Bah Kut Teh

This is a recipe for a classic Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese soup.  The name literally translates into "pork bone tea," but it’s better if you think about it as "pork ribs soup".  It’s really good and has an interesting flavor.

The first thing you need is a bit of seasonings.  These are what make the soup unique.  You need a quarter ounce of Codonopsis dangshen, a quarter ounce of Solomon’s seal (yu ju), a quarter ounce of Ligusticum wallichii (chuan xiong), about ten black dried dates (hei zao), a quarter ounce of Rehmannia glutinosa (gan di huang), and about ten dried Chinese wolfberries (gou ji zi).  You, of course, will not find these in the supermarket.  Go to your local Chinese grocery store with this list, though, and we are pretty sure that you’ll find them.  You might even be able to ask for Bah Kut Teh spices with that name and find them pre-packaged.

Let’s say you can’t find them.  Well, this is total blasphemy, BUT, you could do a lot worse than using a couple dried dates, a handful of dried cherries or dried cranberries, a couple of slices of ginseng, and some fresh galangal.  UPDATE: There is no excuse.  You can order bah kut teh spices online here.

Bah Kut Teh
12 cups water
10 unpeeled garlic cloves
bah kut teh seasonings
1 1/2 lbs pork baby back ribs, separated into individual ribs
10 dried shiitake or Chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained
1/4 lb. whole button mushrooms
3 heads Chinese cabbage, blanched
1/2 lb. firm tofu
oil for deep frying
1 tsp. sugar
chopped cilantro and dark soy sauce to garnish

Bring the water to a boil and add the garlic, spices, pork ribs, and mushrooms.  Bring to a boil again, then lower head and simmer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, press the tofu between a couple sheets of paper towels until most of the water has been removed.  Heat the oil until very hot.  Cut the tofu into large squares, and add to the oil.  Deep fry until deep golden brown and crisp.  Remove and drain.

Add the sugar to the pot and remove from heat.  Divide the Chinese cabbage and tofu into 4 large bowls, and ladle the soup on top.  Sprinkle with roughly chopped cilantro leaves and serve with dark soy sauce in little bowls for dipping.

Comments 2

  1. James June 17, 2005

    Man, that soup sounds good. I just let my gay roommates do the cooking. Don’t think they can manage that, though, as they can’t make it if it doesn’t have margarine in it.

  2. Tom June 18, 2005

    Yeah, this stuff is good. It would be especially good on a cold winter’s day, but unfortunately we don’t have them here.

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