It was only a week after we visited Kuala Lumpur and Melaka (again) last month when we had enjoyed a meal in an old shop serving Malaysian bak kut teh 肉骨茶 – a famous soup made from spare ribs and herb mix, that I cooked this soup.
Having decided that I should go with a lighter version this time (my tummy was asking for a rest after the trip), I skip adding fried Chinese cruller and fried tofu puff. What I have here is a little cross-over, combining a packet of herbs and spices mix from Malaysia with a popular ingredient in Hong Kong – the dried bean curd stick.
Reconstituted bean curd sticks are not only soft but silky, and are ready enough to absorb all liquid goodness. I must say it is good to include some of them even you are adding other ingredients in the bak kut teh.
The procedures here are more or less the same as the cooking instructions mentioned on the bak kut teh packet. I simply did one more step to make sure the soup would be clear and free from impurities. That is, par-boil the pork bones and rinse it before making the soup.
Bean curd stick
It belongs to the yuba (aka tofu skin) family. Like other members, it is also produced from heated soy milk, on which a paper-thin skin is formed, lifted and hung. So-named because it is made long and straight in shape resembling a bamboo. That is why we call it 枝竹(chee jook) here in Hong Kong and some refer it as tofu (beancurd) bamboo.
When bean curd stick is freshly made, it is soft; when dried, it becomes firm but brittle. You may find it in most supermarkets here, if not, check it out at traditional markets where there are stalls selling tofu products.
- 1 packet herbs and spices for bak kut teh, 40g
- 1 kg pork spare ribs
- 2 dried bean curd sticks, ~60g
- ~200g enokitake mushrooms, roots trimmed
- 1.5L water
- 3 whole garlic bulbs, skinned and lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce (I used one in red label here)
- ~1/2 tsp soy sauce and sea salt to taste
- 2 sprigs coriander (cilantro)
- pinch of ground white pepper to taste, optional
- 2 bird eye chilies, cut into rings
- I made half portion of this as two servings
Re-hydrate dried bean curd sticks in water for no less than 2 hours, or until thoroughly soaked. To speed up the process a bit, gently break the sticks into sections (~5cm) by hand first, but do not use knife or scissor because they may shatter it. If you do not feel comfort to do it with hands, then scissor them only when they are softened.
In a pot, bring ~3L water to a boil (or enough for covering the pork). Add pork ribs and boil vigorously for 3 to 4 minutes. Discard water, which is clouded with impurities and fat. Transfer the bones to a bowl and rinse off any impurities on their surface.
In a clean pot and over medium heat, boil 1.5L water with the filter bag(s) containing the bak kut teh spices and herbs for about 30 minutes. Discard the bag(s).
Add pork ribs, garlic and stir in oyster sauce, dark soy sauce to the boiling soup; covered. When the water returns to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer for about 40 minutes.
Add reconstituted dried bean curd sticks, pushing them to sink into the broth (add some more water if required), and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Uncover, add enokitake mushrooms and corianders and boil for another minute. Add soy sauce, sea salt, ground white pepper and chilies to taste.
Serve hot with rice.
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