Bak kut teh–Singaporean comfort soup


DUSIT Thani Hotel’s Bak Kut Teh

If we Filipinos have our bulalo, then Singaporeans and Malaysians have their Bak Kut Teh.

Just like bulalo, Bak Kut Teh is comfort food, a soup to savor on rainy days such as the ones we’ve been having for the past two weeks. The difference is that while bulalo uses beef, Bak Kut Teh is made with pork ribs slowly simmered in a broth enriched with an enticing blend of herbs and spices.

It’s said that Bak Kut Teh was brought to Singapore and Malaysia by the Chinese workers from Fujian and Canton provinces, whereupon it soon evolved into the dish we know today.

In honor of Singapore National Day, which is being celebrated today, Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati is including some of Singapore’s most loved dishes in the lunch and dinner buffet of its Basix All-Day Dining Restaurant.

Aside from Bak Kut Teh, executive sous chef Liew Tian Heong of Meritus Mandarin Orchard Hotel in Singapore, is preparing Hainanese chicken, chili crabs, the spicy laksa noodles, prawn fried Hokkien noodles and an array of desserts.

Holder of the title Gold Winner Hospitality Asia Platinum Award Master Chef-Asian Cuisine, chef Liew is a veteran of food festivals, having promoted Singaporean cuisine in various countries before coming to the Philippines.

Here’s a recipe for Bak Kut Teh, tender pork ribs in a broth infused with the haunting flavors of Oriental herbs and spices.

(Singaporean cuisine is being served as part of the lunch and dinner buffet of Basix Restaurant in Dusit Thani Hotel Makati until Aug. 16. For reservations, call 2388888.)

Bak Kut Teh

1 k pork ribs, sliced into 2-inch pcs

16 c water, divided

4 whole cloves garlic

1 onion, sliced

2 pcs cinnamon barks or cinnamon sticks

2 pods of star anise

2 tsp cloves

2 tbsp black peppercorns

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 bunch wansuy (coriander) leaves

2 siling labuyo (bird’s eye chilies)

For the chili sauce:

¼ c soy sauce

1 red finger chili, seeded and diced

Wash spareribs well. Put ribs in a large cooking pot and add four cups of the water. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 10 minutes, then remove spareribs from the pot and discard water.

Wipe the pot clean with paper towels. Return ribs to the pot and add the remaining 12 cups water, plus the garlic, onion, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, peppercorns and soy sauce.

Bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer. Let simmer until ribs are tender, around one hour to 1 ½ hours.

Add the coriander leaves and bird’s eye chilies, if desired. Heat through about 1 minute. Serve piping hot with the chili sauce.

To make chili sauce: Combine soy sauce and the diced red finger chili.

For more tips, recipes and stories, visit author’s blog: and Facebook fan page: Follow on Twitter@NormaChikiamco

Cook’s tips

To make preparation easier, when you buy the ribs, have the butcher slice the ribs for you in two-inch portions.

If you can’t find cloves (which can be difficult to find), just omit them.

When bringing the water to a boil, cover the pot so the water boils faster. Then remove cover and lower heat to a simmer (low heat).

If desired, after the Bak Kut Teh has been cooked, remove the pork ribs from the broth and slice the meat into bite-size pieces. Return the meat to the broth before serving.

Be careful when removing the seeds from the chili. The seeds contain a substance that can burn the skin. Wash hands very well after touching the chili.

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Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • foodtrip

    the best known and authentic bah kuh teh is at klang selangor malaysia, not necessary pork ribs only, even they have an intestines which they layered together, they added assorted of chinese herbs, and they included tendons too….that is bah kuh teh…..

  • j h

    stoopid writer – bakkutteh is malaysian.  yes they also serve this in sing but its malaysian

    • STTC

      you read again fool. 

      “If we Filipinos have our bulalo, then Singaporeans AND Malaysians have their Bak Kut Teh.” 

      • j h

        youre really stoopid…read your title. gosh youre unbelievable!

    • juancrossofthe

      both of you are fools…what’s the big deal where it came from? tell the writer and she can correct it…you are making an ant hill to a mountain..

      • j h

        you need to travel to malaysia to understand why its important to know where bkt came from. pack your luggage man 

  • miguel29y

    Our very own nilagang baka and Bulalo taste better than Bak Kut Teh. No contest.

  • delpillar

    Bakutteh is the kind of menu in which Malaysians and Singaporeans, especially those 40+ years old spit the bones of the pork ribs, sometimes without using the hands,,,,  just directly from their mouth to top surface the dining table of the food court or restaurants, forming like mountain of garbage plus the saliva.

    Yes, it is yummy but if you sit beside those old fellows spitting the bones, you’ll vomit.

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