Bak Kut Teh
Meat Bones Tea. That's what it means. It started out as a nourishing soup for poor coolies in Singapore being strong in Chinese herbs and oily pork ribs. So wonderful too to drink it here during winter, it warms the soul. Even hubby has caught on and brightens up when you tell him he's gonna have it for dinner. Can eat it with steamed rice, kuay chap or kuay teow noodles, yellow noodles, rice vermicelli, tanghoon, youtiao...
Of course my MIL (Mother-in-Law aka Merry Widow) will tell you that the best way to warm up during winter would be to run off to Punta Cana to dance the nights away with hot-blooded young men, the kind of thing that would chill my Ah Soh (and proud to be so) mother's blood and make her blood pressure shoot up. One woman's meat is another woman's poison...
So for the Bak Kut Teh, we'll need like 1 kg of pork ribs (to have a less oily and "dirty" broth, is advisable to first blanche the ribs quickly in boiling water, drain the first broth, rinse the ribs in cold water then start making the soup). Boil them in 2 litres of water.
If using a packet of ready-mixed spices (e.g. A1 or Claypot), add it to the broth when the water's boiling, followed by a whole head of garlic. Cover the pot, lower the heat and simmer for an hour or till the meat is tender.
If preparing your own mix, you need to get hold of Chinese herbs like Polygonatum Odoratum (or Fragrant Solomon Seal), Angelicae Sinensis (Dang Gui, good for the heart), Rehmanniae Glutinosa (Shou Di, high in iron), and Ligustici Wallichii (Chuan Xiong, good for circulation). Can also add in some Ginseng (anti-ageing). Just add in small quantities of everything in your soup, maybe putting them all in a coffee filter first and securing the packet with a kitchen string. Use it in the soup like a tea bag. If you like a stronger taste, also use a piece of star anise and cinnamon bark.
There are basically 2 versions of the soup : Hokkien (dark) and Teochew (light). I prefer the stronger Hokkien brew.
If you find this too oily, prepare it the day before and remove the fat before reheating
15 minutes before serving, stir in 1 tbsp of dark soya sauce, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and 1 tbsp oyster sauce.
Serve the soup hot and garnish with fresh red chillies, fried shallots, youtiao, fresh coriander leaves etc. Drinking the soup with some Chinese tea will help remove the oiliness of the soup.