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Malaysian Bah Kut Teh 肉骨茶

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tracing the origins of any dish is tricky at best, but bah kut teh is quite possibly a Malaysian invention as friends from the other main Chinese-dominated countries (HK, mainland China, Taiwan) have often complained that they wish they had this in their local places. As we just returned from a month-long holiday in Malaysia, we felt a post about this appropriate.

For the uninitiated, bah kut teh roughly translates into “meat bone tea” in Hokkien and is essentially a soup made from pork and herbs usually served in claypots. There are a few variants within the Klang Valley: Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew styles (each of them being different Chinese dialects) as well as the newer “dry” version.

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The Hokkien style is found mostly in Klang and the soup is a much thicker meaty base. The Cantonese type tends to be scattered throughout Petaling Jaya and has a more soupy and herbal aroma. The Singaporeans meanwhile are more known for the peppery Teochew type. The “dry” bah kut teh is a different beast as the soup is served separately and the pork is cooked in a claypot with a much thicker sauce with some dried chili.

As half my family hailed from Klang, I grew up preferring that meaty version. In the past couple of years though we were introduced to a store that blew my mind with its flavour and we’ve been frequenting it ever since; I pretty much don’t bother going to other places to eat bah kut teh now.

So what’s so special about Mo Sang Kor 毛山稿 then?

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Well, their soup base is incredibly concentrated and for someone like me who loves strong flavours, this is absolutely divine. The soup has an extremely strong herbal taste and has the great flavour of pork within but doesn't have the oiliness sometimes seen when cooking the fatty meat.

Malaysian Bah Kut Teh 肉骨茶

Unlike other bah kut teh stalls, the meat is served in very small porcelain bowls instead of claypots and Mo Sang Kor only sells pork and the occasional mushroom with soup and plain rice; no dicking about with tofu or vegetables, there is only the good stuff here.

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Unfortunaly they also don't sell "yau char kwai" (油炸鬼,Chinese crullers) but there is a stall about 50 m down the road that does so a quick walk there and back and Mo Sang Kor will cut them up for you.

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They are also extremely stingy with the soup. You only get about 2 tablespoons worth of soup if you order extra soup.

Malaysian Bah Kut Teh 肉骨茶 2

Bah kut teh, much like dim sum, is traditionally a breakfast meal so most shops open at 6am and on busy days the choice pieces of pork is sold out by 9am. A huge variety of bits of the pig are available to choose from but I tend to prefer the ribs (排骨) and “small bone” (小骨, no idea which bone it is) as they’re comparatively leaner. The PigPig and her mum meanwhile likes “zhu wan” (豬彎, pork knuckle joint; the most popular cut of meat), semi fatty meat (半肥肉) and the trotter (豬腳) as they have much more fat on it while my dad likes the “big bone” (大骨) for the mix of meat, fat and cartilage.

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Left: One mushroom and pork tendons (豬腳根). Right: pork trotters (豬腳)

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Pork knuckle joint (豬彎)

To wash down the strong meatiness of the soup, near everyone will be having cups of Chinese tea. The shop provides a decent variety but some customers will also bring their own preferred tea leaves. Scattered throughout the tables are gas tanks with kettles boiling away on top for people to refill their teapots.

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Miscellaneous notes about bah kut teh:
• Chicken could be substituted for the pork, but unless you’re Muslim, why would you want to do that?
• Some shops will add in tofu, mushrooms and vegetables to the soup. That’s criminal as it completely destroys the taste of the soup especially by adding lettuce which dilutes the broth completely.
• Mo Sang Kor’s business is doing so well there are branches in Lot 10 Hutong (KL) and Puchong but I’ve only been to the one in Klang.

Mo Sang Kor 毛山稿肉骨茶
41 Leboh Bangau,
Taman Berkeley,
41150 Klang,

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Recent price increase.

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