Jan 26, 2011

The search for the perfect bakuteh, part 1 (Prima Taste)

In Sydney, I've found nasi lemak, mamak fried chicken, roti canai, curry and satay. But I haven't found one of my favourite foods, the 'bak kut teh' or 'herbal tea pork ribs'. It's not that viable commercially here since Western taste buds probably won't take to it like they do to chow mein and sweet and sour pork. The bakuteh (we call it bkt) is also difficult to make well, and each bakuteh cook serves a different dish. Some soups are oily and cloudy, some are clear and thin, some have a stronger herbal taste, some a meatier taste - you just have to try out shops till you get your perfect supplier.

When I met a fellow Malaysian here, one of the top questions on my list was 'where to find bakuteh'. She said those she ate in Chinatown failed her taste test. "Make it yourself with a premix," she advised.

So I pick up a packet of Prima Taste Bak Kut Teh (the colour on the pack looks a little off, but don't judge a premix by its cover, eh?), add some spare ribs and end up having a bowl of my worst bakuteh ever. It was promising at the start, but the pepper ended up overpowering everything.

Did I not do it right?

The instructions were written by a lawyer, in a move by the manufacturer to avoid a class action suit by the purchasers. They recommended adding "1.84 litres" of water. How do you measure 1.84 litres??! You also boil the soup for '42 minutes'. Seriously. Premix should be 'cooking for dummies' right?

I scrutinize the packet again and finally find the reason for the dismal failure, and it wasn't my fault. The problem was staring in my face all along! It is made in Singapore. Everyone knows there is no good bakuteh in Singapore! *grin*

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