Klang Bak Kut Teh

Special thanks to Klang Bak Kut Teh for extending this food review invitation.

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Klang Bak Kut Teh (关打贺驰名正宗吧生肉骨茶 or alternatively 口口香吧生肉骨茶) is a roadside stall along Trengganu Road (Jalan Trengganu). It is located in front of two houses and is shaded by a huge tree. The stall has been operating for more than 8 years but is still not widely known outside the immediate neighborhood.
The recipe for bak kut teh (肉骨茶) was invented by the Hokkien community in Klang and started to gain nationwide popularity in the 1970s. Today, Klang remains the pilgrimage destination of bak kut teh enthusiasts. Each bak kut teh restaurant in Klang guards its trade secret very closely. So far, bak kut teh restaurant chains have met little success as the local palate tends to stick with local restaurants.
The proprietor of Klang Bak Kut Teh learned the culinary art from Restoran Chow Kiat (超吉美味肉骨茶), a popular restaurant in downtown Klang. His recipe remains faithful to the Klang version of bak kut teh, which is characterized by very thick herbal stew. This is in contrast to Penang's local version which is typically lighter in herbal flavor.
Key to bak kut teh's tastiness lies in the special blend of Chinese herbs. The exact composition of herbs varies from restaurant to restaurant, but almost certainly consists of star anise (八角), cinnamon (桂皮), cloves (丁香), female ginseng (当归), fennel (茴香) and garlic (蒜头). Pork is stewed with these herbs for more than 3 hours, allowing herbal essences to permeate the pork thoroughly. Upon ordering, pork cuts are reheated in a claypot (砂煲) to keep the stew at its zenith.
My order of Klang Bak Kut Teh (吧生肉骨茶, approximately RM10.00) consists of the femur (大骨). The femur's texture is interesting because it is predominantly fatty but also consists of some lean meat. Other popular pork cuts are ribs (排骨), knee (脚腕) and belly (花肉). As for the broth, the herbal bitterness may be overpowering for newbies. But once they get a hang of it, each sip is gratifying indeed.
Bak kut teh can be enjoyed with Yam Rice (芋饭, RM1.50). The savory-tasting rice is cooked with pieces of taro (芋头), garlic, dried shrimp, oyster sauce, soy sauce and cooking oil. Staunch bak kut teh devotees may insist that White Rice (白饭, RM1.00) is a better choice.
Besides bak kut teh, the stall also serves a handful of side dishes such as bean curd and vegetables.
Cotton-Soft Bean Curd (棉花豆腐, RM4.50) is a popular choice in this category. For this dish, deep-fried bean curd is garnished with dried shrimps (虾米), anchovies (江鱼仔), fried onion (油葱), julienned carrot (萝卜丝), crispy rice noodle (煎米粉) and sesame seeds (芝麻). Sweet chili sauce (甜辣酱) is added to tone down the saltiness of some ingredients.
Meanwhile, Thai-Style Crispy Bean Curd (泰式香脆豆卜, RM4.50) is presented in a similar manner as the previous dish, but uses bean curd puffs (豆卜) instead. This version has a crispier edge than soft bean curd. In terms of garnish, it is nearly identical.
As bak kut teh is considered extremely "heaty" food, it is advisable to consume some vegetables as counterbalance. Lettuce & Meat Floss (肉丝油菜, RM6.00) is available for this very purpose. Blanched lettuce is flavored with pork floss (肉丝) and thick oyster sauce. This plate is meant for two persons, but the price is only marginally higher for more people.
The "tea" (茶) in "bak kut teh" (肉骨茶) does not relate to bak kut teh per se, but actually refers to Chinese tea which is customarily consumed alongside this dish. According to traditional folklore, Chinese tea is believed to "neutralize" oil and fat. Therefore, most people customarily order a pot of hot tea such as Pu-Er (普洱, RM2.00 per person).
Klang Bak Kut Teh does not provide the best ambience if you are looking for comfort. However, the food here is delicious and reasonably affordable. Short of actually travelling to Klang, this is the closest you can experience bak kut teh in its most authentic form.

Name: Klang Bak Kut Teh (关打贺驰名正宗吧生肉骨茶)
Address: 52, Jalan Trengganu, 10460 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 016-454-7706
Business hours: 6:30pm-10:00pm, closed on Thursdays
Website: Click here
Coordinates: 5.40854 N, 100.30926 E
Directions: From Jalan Ayer Itam, turn to Trengganu Road (Jalan Trengganu) and drive for approximately 300 meters. Klang Bak Kut Teh is located on the left between Jalan Kampar and Jalan Sungkai. There are parking spaces along Jalan Kampar.

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