By Sarawakian

What comes to you mind when you hear of ‘Bak Kut Teh’? Many of us would immediately identify the dish of pork served in a claypot. This is not always so, as the Malaysian culinary pundits have always been immensely proud and protective of the Klang version of Bak Kut Teh. These are normally served in bowls. Each bowl would be a serving of your choice of parts. Pork belly, 3-layer meat, lean meat, joints, cartilage, soft bone, rib bone, big bone and the list even includes tendon and intestines or stomach. You would not get this pure indulgence in a claypot as the claypot would include vegetables and mushrooms. Though this is also popular in Klang, the purists would say nay.

The Bak Kut Teh broth version in Singapore is peppery clear and has more hints of pepper versus the ones in Klang and the surrounding townships. Those here would be heavier in herbal taste and darker in colour through the use of thick soy sauce. Whose is better? I would not get into this debate as I think each have their own versions and we should just enjoy each one.

If we were to head to Klang, there are a numerous Bak Kut Teh placed to choose from. They come in many names that it is extremely hard to remember all or which to choose from. Any Klang Bak Kut Teh eating person would have their own preference. Teluk Pulai Claypot Bak Kut Teh is one of the more accessible ones just at the border of Klang and Shah Alam on the Federal Highway. Located in Taman Intan, the claypot Bak Kut Teh is a favourite with many Japanese expats from the nearby factories. The dry version is a unique blend of savoury sweet spicy blend of sauce coating the meat. There is also the use of dried cuttlefish within the dish.

Further down the highway and located in the Hokkien Chinese Association is another hidden gem. Yeoh’s Bak Kut Teh has a stronger herbal taste. They do have the claypot version but looking around you would see nearly all having chosen the choice of cuts in individual bowls to share. This one is always packed for lunch much like Teluk Pulai Claypot Bak Kut Teh.

In Taman Berkeley, Klang, Pao Xiang stringed tied bak kut teh is the renowned one. They claim that each cut of meat is hand strung and suspended in the broth to cook. This ensures the meat never touches the pot. This is also ordered by bowls. Another unique establishment is Mo Sang Kor which is located on the same row and a few doors away. This one has sickly thick but outrageously sinful broth accompanying each bowl. You cannot ask for a broth refill unless you order another bowl of rice. They will then give you a few spoonsful of this thick gravy in another bowl. They would normally run out early and around lunch time.

If you drive down or alight from the Klang KTM station, you would be in striking distance to the famous Seng Huat ‘Under the bridge’ bak kut teh. They open early and finish their choice cuts fast. They do open for dinner too. The tender and collagen laden cuts are served in bowls too. Just around the corner within a 100-metre walk, you would find an unassuming yet laid back bak kut teh place. The fading signboard revealed the name to be ‘Teck Teh.’ Urban legend has it that the origins of Bak Kut Teh came from this place. It is run by a half smiling elderly rotund uncle. He mans the pot and will serve you based on what is in the pot. He does not talk much so do not bother asking if you want to know more. Even Axian had a challenging episode. But his version tasted amazingly simple yet complex. Pure and without fanciful flavours.

The other place with many bak kut teh shops in Subang Jaya is in SS14. That row is known to be the bak kut teh hub of Subang Jaya. There are no less than 9 shops in this row of shops. Most of these serve the dish in claypot and seems to be extremely popular at night. I think Subang Jaya people love their Bak Kut Teh at night and often have them in claypot as they would add mushrooms and leafy vegetables.

To me, Bak Kut Teh is pork. It is babi. Granted that the language of ‘bak’ is ‘meat’ in Hokkien but I always think of this dish with pork. There are versions with chicken and seafood. There are seafood bak kut teh places in Klang too with sumptuous prawns and clams and even abalone. Bak Kut Teh deserves to be a heritage dish. There should no longer be any debate of this. Each dish is a heritage to each culture and religious faiths shall dictate if one can partake in them. We should be proud of having a myriad of heritage dishes in Malaysia.

In Sarawak, bak kut teh is hard to find as kueh chap and nasi babi or kaki babi takes centre stage. The only ones there are Go Fun Kee. In Sabah, Yu Kee with its lighter broth takes prominence. In Singapore? They have their versions too. Some say it is a Hokkien versus Teochew version. One robust and flavourful whilst the other lighter and delicately focussing on the meat.

Which one would I like? Anything with babi is fine with me and since I am in Subang Jaya, I do have a choice claypot and bowl served versions. It is truly honestly a heritage dish of Malaysia!

An interesting food review from Sarawak