The Aromas of Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs)

Comfort in a bowl…

The warm broth

From now on Lyf&Spice will document more stories from the local food scene and happenings of the warm and lovely city of Kota Bharu, Kelantan. It’s time to eat like a local. Ready for the journey? Follow us…

All about Bak Kut Teh:

Restaurant hopping in quest for some of the best street and local food led us from one cuisine to another, until we discovered this Chinese favourite dish, Bak Kut Teh. It translates to meat bone tea. This does not imply the addition of tea leaves in the preparation, but to Chinese tea being used as an accompaniment to deal with the excess fat that is being consumed. While it is a dish found in many South East Asian countries with the basic method of preparation being the same, every community and city adopts its own style of cooking and presentation.

What version do you prefer?

What is it made of?

It is essentially a dish of pork ribs incorporating the most aromatic spices and herbs to infuse the rich taste through its core. The dish can be tweaked with varying amounts of soy sauce and the addition of extra ingredients like offal, mushrooms, onions, shallots, tofu or other vegetables. However, the three most common styles are the Hokkien style that has a dark soup with soy sauce and herbs, the Teochew style that has garlic and pepper and is lighter in colour, and the Cantonese style which is stronger in flavour owing to the medicinal herbs.  

The soupy delight

Lyf&Spice goes food hunting: 

What:  Bak Kut Teh (dry), Bak Kut Teh (broth)

Where: Restoran Yau Kee, Taman Tengku Ahmad Panglima


This comprises of soft pork pieces simmered in a delightful blend of spices and herbs. The soupy consistency demands accompaniments like steamed rice or youtiao or you char kway (fried bread stick). You can have it as the main course, unless you want to have it as a broth alone.

Taste: herbal, mild

All that you need in a bowl…


The flavour game goes intense with the addition of red chillies and dark soy sauce. Additionally, onions and fried okra could be seen imparting the soft meat a crispy texture. It is best had as an accompaniment to the main course or as a snack.

Taste: sharp, intense

Imbibing the aroma of this variant…

While there are many places in Kota Bharu selling this, the license to pork selling is limited to Chinese restaurants alone for obvious reasons. We have had this at so many places, each offering a slightly different variant. So far, we have been curious and binged on the brothy delight to the last drop, but this time we thought of documenting it as well.

We are sure the Chinese community can explain it better. Do drop in your inputs in the comments below. We will be happy to learn and share. 🙂


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24 thoughts on “The Aromas of Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs)

  1. I never ate a Bak Kut Teh broth but I can imagine how it must taste like. It sounds like a soup my grandma used to make (but out of beef) and I seriously loved it as a child. I think I need to try this out to be able to compare 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm, I like the sound of the Bak Kut Teh broth. This sounds so satisfying, especially on a cold day. But I can imagine Malaysia is hot! Do they eat this all the time?

    Liked by 1 person

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