Bak Kut Teh is made with pork ribs, unique herbs and spices and then simmered with water, usually using cloves, cinnamon, star anise, fennel and coriander, reflecting the integration of Singapore’s multiculturalism. In the colonial era, coolies live in poverty and their diet was seriously lacking in essential nutrients. The only “tonic” available to them was leftover pig bones which they stew together with Chinese herbs. This was the original version of the Bak Kut Teh(directly translated as meat bone tea) we know. Today, Bak Kut Teh is a popular food for locals and tourists alike.
Bak Kut Teh tea can be divided into two kinds. One kind has Chinese herbal medicines and spices as the soup base. The resulting soup was dark with a strong medical fragrance. If you are not accustomed to the strong herbal taste, you can choose the second type with pepper and spices as the main seasonings.
After the 19th century, Bak Kut Teh was developed by people in Singapore into three unique flavours – Chaozhou flavor, southern flavor and Guangdong flavor. Differences in the colour and taste of the cuisine is testimonial of the diverse dietary cultures of different dialect group of chinese immigrants and their descendants. Cantonese has a long soup culture, so they like to add herbs into the soup base as a tonic. Those from the Fujian province enjoy a more savory flavour so soy sauce was added to the soup and bones which made the soup appears darker.
Eating Bak Kut teh
Bak Kut Teh is delicious when supplemented by ribs, pickles, braised soymilk. One way is to eat with fried dough sticks (also with rice or noodles). First drink a broth, and then immersed in the fritters, and then drink a mixture of fried dough sticks of the soup, then clip a piece of ribs, dipped in soy sauce chili seasoning sent to the mouth, and finally drink a tea at the end to cleanse the mouth of the oily feeling.
Today, Bak Kut Teh has become a unique food culture in Singapore, and now there are Bak Kut teh instant noodles, and even DIY Bak Kut teh soup pack which can be bought by tourist as a souvenir of Singapore Food.