You get up early in the morning, and you crave the robust taste that wakes the mind and invigorates the body. Got a desire for something meaty at lunch or dinner time? Enjoy a bowl (or claypot) of indulgent and flavoursome soup with chunks of meat. Seeking comfort food at supper time? This dish makes for a popular choice among foodies.
We’re talking about Bak Kut Teh, literally translated from the Hokkien dialect as Meat Bone Tea. It’s a hearty pork bone soup that’s popular amongst the Chinese community in both Singapore and Malaysia.
And then we go into specifics. There’s the Teochew version that’s more common in Singapore, a clear soup-base with chunks of meat on the bone, complemented with much garlic and pepper, lending it a gradual spicy kick. And there’s also the darker-toned cousin, seemingly jazzed up with dark soy sauce, but it’s really all in the herbal mix used to prepare the dish. Herbal Bak Kut Teh, popular in Klang, Malaysia, is also gaining a following in Singapore.
But even with the word ‘herbal’ in it, some may question, ‘how can chunks of greasy pork be healthy?’ So let’s dig in, and discover the health benefits Herbal Bak Kut Teh carries.
Balancing Goodness of Herbal Bak Kut Teh
Simply put, Herbal Bak Kut Teh is a soup dish, boiled using Chinese medicinal herbs, along with pork meat and bones for several hours, until the meat is soft and tender. Bak Kut Teh is often served with white rice or yao char koay (fried dough fritters).
Because Bak Kut Teh is boiled for many hours with herbs and bones, the soup itself is actually really nutritious. The herbs have the effect of warming up the body, and the collagen from the pork and bones is good for the body’s natural healing of wounds, beneficial for the skin, as well as keeping the limb joints healthy.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is considered ‘heaty’ for the body, hence folks with a body that is predominantly ‘yin’, or those who often feel cold, with cold limbs and issues of sinusitis, would feel the body warm up after consuming Herbal Bak Kut Teh. For persons with arthritis problems or rheumatism, having the dish can also provide some relief.
However, persons with a heaty body type may feel hot and sweaty after enjoying a meal of Herbal Bak Kut Teh, or develop a headache after consuming it, as it may be considered too ‘heaty’ for them. That said, there is no harm to the body, and having something ‘cooling’ to accompany the meal would balance that out.
The Goodness of Chinese Herbs and Spices
The definitive ingredients in a good bowl of Herbal Bak Kut Teh are, of course, the blend of herbs and spices. Every Herbal Bak Kut Teh stall would have its proprietary blend of herbs and spices, lending the soup its distinct taste.
We take a look at some of the common herbs and spices and unravel the health benefits within.
The sulphur compounds in garlic are what lend it its beneficial effects on health. By slicing, chopping, or crushing garlic bulbs, the thio-Sulpinite chemicals in them are converted into allicin, which helps boost the body’s immune system, aiding in the prevention of colds and the flu virus. It also helps reduce high blood pressure, as well as cholesterol levels. Allicin is also a bioactive antibiotic that can help fight infections and bacteria. Garlic is great for detoxification of the body.
- Angelic Root (Danggui)
Angelica root, or Danggui, is a popular TCM herb. It is used to treat heartburn, intestinal gas (flatulence), loss of appetite and anorexia, common arthritis, blood circulation problems, and insomnia.
- Chinese Licorice Roots (Gancao)
Chinese licorice roots, or Gancao, contains over 300 chemical compounds and flavonoids. Glycyrrhizin, the most active chemical compound found in Chinese licorice, has been studied for its medicinal properties. The powerful phytochemical has been proven to reduce body fat, heal stomach ulcers, and fight infections.
- Star Anise (Bajiao)
Star anise, otherwise known as Bajiao, is a spice made from the fruit of the Chinese evergreen tree illicium verum. It’s named for the star-shaped pods from which the spice seeds are harvested, and has a flavour reminiscent of licorice. It is rich in powerful bioactive compounds, has antiviral capabilities and antifungal properties. It largely reduces inflammation and is known to help relieve menopause symptoms. Studies have also shown that Star Anise may help in balancing blood sugar levels, and also protect stomach ulcers. It may also reduce symptoms of depression.
- Codonopsis Root (Dangshen)
Codonopsis is a family of plants used in China and Korea to replenish vital energy, also known as ‘Qi’. It’s sometimes used as an alternative to Panax ginseng. Codonopsis contains chemicals that seem to slow down the growth of cancer cells, and also has a positive effect on the body’s immune system.
- Wolfberry (Gouqizi)
Some health benefits of wolfberry (or goji berry) are boosted immune system and flu protection, potential weight loss aid, antioxidants for eyes and skin, maintain blood sugar levels, increased testosterone, restored body homeostasis, and strengthened body energy
All the Goodness in a Delicious Bowl
Now, looking to indulge in a health-laden bowl of Herbal Bak Kut Teh? Just head down to Feng Xiang. You can also enjoy Dry Bak Kut Teh, as well as many other popular and delicious street food from Klang, Malaysia!
The Herbal Bak Kut Teh and many other dishes are all prepared according to heritage recipes passed down through generations. Pair your Herbal Bak Kut Teh with flavourful braised pork trotter, vinegar pork trotter, fried mee sua, and more!
Visit Feng Xiang at these locations: Beauty World Centre Food Centre, Kallang Bahru (inside 7 Days Coffee Shop @ 63 Kallang Bahru), Breadtalk iHQ (inside Food Republic @ Tai Seng), and in Food Republic @ VivoCity. You may also enjoy the dishes in the comfort of your own home, through the popular food delivery apps.