak Kut Teh. The taste is just so similar.
When I attended the Singapore Food Festival last year, Bak Kut Teh was one of the featured dishes of Chinese origin. It was said to mean "meat bone tea". The version that's commonly found in Singapore is of Teochew roots. It's light in color and tends to be peppery. Here's a recipe that was shared with us during the Food Festival via the cook book give away - Culinary Treasures of Singapore (Singapore Chinese Dialect Food).
450g pork ribs
5 whole star anise
2 tbsp crisp shallot flakes
1 tbsp shredded coriander
1 tbsp white pepper corns
1 tbsp black pepper corns
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 cinnamon sticks
2 litres water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
How to prepare:
1. Take a large pot and put spare rib pieces in it. Add enough water to cover them completely. Boil until foam rises to the surface.
2. Drain the water and rinse the meat with cold water and return it to the pot.
3. Put cinnamon, star anise and peppercorns in a small bag; tie it and add bag to the pot.
4. Bring water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
5. Skim excess oil from the surface and discard it.
6. Remove the spice bag from the pot.
7. Season the prepared soup with salt, sugar, dark soy sauce to taste and stir.
8. Serve with steamed rice.
I'm just about to try this recipe too. I've had experience of using the pre-packed Bak Kut Teh mix that can be bought in the supermarket. However, I was not happy with the outcome. Hence, for heritage foods such as this, traditional way of cooking could be better than a short cut.