Besides the usual neighbourly spats between Malaysia and Singapore, there is still one dilemma yet to be solved — where does Bak Kut Teh (Pork Bone Soup, literally) originated from?
There are differences between the Malaysian Bak Kut Teh and the Singaporean’s
Since I have had my fair share of Malaysian styled Bak Kut Teh, it was time to try out the Singaporean style and where better than Outram Park Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh.
Both versions originated when the mainland Chinese migrated to what was then the ‘new’ South East Asia, working as coolies along the docks. Being a coolie wasn’t the usual run-of-the-mill kind of job, and not to mention the slight differences between the Hokkiens and Teochews running the business, someone decided to up the ante. Hence the discovery of mixing pork bones with some herbs and spices to make an invigorating soup!
Contrary to popular belief, there is NO tea in Bak Kut Teh, despite the fact that ‘teh’ stands for tea.
And so it was a Teochew who invented the Singaporean style of mixing herbs with garlic and pepper before placing in the pork bones. I found out that the Malaysian style was of a slightly darker version with different herbs and surprise surprise, was concocted by a Hokkien! No offence to those from both sides, but I think it was because of this, that the rivalry started.
Malaysia – Hokkien style; Singapore – Teochew style
Anyway, I am just a normal guy trying to find some good food, it doesn’t really matter where it originated from, as long as it tasted nice. So, I found myself outside this stall after being directed to it by a local foodie blog. Unless you’re driving, you need to be a lover of the public transport to be able to find the place. The nearest metro station is the Tanjong Pagar MRT, yet it is still a brisk walk among office blocks for about 900m before arriving at the Tanjong Pagar Complex. So put on your walking shoes and dive in!
Bak Kut Teh or Pork Bone Soup is basically made out of pork ribs (plus generous amounts of pork bones!) mixed with herbs, spices and in this instance, pepper and garlic. This concoction is then placed in a large cooking pot and boiled until the marrow from the bones are mixed with the soup and that the pork is easily separated from the bones. I am no cook but I am guessing it takes about maybe 4 to 6 hours or half a day for this perhaps?
You must order some side dishes to go with the soup and also tea. Bak Kut Teh is a high cholesterol food!
You can have it with rice, or in this instance, mee sua (thin noodles). On top of that, there are a variety of side dishes that you can order to go with your bak kut teh, including some of the usual side dishes of vegetables, fish soup and the infamous Yau Char Koay (fried dough literally). This Yau Char Koay is a must because it acts like a sponge when you dip it into the soup. Hence all the flavourings, spices and herbs are then soaked up into your Yau Char Koay.
If you asked me now, I would say that both the Malaysian and Singaporean versions are two different things with the same name. The analogy that I could think of is hamburgers, there are various joints, franchises and even food carts that sells them, but none are the same despite sharing the same name.
I would say the Singaporean version is peppery whereas the Malaysian version is darker from the soy sauce used
The Singaporean version is pepper-y (if there is such a word) and the soup base is clearer than the Malaysian version. I also feel that the herbs and spices used are different too. I think it is a skill to get the right amount of herbs and spices plus to juggle the boiling time and probably the boiling point too. You don’t want the pork ribs to be chewy or that the bones are boiled to the point of crumbling when you take a bite.
The price? $12.50 for a bowl of bak kut teh, 2 side dishes and a drink. Not too expensive in my opinion just that it was a tad to far if you don’t have a ride. Would definitely recommend this place for those who are willing to try something different. If you’re lucky, maybe you will get to meet the owner, who might sit down and tell you some of his tales!
Outram Park Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh
No.7 Keppel Road #01-05
PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex
Closed on Mondays
7am-3pm ; 6pm-4am
Miow Sin Carrot Cake
On a side note, since I had plenty of time to spare and needed to burn the calories and cholesterol from the meal, I took the MRT to Lavender and started another round of brisk walk for about 750m to the Lavender Food Square. You need to take a closer look around, since there are about 30-40 stalls inside and maybe 3-4 of them selling the same stuff.
What I came here to look for is Miow Sin’s Carrot Cake. Before I proceed, I need to make it clear to the Westerners reading this particular post — there is NO carrot in carrot cake! It is a misnomer made by the locals since radish in the local language could also mean carrot.
I need to make it clear, there is NO carrot in carrot cake, it is a misnomer
This carrot cake is made out of radish cake (steamed rice flour, water and shredded daikon/radish), which is then stir-fried with eggs and seasonings. The differences between a good and a bad dish is probably down to the frying style, the seasonings and the stock of the radish cake itself. As I was told by the owner himself, since he was quite free and the only table available in the vicinity of his stall, that I took the liberty to sit in, was the one he was using to read his newspaper.
I guess I might have ruffled his feathers a bit because when the dish came, I was busy taking photos instead of enjoying it first. Noticed the cube-like shapes, that is how there are supposed to come as. To know whether you are tasting one of the best, the outer layer need to be crisp and fried but the inner layer soft! Believe me, this is the best I have tasted.
Miow Sin Popiah and Carrot Cake
#01-04 Lavender Food Square
380 Jalan Besar
Closed on alternate Wednesdays