Hed Chef recipe: Malaysian-style dry bak kut teh
For meat lovers, it is difficult to go wrong with ribs. But instead of the usual roasted ribs, try this Malaysian version of dry bak kut teh.
This recipe does call for a rather long list of ingredients. You can take a shortcut by getting ready-to-use bak kut teh spice packets, but be aware that most of those available on the market are for the white peppery style of bak kut teh.
For this version, the prime ribs are first cooked in a herbal broth, then braised in a delectable dark sauce.
While researching for this recipe, I asked several Malaysian chefs for tips and advice. The manager of a medical hall that I frequent gave me a list of key herbs for the broth. I also referred to my late father's secret recipe for herbal bak kut teh soup.
Dried cuttlefish strips add a seafood aroma to the final gravy. This is one dish that goes well with steaming hot rice.
INGREDIENTS FOR BOILING THE RIBS
- 4 litres of water
- 600g prime ribs (cut into 8cm pieces)
- 14g dang shen (codonopsis root)
- 60g yu zhu (Solomon's seal)
- 8g chuan xiong (Chinese lovage root)
- 1 slice of gan cao (licorice root)
- 10g bei qi (astragalus root)
- 10g dried sand ginger
- 5 red dates
- 7g shu di (Rehmannia rhizome)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 tsp white peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 5 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 120g whole garlic cloves (lightly smashed)
- 1 tsp dark soya sauce
- 60g wolfberries
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1½ tbsp dark soya sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp bottled chilli sauce
- 1 tbsp chilli oil
- 2 tbsp black rice vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
INGREDIENTS FOR BRAISING THE RIBS
- 5 tbsp cooking oil
- 15g shredded raw dried cuttlefish
- 30g young ginger, sliced
- 20g garlic, sliced lengthwise
- 6 dried chillies, cut into 3cm pieces
- 70g okra, diagonally sliced
- 10g spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
1. Fill a pot with 2 litres of water and bring to a boil.
2. Place ribs in pot to blanch until there is no more visible blood. Remove the ribs and rinse them.
3. In a clean pot, bring 2 litres of water to a boil.
4. Add the dang shen, yu zhu, chuan xiong, gan cao, bei qi, dried sand ginger, red dates, shu di, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, white peppercorns, star anise, cloves and bay leaves.
5. Add the pork ribs, whole garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of dark soya sauce.
6. Boil with the pot covered for 15 minutes. Add the wolfberries and salt.
7. Cover the pot and boil for another 25 minutes.
8. Remove the ribs from the pot. Reserve 150ml of the broth.
9. In a bowl, add the light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, oyster sauce, bottled chilli sauce, chilli oil, black rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Mix well and set aside.
10. In a clean frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Place the shredded cuttlefish in the pan and turn off the heat. Fry the cuttlefish for 1 minute until crisp.
11. Remove the cuttlefish from the pan and place on kitchen paper to drain off excess oil. Discard the oil.
12. Heat a claypot, starting with low heat and gradually increasing it to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil.
13. Add the ginger and fry for a minute until it begins to brown. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic slices and dried chillies. Fry for 30 seconds.
14. Add the seasoning and 150ml of the reserved broth. Allow it to come to a boil.
15. Add the okra, then the pork ribs. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over low heat. Braise for three minutes.
16. Add the cuttlefish, cover the pot and turn off the heat.
17. Allow the pork ribs to cook in the residual heat for another 10 minutes.
18. Garnish with the spring onions and serve immediately.
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