If you have traveled to Singapore or Malaysia, one famous Chinese soup you are bound to have heard of is Bah Kut Teh. This soup, which literally translates to “Meat Bone Tea (肉骨茶)” from the Teochew language, is a deeply flavorful pork ribs broth that contains no tea (despite the name). This pork ribs soup is intensely flavorful. A concoction of spices like peppercorn, salt, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and lots of garlic give Bah Kut Teh its complex rich flavors.
And if you are familiar with Bah Kut Teh, you probably know that there are two versions of this Chinese spare ribs soup. The version that seems a little more popular in Singapore is the peppery Bah Kut Teh. This variety has a delicious pork flavor with a steady peppery heat that warms you from the inside out and awakens your appetite. This version is lighter in color as the key ingredients are typically spare ribs, garlic, and that flavorful peppercorn spice concoction.
The other version which seems to be more popular in Malaysia is the herbal Bah Kut Teh. This version incorporates a number of tasty herbs like dried black dates, dong quai, and goji berries. These herbs add a layer of sweetness and earthy flavor which gives the peppery pork soup even more depth in terms of taste. And since I like this version of Bah Kut Teh more, I will share a recipe of this version of the herbal pork ribs soup.
If you are used to making traditional Chinese soups, chances are you already cook with some of the herbal ingredients used in this recipe. If you are not familiar with the herbs, no worries. Head on over to my Common Ingredients section where I introduce a number of these herbal ingredients.
- 1 whole garlic, peeled
- 2.5 lbs baby spare ribs, cut to cubes, unmarinated
- 1 oz yu zhu (玉竹)
- 0.3 oz rhizoma ligustici chuanxiong (川芎)
- 0.3 oz dong quai (當歸)
- 6 dried black dates
- 0.4 oz radix rehmannia glutinosa (熱地)
- 0.8 oz goji berries (枸杞)
- 10 cups of water
- 2 packages* of bah kut teh pepper spice packets
- 2 or 3 stalks of bean curd sticks
- Bring 10 cups of water to boil in a large soup pot. Meanwhile, blanch the un-marinated spare ribs. Drain and set aside.
- Rinse all herbal ingredients in cold water. Drain and set aside.
- When the soup water boils, add the blanched spare ribs and all ingredients to the boiling water.
- Cover the pot and bring soup to a boil on high heat. When the soup boils, reduce heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. When done, turn off heat. Gently fish out the spice packets with a ladle, and serve the Bah Kut Teh hot.