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.
This is not your typical tea – love it!!
I was not at all familiar with Pork Rib tea or anything like it. This looks like one very healthy and tasty bowl of goodness. The broth looks so rich and delicious! Thanks for turning me on to this!
Hello Sharon, I am delighted to see you writing some recipes again! This soup looks so rich and delicious and slow cooked. I want to look for Bah Kut Teh spice here in Hong Kong. I don’t think I have ever seen it. Maybe it was because I have never looked for it. This is a beautiful warming soup and now it is cold, wet, rainy in HK for last 3 weeks. Take Care, BAM
Gorgeous soup, Sharon. And so exotic too, with all the interesting ingredients. I must try it, especially since I love pork.
It’s interesting that you made your own mix. I’ve never had success in getting the right proportions to my liking… hence I fall back to my favourite Bak Kut Teh premix herbal packets. I prefer the herbal variety too. The peppery kinds seem more fitting for pork intestine soup. At least for me. So glad to see you back here!
Such a healthy soup! My mother in law came from Taiwan and she brought some Chinese herbs so we can make soup and drink!!! I thought of you….
My BF and I worked in Singapore for a couple of years and this was one of our favorites! There are some folks that like the peppery version while others, like us, prefer the herbal one. We have tried a number of prepackaged Bah Kut Teh packs and other recipes online, but none of them quite come close to what we had experienced in Singapore. We just tried this recipe over the weekend and WOW, this was simply delicious! Really brings back fond memories for us. The BF and I were fighting for the last sip! We plan to cook this again soon, will need to double the portions! Thanks for sharing this recipe!