Jun 15, 2012

Perfect homemade bakuteh

Bakuteh is a bit of a ritual in Malaysia. You order what you want in it (lean meat? ribs? spare parts?mushrooms? tofu puffs?), any extras (vege as a side dish, yew cha kueh) and you pick your rice (oiled or white) and you pick your tea from an assortment of tea leaves packets offered. You ready the tea pot and cups (and your utensils and condiment bowls too) by filling a bowl with boiling water from a kettle that sits just by your table, and  you get your condiments ready. The waiters are kept busy as they are often signalled to 'add soup' (when the soup runs low) and 'add ice' (for the tea that is being made continously).

When I first arrived, I went on a quest for bakuteh in Sydney. All the Malaysians told me to just make it myself, since there are no good ones to be had in Sydney's Malaysian restaurants.

Easier said than done. The best bakuteh is a luscious, thick soup, that is well-rounded thanks to the gazillion herbs and spices in it and various cuts of meat and the hours spent on the boil. A hard act to follow with a premix.

After many tries, however, by George, I think I've got it. An almost perfect homemade bakuteh.

Firstly, I start with this : Uncle Sun's oriental soup mix

It's messy but it's really good. Tean's Gourmet bakuteh premix comes second.

To the premix, I add water, thick soya sauce (caramel sauce), soya sauce, one and a half bulbs of a fairly large garlic, and 2 pork spare ribs. (I boil off the spare ribs for 5 minutes and throw away the scum-filled water first)

About an hour into the boil, I remove some of the more bitter herbs from the Uncle Sun mix (the long stringy ones and the short whitish ones), else the soup takes on a strong medicinal taste.

Half an hour later, I fish out most of the other herbs and spices, but I leave the spice bag. I add in sliced soaked Chinese mushrooms.

Yet half an hour later, I add in some tofu puffs. That's a total of two hours, and that's when the meat starts to fall off the bone. I'm done then or I might go on for another half hour, depending on the taste.
At the very end, I add in some lettuce leaves and the last bit of flavouring, which includes some salt, sugar, more soya sauce if needed, and a dash of garlic/shallot oil. Sometimes I add some Enoki mushrooms (those stringy ones)

(I also add the oil and a dash of salt when I cook the rice, to get a semblance of that 'oiled rice' often served with bakuteh)

The soup...(It tastes a whole lot better than this pix, I swear)

Plus the must-have extras, without which, no bakuteh meal is complete : Chilli and garlic swimming in soya sauce

Beautiful Chinese tea

And of course, the coup de grace...Yaw cha kueh (fried breadsticks)

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