Bah kut teh is basically pork-rib soup. While the Hokkiens prefer those dark-colored ones cooked in soy sauce and popular in Malaysia, most bah kut teh sold in Singapore are the lighter Teochew kind, peppery and garlicky, with clear soup.
One Hokkien bah kut teh business opened here not long ago but had to close eventually, a sign that in Singapore the Teochew version still reigns; strange, considering the fact that most Chinese here are Hokkiens.
Instead of pork ribs, I cook a version of Teochew bah kut teh using pig tails.
Unlike ox tails, a pig tail is smallish and one person could easily polish off an entire pig tail.
Here’s how to cook a pig tail for yourself: Blanch the tail in a pot of boiling water, drain and cut into small pieces and leave in a bowl of cold water.
Add appropriate amount of garlic, onion, crushed white peppercorns, a finger-nail size piece of dang gui, (angelica sinesis), a small stick of codonopsis, a tiny slice of ligusticum and a small star anise into a stock pot of water, bring to a boil.
Lower the pig tail into the stock, cover and simmer for an hour and 30 minutes.
Before serving, season to taste with salt, light soya sauce and sugar and throw in a couple of dried goji berries.
Serve with strong Chinese tea – after all, the “teh” in bah kut teh refers to tea (bah kut means pork-ribs) and steamed rice. Dip in thick black soy sauce with sliced red chillies in the soy sauce.